Robin Aircraft issued an “official statement” on 22 February 2023 that they are “under the protection of the Commerce Court”. This in a context of an AD impacting their wing spars that were getting “unglued” in flight due to a “change in production methods” as discussed here on the relevant thread
https://www.robin-aircraft.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/230221_Robin-Aircraft_communique36.pdf [local copy]
This thing must be far bigger than it appeared, for the owners to feel that packing it up is the best option. It protects the Directors, at least. But it’s hard to get back from this point, especially if there are claims.
The go bust every year they had 1.7m from taxpayers 18months ago
What a shame. Only ever sat in a DR401 155 CDI, but it seemed like it had fewer compromises than the DA-40. Like the DA-40, runs on Jet-A1 and IFR capable, but with more useful load, and much shorter landing and take off distances. Apparently, the wood construction also makes it quieter, but don’t know if that is true or whether the difference is noticeable. (Although if the wing spars ‘unglue’ in flight, the noise from the pilot and passengers might be pretty loud).
Generally only French people are allowed to say this but I have this from a local so it’s OK to post it
Robins were handmade. A Robin door fitted only that one Robin. A bit like Mooneys but even worse when it came to lack of production tooling and fixtures.
So labour costs are high. And no way to bring them down, because only with tooling and fixtures can that be done. In France they are very high anyway due to ~50% employer contributions. I used to have a sales office there so I remember the “deal”.
And the principal market was France, where it is mostly aeroclubs, with very low annual usage, so they live a long time.
French companies in the engineering sector are disappearing constantly. I reckon 30% of Socata’s supplier base disappears every year. Small companies tend to not last long anyway, everywhere. The old man eventually retires or dies and the kids aren’t interested. The more successful ones get taken over by American firms which close down all the slow moving product lines.
Sounds very plausible. Are the volumes for any of the light GA manufacturers that didn’t exists in the 1970’s high enough to justify the equipment investment?
Robin did exist in the 1970s and I believe before; I have posted here about the Badin-Crouzet autopilot it used and that was early 1970s.
Socata got out of the piston game in 2002.
A lot of business is training use but wooden Robins need hangarage which is generally not done in that sector.
11,000 Mooney M20s were built versus e.g. 2150 of the Socata TB series, over five terms as many. Mooney didn’t do that without tooling.
Robins are to me the most attractive European type in current production. I’d love to have a new one with an O-360. Anything wood has production issues but I think the main problem with Robin is that they’ve never had high production volumes and have always been under capitalized. Why they didn’t at least give the US market a shot to increase volume in the 70s is beyond me, Bellanca did quite well with a wood winged aircraft. But the time has surely passed now.
Why they didn’t at least give the US market a shot to increase volume in the 70s is beyond me
I think Robin tried to market the metal HR.100, but I can’t remember why it didn’t happen. La Saga Robin says they looked at using French-speaking Québec as a bridgehead in 1969, the wooden DR.315 and DR.253 with Transport Canada and unnamed others. It doesn’t give any more information other than the designer Christophe Heintz later moved to Canada to start Zenair.
It’s easy to judge from outside, but personally I think the company should never have been sold out of the family. The first set of new owners received state funding so that e.g. the woodworking expertise wouldn’t be lost.
One of the downsides of state help is that there were sometimes strings attached: e.g. the natural progression to larger retractable planes (R.3000) was killed by the DGAC because it would have completed with Socata’s TB20.
There’s also the problem of market saturation and stagnation: the biggest customers are aeroclubs, who already have planes, and aren’t growing like they were in the trente glorieuses. Clubs do receive subsidies for new aircraft (last I heard €30k and TVA exemption from the state, plus smaller grant and interest free loan from the FFA) but if replacing an old Robin, it’s more likely they’ll exchange it for a more recent one, or to have it completely refurbished.
Robin started started small in the late 1940s, but only became a significant manufacturer in 1962 after winning the Sicily air races the previous year.
Hangarage isn’t a problem in France and club use is probably 150-300 hours per year.