Robinson R44 Raven I

an owner's review by Philip Greenspun, ATP-CFII; revised October 2020

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Within its price range, Robinson's R44 is probably the best helicopter in the world for personal ownership and it might also be the best helicopter for primary training. The R44 Raven I carries a base list price of $412,000, with dealers typically discounting 3 or 4 percent off list. Paying close to $5 per gallon for 100LL and budgeting realistic amounts for maintenance and the 2200-hour overhaul, the direct operating cost of an R44 is approximately $225 per hour.

Robinson helicopters are remarkably reliable and maintenance-free. The majority of accidents are due to pilot error, so the accident and death rates in Robinson machines would be tough to reduce by making the machine more robust (though we'll talk later about some engineering improvements that could make accidents less likely to occur and more survivable).

At a production rate that peaked at 800 machines per year, aggregating R22 and R44 sales, Robinson makes more helicopters than the rest of the manufacturers combined (even the military doesn't operate all that many helicopters; the U.S. Army's Sikorsky Blackhawk fleet, for example, is only about 1200 machines accumulated since 1978). The company produced its 12,000th helicopter in January 2017.

Best Features Regardless Of Price

Here are the things that make the R44, in some respects that are important for personal ownership, the best design regardless of price.

Light weight (2400 lbs. max gross for the Raven I; 2500 for the Raven II). The R44 doesn't have a lot of inertia. If you put in a control input, the helicopter responds immediately and dramatically. A heavier helicopter is going to respond more gradually. The R44 is like a sports sedan; the big turbine helicopters are like trucks.

Heavy weight. The R44 is substantially heavier than the R22 and therefore rides through wind gusts and turbulence much more solidly than the R22. A passenger who gets uncomfortable or sick in the R22 would have no problem on most days in the R44.

Piston power. If you weigh 500 lbs. and can leave the house only with the aid of a crane and a whale sling borrowed from the local public aquarium, by all means a 1200 horsepower turbine engine is the right power source for your personal helicopter. If, on the other hand, you are a person of normal weight, the piston engine provides instant power changes without the spool-up time of a turbine. Instant power is very comforting during a go-around. Another nice thing about the piston engine is that an R44 will burn about half as much fuel as a small turbine-powered helicopter, e.g., the Bell JetRanger.

Simple maintenance and overhaul. In theory, you don't have to hire a full-time mechanic to keep the R44 in the air and make sure that all of the components are overhauled on time. Aside from oil changes, nothing in the R44 requires service between 100-hour inspections. Almost everything in the R44 is overhauled at the 2200-hour interval. (see "maintenance examples" below for how it has worked for us in practice)


The R44 offers a lot of safety advantages over the R22. The machine is less squirrelly than the R22 in gusty winds and near obstacles. With a 700 lb. full-fuel payload, you're much less likely to be bumping up against gross weight limitations and therefore you'll have a lot of extra performance available for operating from confined areas. The higher inertia in the R44 rotor system, compared to the R22, will give you a few extra seconds to react to a simulated or actual engine failure.

The Amsafe airbag seatbelts that became standard equipment starting in 2006 in most fixed wing aircraft (e.g., all Cirrus and Cessna piston singles) are not available for any helicopters, including the 505. The various research projects run by NASA and the military for under-helicopter airbags remain research projects. Thus occupants are primarily protected by the skids and seats to absorb energy in a vertical direction.

Robinson offers reasonably modern glass instrument panels, e.g., the Garmin G500H. This can be a safety improvement due to the propensity of mechanical gyros to fail when installed in the high-vibration environment of a helicopter. Robinson offers an autopilot as a factory option. This certainly could be nice in the event of inadvertent IMC or simply to take one's hands off the controls to adjust something.

The "Safety Tips and Notices" section at the end of the POH is a good catalog of problems that pilots have had (well, mostly created).

