Oman joins Jordan in operating Robinson helicopters
Jordnian pilots after testing the Robinson R44
The Royal Air Force of Oman is believed to have ordered Robinson R44 helicopters to fulfil training needs with its air force. The Omanis follow the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) who ordered eight Robinson R44 Raven II helicopters, becoming only the fifth military operator of the type.
The R44 is a single-engined four-seat helicopter developed from the original two-seat R22, sharing much the same configuration, and with a similar semi-rigid two-bladed main rotor, two-bladed tail rotor and skid landing gear.
First flown in 1990, the basic R44 was developed to produce the R44 Raven, which introduced hydraulically assisted controls and adjustable pedals, and this was introduced in January 2000.
In July 2002, Robinson introduced the Raven II, which featured a more powerful, fuel-injected Lycoming IO-540-AE1A5 flat-six piston engine and wider main rotor blades, allowing a higher gross weight and improved altitude performance.
Though widely used in the commercial world, the Robinson R44 has had relatively little success in winning military orders, with a single example sold to Bolivia, three to the Dominican Republic’s Army, and four each to Estonia and Lebanon.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) selected the R44 Raven II to replace the fleet of 12 Hughes 500D helicopters used by No 5 Squadron, part of the King Hussein Air College at Mafraq, for primary rotary-wing pilot training. The Hughes 500s have been in service since 1981.
The decision to select the R44 came after a four-member RJAF evaluation team visited the Robinson Helicopter Company in March. While the team, led by Brigadier General Walid Jaradat, were reportedly impressed by the R44’s low operating and maintenance costs, Colonel Imad Ghwein revealed that it was positive feedback about the R44 from “a neighbouring country’s air force” that convinced the RJAF. The only Robinson operator in the region is Lebanon.
The Lebanese Army took delivery of its first two Robinson R44 Raven II helicopters in January 2005, and then received two more in December. These were assigned to the pilot training role, and were based at Rayak Air Force Base in Bekaa Valley. General Nouhad Zebian, the Lebanese Air Force Commander, later said: “The use of Robinson helicopters has been very cost-effective and allowed the students to become experienced pilots before moving on to flying larger military aircraft. We hope to expand our Robinson fleet with even more helicopters in the future.”
The Lebanese found that training in the Robinsons was a useful substitute for instruction in large and powerful military helicopters, which had always proved to be extremely costly with heavy consumption of fuel, and maintenance man-hours. They were also happy with the R44’s hot and high performance.
This was enough for the Jordanians, who promptly ordered an initial batch of eight R44s.
To prepare for the arrival of the R44 Raven II, 10 RJAF pilots attended Robinson’s safety course and 12 RJAF mechanics received instruction on the type at the company’s maintenance school.
The first four Jordanian R44s were scheduled for delivery before the end of 2014 with the second batch of four helicopters due to follow in early 2015.
The Jordanian R44s will be equipped with glass cockpits featuring Garmin and Aspen avionics, and will use Bendix King’s new military KTR909 UHF transceiver. No provision has been made for armament.
No 5 Squadron at Mafraq also incorporates a number of Aerospatiale AS350B3 Squirrels, but it is not known whether these will remain in service following the delivery of the Robinsons.
The RJAF operates a number of armed MD530FF helicopters with No 28 Squadron, part of the Prince Hashim Bin Abdullah II Aviation Brigade at King Abdullah II Air Base. These are due to be replaced by 18 Boeing AH-6i Little Bird helicopters.
Iran to prepare pilots for civil helicopters
By Temkin Jafarov
A Center for training pilots of civilian helicopters has been established in Iran for the first time, said the Deputy Minister of Roads and Transportation of Iran Alireza Jahangirian, the Iranian news agency Mehr News reported Dec.30.
He said that for four civilian helicopters have been allocated to the center for the pilots’ training.
“Currently, up to 20 centers for training pilots of the planes operate in Iran, but the license for establishment of a center for training pilots of civilian helicopters was issued for the first time, and it is already functioning,” said Jahangirian.
Robinson R44 helicopters type made in the USA have been allocated for training of the pilots.
Iran Firm Displays US-Made Helicopters
An Iranian company on Thursday displayed four brand new U.S.-made helicopters it purchased through third parties, offering them as proof that the country could evade international sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.
The display of the R-44 helicopters came during an air exhibition in Kish Island, in the Persian Gulf.
The four-person helicopters are manufactured by the California-based Robinson Helicopter Company.
Mahmoud Azin, the head of Iran’s Helicopters Company, told the Tasnim news website that the helicopters were purchased at a marked-up price through “dealers” and can be used for both training and police air patrols. His company, which has some 25 helicopters, mainly serves Iranian oil sites.
Azin said the purchase showed that Iran could bypass U.S. and international sanctions. He said the international price of the four helicopters is about $2 million.
Iran’s civil aviation agency announced the purchase of the four helicopters in September, saying they would be used for training purposes. It did not provide details on who sold the aircraft.
U.S. firms are largely forbidden from doing business with Iran and the Treasury Department has aggressively pursued violators. The U.N. Security Council has also imposed tough sanctions on Iran. It was not immediately clear if the purchase of the helicopters constituted a violation of either the U.S. or international sanctions.
The international sanctions stem from Iran’s nuclear program, which Western nations fear is part of a covert effort to develop a weapons capability. Iran denies such allegations, insisting its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
Iranian and international negotiators hope to reach a comprehensive agreement by Nov. 24 that would see Tehran curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.