EASA certifies Robinson R66

Just two months after Pilot magazine’s expose of EASA’s dubious dealings over the certification of the Robinson R66 turbine helicopter – and weeks after the Agency issued a furious defence of its position – the helicopter has suddenly and unexpectedly been certified for use in Europe.

At the end of a certification process that had encountered innumerable obstacles and has cost Robinson well in excess of a million dollars, EASA has not required a single change to be made to the helicopter. The R66 which now goes into service in Europe is the machine that could have been introduced here almost four years ago, when it was originally certified by the FAA.

Sources in the helicopter industry who have been driven to distraction by EASA’s unreasonable demands and stonewalling tactics credit the Pilot magazine article with ‘dynamiting the logjam’ that mired R66 certification. It led to pressure being brought to bear on EASA from the European Parliament, the European Commission, the FAA and the US Congress, where the US Government Accountability Office sought copies of the article for circulation in Washington.

The original article was featured in Pilot’s April issue. EASA’s angry rebuttal may be read in the upcoming June edition along with our response to its claims. The fact that just weeks after issuing its denials EASA abandoned its position and certified the R66 with no substantive changes speaks volumes about its processes. It’s important to note that bilateral agreements between the US and Europe already exist for rotorcraft, and EASA is only supposed to satisfy itself that the FAA’s certification was sound, not to rerun the entire process. The fact that this double-checking has led to years of delay and cost the industry millions in lost profits will now be held up as incontrovertible evidence that EASA’s certification system is not fit for purpose, and there must be substantial change.

At the end of the process, EASA has demanded that some paragraphs in the POH be rewritten or reordered and, as a face-saving measure, it has written into the certification the requirement that Robinson do what do was already doing, which is to manufacture the R66 with MS21043 stainless steel nuts.

In the face of shock at the European Parliament over its million-dollar-plus fees to Robinson, EASA has announced that fees for type certificates for new helicopters will henceforth be slashed by 40 percent. That’s little comfort to Robinson, which is unlikely to be certifying another helicopter in the near future. But in a final dig at the American company, EASA has made massive increases in the cost of approvals for modifications to Robinson products. The cost of a major mod on the R22, R44 or R66 will rise by a massive 650 percent, from €400 to €3,480, while a complex major mod will rise by the same percentage from €850 to €7,430. It looks like you don’t embarrass EASA and get away with it.

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