Raven I versus Raven II

Robinson makes two versions of the R44: the Raven I and the Raven II. Here are the differences:

R44 Raven IR44 Raven II
PowerCarbureted Lycoming O-540Fuel-injected Lycoming IO-540
Electrical System14V older/28V newer28V
Gross Weight2400 lbs.2500 lbs.
Empty Weight1430 lbs. (stripped)1500 lbs. minimum (?)
Fuel Burn in Cruise14 gallons/hour15 gallons per hour
Carb IcingSemi-automatic system to add carb heatNo worries
High AltitudeGood PerformanceVery Good Performance
Over WaterFixed Floats OptionalFixed or Pop-Out Floats Optional
Air ConditioningStudent Holds Spritzer BottleOptional (33 lbs.; $21,500)
Practice AutorotationsEngine Idles Nicely1970s fuel injection design may quit if you roll all the way down
I decided to buy an R44 Raven I because we are using it primarily for flight training. The extra cost of a Raven II would have driven up our insurance cost and therefore we would have had to charge students more. The fact that the fuel-injected engine has been known to quit after a throttle chop, though supposedly fixed in more recent Raven IIs, was also a factor in leading us to choose a Raven I for flight training. It would be nice to have the A/C!


Passenger and baggage capacity with a full 49 gallons of fuel is a remarkable 700 pounds in my stripped R44 Raven I, which has an empty weight of 1430 lbs. The Raven II offers another 50 lbs. of payload, but most owners use that up with options such as air conditioning and pop-out floats. Baggage is stored underneath the seats. The crushability of the seats is one of your primary protections in the event of a crash. People have broken their backs in accidents that they might have walked away from if they had simply avoided putting rigid non-crushable items underneath their seat. If you're going to carry the wheels, for example, keep one under each seat and make sure that the steel handle is flat.

Get up on a ladder every now and then and look at the blades. The latest blade design, which has a very thin stainless steel skin, is quite fragile. One of our local pilots experienced substantial damage to an R44 blade that encountered an empty plastic water bottle. Another experience slight indentations after some slope work in which the blade whipped through some tall grass.

Aside from the items on the factory checklist, pay some attention to the little screws on the sheet metal around the doors. These screws have a way of coming out. Look for damage to the sheet metal surrounding the rotor mast, which would be a sign of a hard landing.

Starting the Raven I engine is reasonably easy, one of the advantages of carburetion. As the overnight temperature in the hangar drops to 50 degrees F and the air is cold (around freezing) outside, it becomes difficult to start, much more so than our R22. Applying a propane heater to the area around the carburetor enables an immediate start, however. If you don't have a flight school van with propane heater handy, an investment in a Reiff or Tanis electric preheater would be wise.

At 500 hours, our R44 began to make some ugly-sounding noises when we attempted to start it. At the 100-hour inspection, the mechanics found broken teeth on the ring gear (engine side) and on the B&C brand starter. The most likely explanation is that someone tried to start our R44, it failed to catch, and then they tried again without waiting long enough for the starter motor to stop spinning. Apparently the B&C starter will spin freely for some time after the engine has stopped turning. In some military training environments, cadets are required to remove their hands from the ignition key and touch the back of their heads before putting their hands back on the key to crank again.


If you look at the height-velocity diagram ("dead-man's curve") in the R44 P.O.H., you'll notice that Robinson emphasizes a line drawn approximately 10 feet above ground level. Nobody has demonstrated a successful autorotation, one that does not break the ship, much above 10' and slower than 45 knots. A Jet Ranger pilot might begin lifting the ship at around 30 knots. This works because there is so much more inertia in the rotor system. If it feels unsafe to fly so fast so low, keep in mind that if the engine quits, the ship will supposedly balloon upward at first. You will be sinking from more like 20' than 10' and will therefore have more time to execute a flare.

Once you reach the magic 45 knots, let the ship rise into a 60-knot attitude and hold it there. Eventually you will achieve 60 knots and the ship will be climbing almost as fast as at Vy (55 knots). When you're a few hundred feet off the ground, say "upwind check" to yourself. Check those engine gauges. Look at the carb air temp gauge. If it is in the yellow, this is a good time to add carb heat. In fact, if you don't need the machine's full performance you can apply full carb heat and leave it on for the entire flight.

If you're doing a maximum performance takeoff over an obstacle, compare the rotor disk to the obstacle. If the tree is under the front of the rotor disk, you're probably going to make it. If you are looking through the spinning blades at the top of the tree, well, I hope that it is winter, that you are light, and that you are prepared to back up into your parking spot and kick your fat friends (and their dog) out of the ship before trying again.

En-route Comfort

The R44 has a comfortable upright seating position. I find the R44 more comfortable than my Cirrus SR20 airplane and much more comfortable than the seats in a lot of other light airplanes. The seatback angle is a lot like what you'd find in a dining chair and the padding is cushy, typically tough to achieve in conjuction with FAR 27 crashworthiness standards. The Bell 505 JetRanger seats are bolt-upright by comparison.

