In the early 1970s, a talented engineer by the name of Frank Robinson launched the design of a two-seat helicopter geared to the personal and training market. Simplicity and low cost were the focus of this design and the first flight of the prototype took place in 1975. Two years later, a second prototype joined the first and certification was obtained in 1979. Various improvements, such as a higher takeoff gross weight, expanded CG envelope and more engine power were incorporated in the R22 hp and R22 Alpha models. In 1985, deliveries of the Robinson R22Beta (or R22B) with an upgraded transmission started.
One of the unique features of the R22 is that all components that require overhaul and replacement come due at the same time (either 2,000 or 2,200 hours, depending on the model). Until 2000, the only way to get these components overhauled or replaced was to return the helicopter to the factory, where the entire helicopter was remanufactured for a fixed price. In 2000, Robinson also made a kit available that allows qualified organizations to perform the overhaul.
The Robinson R22B is a light single-engine piston helicopter with a two-bladed semi-articulated main rotor. It uses a Lycoming O-320-B2C engine and a two-bladed tail rotor provides directional control. All rotor blades are made of aluminum, as is the fuselage structure. The cabin has room for a pilot, plus one passenger. A number of specially equipped models are available, including the R22 Mariner, which is an R22 with fixed floats. Another model is fully equipped for IFR flight (though not certificated) and can be used for IFR training. In addition, the helicopter may be equipped with an external cargo hook or an agricultural spray rig and tank.
Development of the R22 was launched in 1973, certification of the base R22 was obtained in 1979 and first deliveries took place the same year. About 500 were delivered prior to certification of the R22Beta (or R22B). This model was in production until 1995. During this time, slightly over 2,000 were produced. In 1995, the somewhat more powerful R22Beta II superseded the R22B. This helicopter has essentially the same performance as the R22B, except that the hover ceiling is higher.