Frank Robinson, founder of Robinson Helicopter Company and a native of Whidbey Island, passed away at his home in Rolling Hills, California.
As a young boy of 9, Muxie – a childhood nickname bestowed by his brother – read of a single rotor helicopter designed by Igor Sikorsky. The idea of a helicopter intrigued him and inspired this Whidbey Island boy to look to the skies.
The youngest of 4 siblings, Muxie was born in Carbonado Washington in 1930. His father was a coal miner; his mother a homemaker. The family often visited his grandparents on Mutiny Bay. By the mid 30’s the family bought 5 acres & built a small log cabin on the Bay on which his parents established Robinson Resort that they operated for many years.
Muxie attended the local one-room elementary school and graduated from Langley High School in 1948. Bored with school, he often left the area to work on Merchant Marine Ships in Alaska. Though not a model student, he did have the good fortune to be noticed by a perceptive math teacher who believed Muxie had significant potential in engineering. This teacher convinced him to visit the University of Washington where he was tested & accepted.
Lacking funds for college, Frank worked in the Merchant Marines and later enlisted in the Army, serving in Korea. He enrolled at the University of Washington after his honorable discharge, funding his education with savings and the GI Bill. Frank graduated in 1957 with a Mechanical Engineering degree and later attended graduate aeronautical school at the University of Wichita.
Frank began his working career in 1957. For the next 16 years he worked across the US for 5 different aircraft & helicopter companies. He became an expert in tail rotor characteristics and focused on simplifying design and reducing cost. Always fascinated by helicopters and unable to interest any employers to develop a small low-cost helicopter, Frank struck out on his own and founded Robinson Helicopter Company in 1973. The first Robinson helicopter, the R22 (2-seater), was certified by the FAA in 1979. The first helicopter was delivered later that year. Forty-three years later, there are are 3 models, the R22, the R44 (4-seater) & the R66 (5-seater). More than 13,000 helicopters have been delivered around the globe. Robinson has become the world’s leading manufacturer of civilian helicopters.
Never forgetting his roots on Whidbey, Frank donated property for use as a public beach. This property is now Frank D Robinson Beach, located on Robinson Road, and is constantly used and enjoyed by the community.
Frank died peacefully early Saturday morning, November 12, at home in Rolling Hills, California. He was 92. His life was a classic example of drive and achievement. Frank is survived by 6 children (Jami, Kurt, Terry, Lincoln, Mark & Cindy), 9 grandchildren & 2 great-grandchildren.