[The key to being comfortable during a long helicopter trip is to remind yourself to sit up straight. Don't lean forward or into the center of the helicopter.]

Heat is ample and uniformly distributed throughout the cabin. The fresh air supply is good, but very noisy, adding roughly 3 dBA at higher cruise speeds. We try to get by using the little vent windows cut into the doors and, if that isn't enough, removing a door. The noise of the fresh air system is actually audible over the noise of an open door.

The R44 rides through turbulence much more comfortably than an R22 and more comfortably than an airplane of comparable weight. The hydraulically boosted cyclic of the R44 doesn't vibrate in your hand the way that the R22's cyclic does.

Interior noise is comparable to a light airplane such as a Cessna 172, i.e., loud enough that you definitely need hearing protection. The R44 is actually quieter inside than some turbine-powered helicopters, e.g., the Eurocopter EC120.

Noise measurements from N808WT, an R-44 Raven I with just over 4400 hours on the clock, turned up the following numbers on a $200 Extech meter:

This makes the R-44 slightly quieter than the Bell 505 and probably quieter than a lot of other turbine ships. Putting the engine underneath and behind passengers is apparently quieter than putting a powerful engine right on top of the passengers' heads, which is how most turbine ships (not the R-66, though) are arranged.

After 2.5 hours at a cruising speed of 110-120 knots, depending on weight, you'll notice the fuel gauges near the quarter tank mark that indicates approximately 30 minutes remaining. This makes the R44 Raven I good for a 250 nautical mile trip against an average headwind.


Pull the carb heat full up on downwind. The air outside might be above freezing. The air speeds up and therefore cools down as it goes through the carburetor venturi. If you close the throttle, as you would by lowering collective on an approach to landing, you're creating an additional venturi on either side of the throttle. You can get ice here and the airflow to the engine will cease. Why doesn't this happen in airplanes? It does, but the airplane has the windmilling propeller out front to keep the engine turning. As soon as you open the throttle again, the engine will start burning air and fuel again. Not so on the helicopter. The sprag clutch prevents the spinning rotor system from trying to turn the engine over. When the engine quits, it isn't coming back until you turn it over with the starter motor.

For a normal approach, cruise along at 300' AGL and 60 knots until the desired landing spot is just above the yaw string (this is about a 10-degree glide slope for a 6' tall pilot). Then smartly lower collective to begin a descent and adjust the collective to hold that spot at the same height on the bubble. Gradually pull back on the cyclic to keep the apparent rush of the ground underneath you constant. Make sure to establish a fairly aggressive descent rate of perhaps 700 fpm at first. Otherwise your approach will get too steep and you'll need a high descent rate towards the end, when you are slow. As you start to slow down and feel the vibrations from loss of effective translational lift (ETL), glance at the vertical speed indicator to make sure that you aren't descending more than 300 fpm. If you are, do not slow down below ETL or you are risking settling with power ("vortex ring state"). You probably did a settling with power demonstration up at 3000' with an instructor. In real life, you get into it about 100' above the ground while trying to do an approach.

If you're going into a confined area and might need the last bit of power, push the carb heat down as soon as you commit to the landing, perhaps 50-100' above the ground.

Parking and Securing

If it is ridiculously windy, you might not want to leave the R44 pointing directly into the wind, though most people do. The blades will flap more as they slow down when you shut down. There is some risk that they will get pushed back by the wind and contact the tail boom. Better to park the ship so that the wind is coming from the right side as you shut down.

If there is any chance that another helicopter might park or lift off nearby, secure at least the front rotor blade with the tiedown.

If you're keeping the R44 in a hangar, do not leave the helicopter up on the Robinson-supplied ground handling wheels. The tires are designed for occasional usage, not continuous weight-bearing. For easier one-person ground handling over smooth surfaces, consider solid wheels, which reduce the pushing effort required. Helicopter Easy Wheels have some fans, but make sure that you get the heavy duty blue wheels and not the original black rubber. Damage to the rubber requires cracking the wheel off the handle with a hydraulic press and replacing the entire wheel.

