“We’re ready to bounce back,” declared the CEO of Robinson Helicopters in the wake of news that the company is recovering from two years of financial difficulty that included multiple layoffs. Robinson Helicopters, based at Zamperini Field in Torrance, California, is reporting noticeable market improvement following a few years of dwindling sales. Robinson is known for making helicopters used for television news, police departments and rescue and surveillance operations.
Robinson is now reporting having several orders on hand and plans to expand its factory and recently unveiled a new five-seat helicopter. Kurt Robinson, the company’s CEO, said that Robinson literally hit a tailspin along with the rest of economy. Robinson is attracting attention with its new helicopter and hopes to use that attention to promote the company.
The helicopter, dubbed R66, is the most technologically advanced vehicle the company has had among its products. The copter is able to fly at higher altitude and carry more passengers and cargo than previous models. Matt Zuccaro, head of a trade group called the Helicopter Association International, sees it as an opportunity for the company to grow.
The recession forced Robinson to cut back orders and reduce its staff. The company turned out nearly 900 helicopters at its peak in 2008, but 2010 that number had dropped dramatically to 162. The company’s payroll plunged from approximately 1,400 in 2008 to current levels of less than 1,000. Sales for the company dropped to $75 million in 2010, from $100 million the previous year.
The news comes as California’s unemployment rate continues to linger around 12 percent. Robinson has expanded the factory where its current two and four seat models are produced located at the end of Torrance Municipal Airport. Currently the space made available for the new R66 remains empty. The company has completed about 24 of the new helicopters and has orders for an additional 106 of them.
One of the reasons for the company’s success throughout its history has been an ability to offer its products cheaper than most competitors. For instance, the new R66 is priced at $800,000 in comparison to a $1.4 million price tag from the company’s closest competitor.
Some of the copters manufactured by Robinson end up in use at helicopter training facilities in the area. Helicopter schools are always looking for high quality, up-to-date equipment to purchase at reasonable prices. This has made Robinson an appealing company to that market as well.
Kurt Robinson, the son of the founder of the company, sees the attention generated from the new helicopter as an opportunity for the company to continue to grow.