Robinson R22 - not (just) for beginners


The R22 really is a wonderful little helicopter, not just for beginners, but also for fully grown helicopter pilots who enjoy a light fast responsive helicopter. It is actually not very forgiving of inexperienced pilots. Due to the low inertia rotor system, you need to have very quick reactions if you are going to autorotate after an engine out.

It is selected by training schools all over the world because it is cheap to operate, and can bring down the cost of learning to fly considerably. Add to that the fact that most newly qualified helicopter pilots will likely end up flying one based on cost, it makes sense to learn in one.

Granted, its not very fast and on a windy day it could take you a while to get anywhere, but it teaches the basics well and is a fun machine to fly.

The R22 has a lightweight, low-inertia rotor head - there is a minimum weight for the R22, below which it will not autorotate and the blades will fall below their minimum speed (85% or RRPM for an R22)

Having said that there is a maximum weight too - 17 stone I think it is. Any more and the helicopter doesn’t have enough power to fly safely, use an R44 instead

Here are some photos of one the R22s that I am training in TOLY. The canary yellow bird. I think the clock says just over 5100hrs, so she will have been back for an overhaul twice (every 2200 hrs they need a rebuild)

There are quite a few Robinson helicopters at Helicopter Services, and I get to fly different machines week to week. Keep scrolling down for more photos of the R22 interior and exterior.

Watch the Cool Cuts ShowCopters display team in action

Above: Controls and instrumentation. Main 7 gauges clockwise from top left: Vertical Speed (for rate of climbing and descending), Gyro, Airspeed indicator, Engine and Rotor RPM gauges, Manifold Absolute Pressure MAP, Compass, and Altimeter. The White bar below the Gyro is the trim. If the ball is to the left of 0, some left pedal, to the right some right pedal.

Below this we have engine Gauges (Ts and Ps), fuel gauges (main and reserve), clock, and Carburetor temperature (yes these R22s have carbs! This one is kitted out with a GPS too (above the instrument binnacle)

From the Ignition key from Right to left

- Ignition (and both Magnetos)

- Master Battery Switch

- Alternator Switch

- Clutch (engaged or disengaged) switch

- Strobe Light Switch

- Navigation Light Switch

You can also see the T-bar cyclic, which uses a teetering bar attached to one cyclic control, rather than one for each pilot as you would see in all other aircraft. I think this teetering cyclic is a Robinson creation and doesn’t exist elsewhere.

To either side of the instruments are the pedals, and tucked away between the seats in the collective, and those are your controls and instrumentation.

Now, if you’ve ever seen a helicopter start up, and I’m guessing if you’re reading this website, you have at some stage, you will have seen it takes an age to get going. Well, now I know why. There are all sorts of checks that you need to do before you get off the ground, and then you have to call the tower for radio check and airfield information.

Clear view of the teetering T-Bar cyclic

The enormous centrifugal fan which cools the air cooled engine - Lycoming O-320 (displacement of 320 cubic inches or 5.24 litres flat four and outputting 160hp)

Here you can see the underside of the engine, the starter, alternator, air filter, the exhaust pipe and the oil cooler

Here is a view of the R22 Rotor head showing the teetering hinge (centre top) and two coning hinges (one for each blade). You can also see quite clearly the swashplate and the pitch link. The R22 uses Delta-3 hinges set at 17 degrees on the mail rotor. See Links for more info on the R22.

R22 Fun - see what the little machine is capable of in experienced hands - these guys are vietnam heli veterans

Tail anti-torque rotor, and tail fin

Beige Leather interior. Headsets attached