Helitowcart makes a broad range of ground handling equipment, including some basic single wheels that come apart and can be stored under the seat. These have the advantage of easy serviceability. A wheel comes off with a socket wrench in 30 seconds, for example. Helitowcart offers a rigid wheel for easier pushing, a gel-filled tire for people who don't mind the extra weight and don't want to pump up the tires monthly, and a conventional tube/tire arrangement. These have a rotating pin that fits into the skids, which means the skid attach point shouldn't wear out as it typically does with the factory wheels. If the tube fails, that's a $20 part. Tire fails? A $40 Kenda that can be sourced from many different vendors. Over hangar tracks or rough ground, the regular air-filled tires might be the best choice. For more aggravated situations, such as moving a helicopter on grass, people seem to like the Helitowcart dual-wheel solution. (One owner talked about a dual wheel system from Brackett Aircraft: "Heavy as hell but absolutely bulletproof."; they are spec'd as weighing 22 lbs. each)

Nearly all owners spoke highly of support and service from Helitowcart.

We bought the Robinson Helicopter towcart. It cost $7,000, failed after two uses, required days of our (brilliant) mechanic's labor to fix, and was not supported with any troubleshooting guide or wiring diagram. Nor was it covered by any labor warranty. (As of 2020, the tow cart is $9,600) The Helitowcart V201 is quite a bit cheaper, adapts for use with other light helicopters such as the A Star, the Jet Ranger, etc., and is popular with owners. The Helitowcart product has the advantage of using standard marine deep-cycle batteries that can be purchased inexpensively anywhere; the Robinson tow cart actually uses aviation batteries(!).

The Panel

Panels don't get much more basic than the one in a stock R44. The flight instruments are airspeed, vertical speed, altimeter, engine/rotor tachometer, and manifold pressure. Engine instruments include oil pressure and temperature and cylinder head temperature. You won't be distracted by all the individual cylinder and exhaust gas temps that you imght find on a modern airplane; there is nothing in the Robinson panel to tell you if one cylinder is running leaner and hotter than the others.

I recommend against ordering any gyros in the R44. They are heavy, expensive, and tend only to last 500 hours when subjected to the vibration of a helicopter. At the safety course, Frank Robinson himself noted that he has been disappointed in the number of R44s with attitude indicators and Garmin 430s that have flown into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and not come out. The extra capability does not translate into safety, apparently, but only encourages pilots to take risks with the weather that they should not have. As noted in the Instrument Training section below, one day there will be lightweight glass panels with solid-state attitude reference that will fit into the R44.

I recommend against the optional digital clock. The timer is nice, but the instrument has spectacularly crummy buttons that tend to stop working reliably. You never can be sure whether or not you have been successful in starting the timer.

The one option that we ordered in our first R44 Raven I was a vertical card compass. We then used a Garmin portable GPS for navigation, obstacle warnings, and terrain warnings. The Garmin is mounted with a suction cup to the bubble. It shakes quite a bit and can be hard to read if you don't stabilize it with your knee. In this day and age it is probably better to run an iPad Mini and an app that links to the ADS-B transponder for weather, traffic, etc.

Instrument Training

The R44 can be ordered with a full set of steam gauges for instrument training and is wonderfully stable. As a reasonably current airplane instrument pilot, low-time helicopter pilot, and no-time R44 pilot, I was able to fly an ILS approach down to minimums on my first try under the hood in an R44.

Given the weight and unreliability of mechanical gyros when subjected to the vibrations of a helicopter, it might be worth looking into aftermarket installation of instruments such as the Garmin GI 275. Robinson offers Aspen as a factory option and also the Garmin G500H. Owners have had bad experiences with Aspen for reliability. None of these glass options work that well in the Robinson. They were designed for airplanes, in which the panel is just a short distance from the pilot's eyes. They're difficult to read in a farther-away Robinson panel.

The T-Bar cyclic

Most helicopters have two massive cyclic sticks poking up from the floor in front of the pilot seats. The Robinson has a cyclic coming up from the center of the ship with horizontal arms at the top. If the left side arm is attached, either pilot can apply pressure to the cyclic at any time.

One downside of the T-bar cyclic is that, even with the left side controls removed, the actual cyclic is very close to a passenger's right leg and right arm. A passenger is much more likely to nudge the cyclic accidentally than he or she would be in a Jet Ranger. A more serious problem is that a passenger might intentionally yank on the cyclic. Social conventions and the wide cockpit would probably prevent a passenger from reaching down between your legs and grabbing the pilot's side Jet Ranger cyclic. A local flight school owner was giving rides at a county fair in an R44. One strong young teenager, when they were in a hover at the very end of the 6-minute ride, grabbed the top of the T-bar and shook it, asking "what does this do?" Fortunately he learned the answer before the helicopter rolled over... Consider adding a "this is the control that rolls the helicopter over if you touch it" line to your preflight passenger briefing.

