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New Heart for a Proven Bird

The Robinson R44 II Raven has enjoyed a smooth ride in Canada since the first machine touched down at E&B Helicopters in British Columbia last October.


July 18, 2007
By Dave Lowery

The Robinson R44 II Raven has enjoyed a smooth ride in Canada since the
first machine touched down at E&B Helicopters in British Columbia
last October. Frank Robinson began discussing the potential for a more
powerful, fuel injected version of the popular R44 series at Heli-Expo
2001. Robinson saw the Raven II (as it is now called) as a niche
aircraft for high-altitude operators. A rush of orders – even in the
low-altitude market – has caught the manufacturer off guard.

“We
honestly thought we would be hitting people who needed more performance
at higher elevations,” said Frank Robinson, vice president of product
support and son of founder Frank. “That has turned out not to be true.
The overall performance of the machine has exceeded expectations, which
makes it so popular.”

E&B Helicopters, an exclusive Robinson
dealer in British Columbia, has already sold its first aircraft and has
four more on order. One reason for the Raven II’s broad appeal is a
slight increase in speed and payload over earlier versions. The Raven
II is up to four knots faster than the R44 Raven (renamed the Raven I),
and can lift up to 45 kilograms more. A second reason is that the
aircraft continues to have no direct competition in the higher-end
piston range.

A third reason appears to be operating costs.
Robinson claims that the US$335,000 Raven II has the lowest cost per
seat mile of any helicopter. Greg McDougall, president and general
manager of Harbour Air in British Columbia, snapped up the first Raven
II from E&B for personal use. Cost was certainly a factor. “The
Raven II was the most practical machine for me due to low operating
costs,” he said. The dimensions have remained almost identical to the
Raven I, but there the similarities end. The Lycoming IO-540 engine,
which can generate 245 hp for five minutes and is derated to 205 hp
continuously, with a hover ceiling (R44 Raven II – IGE @ 1136.4 kg) of
2,728 metres, up from (R44 gross weight 1,090 kg) 1,950 metres and a
7.4 km/h cruising
speed increase.

Maximum operating altitudes
remain the same at 4,267 metres, but the absence of carburetors is a
welcome safety change, though the R44 carb assist automatically adds
carb heat when the collective is lowered and reduces heat when the
collective is raised.

In addition to the engine changes,
Robinson designed new main and tail blades which reduce the 150-metre
flyover noise level by nearly one decibel, despite a higher gross
weight. The noise reduction is achieved by fitting both sets of rotors
with noise-attenuating blade-tip caps. Additionally, the main rotor
blades have more surface area for increased lifting capability at
altitude.

A helicopter industry standard 28-volt electrical
system is now part of the Raven II, as opposed to 12 volts for the
Raven I, and the company continues to use hydraulic power controls to
eliminate cyclic stick shake and control forces. Other standard
features include an RPM governor which automatically controls engine
RPM during normal operations, a rotor brake which greatly reduces
shutdown time and injury risk, and an automatic clutch engagement which
simplifies the start-up procedure, also reducing the possibility of
engine overspeed.

“I like it,” said Ed Wilcock, president of
E&B Helicopters. “It’s faster than the original Raven, quieter with
the redesigned tail and rotor blades. and is a nice machine. It’ll do
what Robinson says on their spec sheets.”


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