The R44's long range and practicality for cross-country trips make the T-bar cyclic perhaps more dangerous than in the R22. On a long trip people get a little bored. They start talking. When the non-flying person is talking, he or she is likely to be gesturing. A gesturing person will frequently whack their portion of the T-bar or the cyclic tube itself. If the flying pilot doesn't have a firm grip on the controls, there is a possibility of the cyclic being pushed full forward, which might lead to a low-G situation, an improper full left cyclic input, and mast bumping.

I have encountered high-time Robinson pilots who've been scared more than once by accidental knocks to the T-bar and wish that the R44 had conventional low-and-between-the-legs cyclic controls.


The standard factory communications radio is a Garmin GTR 225 with one standby frequency and 15 memories. This allows monitoring of the ATIS on standby while talking to ATC. Robinson has thoughtfully added "memory recall" and "active/standby switch" buttons to the pilot's side cyclic. Prepare for a cross-country flight by programming all the frequencies you will need into the radio and then you won't have to take your hands off the controls to set up or change frequencies.

Robinson offers a variety of GPS units as factory-installed options. Unfortunately, these are generally placed in a hard-to-see place at the bottom of the radio stack and pricing begins at about $20,000. A kneeboard-mounted portable GPS or tablet is likely more capable for VFR flying. Note that, as of 2020, Garmin has a "new panel" that can accommodate a Garmin 600-series GPS/COM up closer to the round dials. Including the GPS and the required audio panel, this will cost about the same as 200 years of subscribing to ForeFlight (i.e., $20,000).


Unusually among light helicopter manufacturers, Robinson offers an autopilot at around $50,000, the Genesys HeliSAS. The Garmin GFC 600H is surely vastly superior (Vertical Magazine) and might eventually be available at least as a retrofit.

Headsets and Wiring

Robinsons now seem to come from the factory pre-wired with LEMO ("Bose-style") connectors as well as the standard helicopter headset jacks.

On our older Raven Is for flight school use, we picked the David Clark H10-56HXL, the most rugged noise-cancelling headset available and has a coiled cord for helicopter use. David Clark uses a Hirosi connector and can only accept 14V, so our after-market Hirosi installation wouldn't work with the latest Raven Is.

The Engine

Robinson uses a Lycoming O-540 engine in the R44 Raven I. The internal geometry and compressions of this engine are identical to a 260-horsepower engine for an airplane. The continuous power limit on the helicopter is 205 horsepower (78 percent), partly for engine life but also because that's what the transmissions and driveshafts are engineered to take. You are allowed to draw 225 horsepower for up to five minutes.

How much power is actually available at sea level? 260 horsepower. The collective control in your left hand is mechanically connected to the swashplate, which will push up the pitch links until the blades assume an extreme pitch angle. The correlator and governor will open the throttle as wide as it needs to go in order to keep the blades spinning at 400 rpm. If you load up the helicopter with lead and pull the collective up into your armpit, the engine will put out 260 horsepower in an attempt to keep those blades from slowing down against air resistance.

With just two people in the R44 for training, it would be almost inconceivable to exceed the published manifold pressure limit. On a hot day at gross weight coming out of a confined area, you might go over the red line. There is no required inspection after such an exceedance, but prolonged operations at higher-than-authorized power settings invites catastrophic mechanical failure.

Monitoring the Engine

Until mid-2020, Robinson was selling helicopters with no overspeed alarms and with warning lights scattered more or less at random around the instrument panel. As of mid-2020, Robinson moved into the modern era with a centralized warning light cluster, an engine monitoring unit (accessible via iOS app), and an overspeed alarm. Now you'll know what renters have been doing with your helicopter!


The R44 burns 100 low-lead Avgas. For the Raven I, an STC is available for mogas. The number one reason for airplane piston engines to stop running is fuel exhaustion, i.e., the pilot failing to plan properly. The R44 has two fuel gauges, one for the aux and one for the main tank; there is no way to switch between tanks and it would be nice if these quantities were electrically combined to reduce pilot workload. The R44 has a separate low fuel warning system that is entirely separate from the gauges. The low fuel light comes on when you have about ten minutes of fuel remaining.

At the Robinson Factory Safety Course, we were told not to rely on the gauges: "Use your watch," the instructor said, suggesting that we keep track of flight time. "How many gallons per hour does the R22 burn?" a student asked, noting that there are no data for fuel consumption or range in the P.O.H. (the same is true for the R44 P.O.H.). "We won't tell you that because it might not be right for your ship," was the reply. "What about a dipstick?" None is supplied. So... you don't really know how much fuel is in the tanks unless you top off and are way over gross. You could make your own fuel stick, but where do you store it so that you don't get grit on it and then put grit into the fuel tanks? Even if you knew how much fuel was in the tanks before you took off, it would be tough to calculate how much remained in flight because you don't have any numbers for fuel consumption.

Terrain and Obstacle Awareness

The panel-mount Garmin GPS units offer a terrain page, which can be upgraded to full HTAWS via a Garmin software tweak. The G500H glass panel that is available from the factory has a synthetic terrain option.

For compliance with FAR 135.160, Robinson will add in a radar altimeter for $20,000.

Kneeboard iPad apps, such as ForeFlight, will also warn you of impending terrain conflicts.

Night Flying

The R44 has the same lighting posts around the panel that you'd find in an old Piper. They are reasonably effective and consistent. You switch them on by turning on the nav lights.

If you're operating in a truly dark area, i.e., not a towered airport, consider leaving the landing light off when near the ground. It is so bright that it will ruin your night vision and you won't be able to distinguish between trees and sky. It is perfectly possible to hover using only the nav lights for reference.

Try to limit your night flying to familiar areas, following highways, well-lit cities, and higher-than-usual altitudes above the ground. Even some very experienced crews have gotten disoriented and collided with terrain or water at night. In an airplane, I treat a night flight in an unfamiliar or mountainous area as an instrument flight and fly IFR routes, altitudes, and procedures.

Summer Flying

If you take a door off, you will be a lot cooler and lose 7 lbs. of weight. Robinson recommends against taking off more than one door because it gets turbulent enough in the cabin that charts and other loose articles can get blown out the left door and into the tail rotor.

High Density Altitude Operations

Many R44 accidents have happened at high density altitude. Unlike a turbine ship, the R44's normally aspirated engine loses power as the air gets thinner. Yet the blades actually need more power to generate lift in thin air. This is why the FAA requires run-on takeoffs and landings for all helicopter rating checkrides.

Don't try to take off unless you can hover. Don't get anywhere near the limits of the R44's performance unless you are going from one big airport to another big airport where there is plenty of room to slide onto a runway. When approaching to land, don't let your airspeed fall below ETL unless everything looks good. Don't go into any confined area unless the P.O.H. says that you can do an out-of-ground-effect hover at that altitude.

How does the Raven I do in practice? On my first full day of ownership, we filled up the tanks and put three guys in the cabin and went up to Big Bear, California, an airport at 6700' above sea level that was 8600' density altitude due to hot summer weather. At an estimated weight of 2250 lbs., i.e., 150 under gross, we had plenty of power for our approach to an in-ground-effect hover. We also had a good 500' per minute climb rate out of there. At 2200 lbs., I have had no difficulty landing the R44 Raven I at airports as high as 7400' and have even done some pinnacle landings closer to 8000' above sea level.

Aerial Photography

Unlike a Jet Ranger, the R44 does not have any little photo windows that can be opened far enough to stick a lens out. You have to take the entire door off, which makes the standard machine impractical for aerial photography except in warm climates. A company called Tech-Tool has an STC'd door (about $5000 including crating and shipping) for with a sliding window. There are versions for both the R22 and R44. Robinson hates to see anything not from the factory attached to their ships and Pathfinder insurance excludes coverage for any accident due to, say, a chunk of the Tech Tool door coming off and hitting the tail rotor. We bought an R44 door from Tech-Tool in September 2013. One of the most experienced airframe mechanics in New England couldn't get it to fit, not even with the help of a complete flight school maintenance department that had just completed two overhauls on R44s and that included mechanics with 30-40 years of helicopter experience (including 30+ with Robinsons). We shipped it back to Tech-Tool and Sharon Crager responded with "we're not able to find a structural reason for the fit problem" and "our recommendation is to locate a Robinson-experienced A&P mechanic to finish the job." Due to Tech-Tool's blame-the-local-mechanic approach, the door was still not installed as of November 2014.

People have had accidents from windows popping out and doors not being properly secured. So if you are putting doors on and off, don't get lazy about putting the cotter pins back through the hinges.

In-flight Music

The standard audio panel has a mini-DIN music input conveniently located between the front and rear seats and a volume control on the front panel. Plugging in a phone would work well if the manufacturers didn't keep removing the headphone jacks. This may be an opportunity to defrost your ancient iPod!

Insurance and Training

Pathfinder Indemnity in the Bahamas is Robinson's "captive" insurance company. Robinson insists that you purchase a Pathfinder policy for the ferry trip out of the factory. are forced to work with Pathfinder for insurance. We've found that their rates are only a little cheaper than Starr, for example, and the insurance is not as good. For one thing, the policy that you purchase also covers Robinson Helicopter Company. So if you're sued regarding an accident and Robinson itself is a co-defendant, you may lose half of your already-inadequate policy limit.

Most of the standard insurance companies will not insure Robinson helicopters, partly due to the fact that Robinson does not itself have insurance. Thus if there is an accident and the victims allege that there was a manufacturing or design defect, the owner's insurance company is defending side-by-side with the notoriously stubborn Robinson and not with a settlement-minded insurance company.

Sutton James has a program underwritten Starr Aviation. The insurance can cover customer rental, flight training, FAR 135 operations, etc. We get our insurance through David Hampson, who is a great agent (handles a lot of turboprops and jets, but is also competent with piston aircraft).


Unlike other brands of helicopters, where each component has its own life limits and you'd better hope that your mechanic is extremely organized with his or her record-keeping, the R44 basically has one big limit: 2200 hours or 12 years. When you reach that point, the ship must be overhauled. You can send it back to the factory and they will bring it back to nearly new condition inside and out (5-9 months later), or you can buy an overhaul kit and have your mechanic do the work. The latter option is a little less expensive, but the ship will not be cosmetically restored.

The cost of overhaul is substantially higher than Robinson advertises due to the fact that Robinson adds a substantial core charge to the cost of an overhaul kit. When the timed-out cores are returned to the factory, nearly always the factory says "These cores are in much worse than average condition" and only a portion of the core charge is refunded. A factory overhaul can cost $250,000 to $300,000 ($136/hour). The tailcone and a few other components have a life limit of 4400 hours, so the 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc. overhauls are about $15,000 more expensive than the odd-numbered overhauls.

If a major component fails before 2200 hours, you end up with a machine that has out of sync parts. For example, at 2107 collective hours, the main rotor transmission gears on one of our helicopters began grinding and produced enough metal to activate the MR CHIP light. We already had an overhaul kit in place and elected to swap the transmission. So we were left with a helicopter whose transmission required replacement at 4307 hours while the rest of the machine required overhaul at 4400 hours.

Budget $50 per hour for 100-hour inspections and other routine maintenance.

Maintenance Alerts

If you get some hard-to-explain "yaw kicks" in your helicopter (sudden intermittent sideways jerks), it may be a sticking intake valve. Robinson Tech Support is excellent for debugging this one and Lycoming is also aware of it. Just remember... "If yo helicopter be kicking, da intake valve be sticking."

Where to Buy

Here are some of my favorite dealers:

It is best to buy from a local dealer when possible because the labor warranty is valid only at the dealer where you purchased the ship.


Some of these desires stem from personal quirks. My tolerance for heat and noise is lower than most folks'.


Short of the Eurocopter price range, the R44 is the best trainer for heavier, older, or richer pilots. Again, short of the Eurocopter price range, the R44 is the best helicopter for personal ownership.

One caveat about the Robinsons these days is that if you get some few options you might find that the cost goes up to the point that a used EC120 is actually cheaper. The Garmin 420W GPS/COM that we paid about $5,000 extra for in a 2008 machine is now lightly upgraded to a touch screen and will cost close to $20,000 with the required audio panel.

Resale Value

As of 2019-2020, an overhauled Raven I seems to be worth about $300,000. A run-out core is $70,000 to $90,000, depending on avionics, plus at least $100 per hour for hours remaining until the 2200-hour limit is hit. Robinson has cut production of the R44 and the coronapanic eliminated a lot of things on which people could spend money, so it is possible that values on used machines will be going up.


Text and photos Copyright 2006-2017 Philip Greenspun.

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