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Robinson R22 Instrument Panel

This is a picture of the R22 panel which became standard with the Beta model. (Previous models were the Standard, HP, and Alpha). On the top and bottom row, the 2nd from left instrument position is for optional equipment. Earlier Robinson models had no space for optional flight instruments. In this particular helicopter, the bottom hole has been fitted with a VOR navigation display. The upper hole isn't being used and just has a plug in it to cover it over.

Warning Lights

Along the top you can see a set of warning lights. Earlier models of Robinson spread these all over the panel, in the Beta model they are nicely grouped along the top. Red lights indicate a situation the pilot must deal with immediately (typically by landing) while yellow lights are caution lights and may or may not indicate a serious problem.


This light warns the pilot whenever the electro-mechanical rotor belt tensioning system is running. This system is activated automatically to maintain proper tension on the drive belts.


This light is activated if the termocouple mounted above the input drive bearing of the main rotor transmission detects that the bearing is running hot.


This light is activated if the magnetic plug on the bottom of the main rotor transmission has collected metal fragments. There are two electrodes seperated by a small gap, if metal particles in the oil collect across the gap the circuit is completed and the light is lit.


This alerts the pilot to a hung starter.


The tail rotor gear box has a chip detector similar to the one on the main rotor transmission.


This light comes on when there is only 1 gallon of gas left in the helicopter. Proper flight planning by the pilot normally precludes the fuel level ever getting this low.


This light comes on if main rotor RPM is below 95%. An audible horn also activates at the same time. If the collective is full down, a microswitch defeats this system so that it isn't constantly activated during startup and shutdown.

Flight Instruments

The main flight instruments occupy the upper section of the instrument panel where they are in clear view of the pilot.

Vertical Speed Indicator

In the upper left of the instrument panel we have the vertical speed indicator, or VSI.

In this close up picture, the blue arrow points at the zero adjustment screw. Each mark above the zero represents a climb rate of 100 feet per minute. Each mark below the zero represents a descent rate of 100 feet per minute.

Blank (optional) Position

The next location to the right is blank in this particular R22. Often this is the location that people will use for an attitude indicator (artificial horizon) if one is fitted.

Airspeed Indicator

The next spot over is the Airspeed Indicator. The outer scale is in knots (nautical miles per hour), the inner scale is marked in mph (miles per hour). The red line is marked at the VNE or "Never Exceed Speed" of 102 knots.

Dual Tachometer

The right hand instrument in the upper row is the dual tachometer:

The left hand needle indicates Engine RPM (revolutions per minute), the right hand needle indicates Main Rotor RPM. The colored arcs indicate normal, caution, and prohibited ranges. For instance, on the Engine side (left) there is a green arc from 97% to 104%. Above and below this are red, as the engine should not be operated outside this range during flight. However, if you look at the Rotor side (right) you will notice that green again goes from 97% to 104%, but below and above that there is a yellow area. This means the rotor system can be operated between 90% and 97%, and also from 104% to 110% while in flight. This allows the pilot a larger range of allowable RPM while autorotating. The yellow range between 60% and 70% is an area where the tail boom and main rotor resonate. It is marked yellow to warn pilots to avoid extended operation in this range during startup and shutdown.


On the right row, the left most instrument is the Altimeter:

This instrument senses barometric pressure and indicates height above sea level based on that pressure. Most altimeters (including this one) are sensitive altimeters in that the pilot can turn an adjusting knob to compensate for non-standard pressure. The altimeter looks a lot like a clock, with a long arrow shaped indicator and a short arrow shaped indicator. The short indicator indicates thousands of feet. Here it is about 1/3 of the way from 0 to 1 because we are about 300 feet above sea level. The long indicator indicates in hundreds of feet. It is pointing at the 3, so we are at about 300 feet. Each mark between numbers is 20 feet, so we are indicating about 310 feet here. The long thin white indicator which goes up through the zero is the 10,000 foot marker. I've never seen that move much in a helicopter!

Blank (optional) Position

The gauge second from the left on the bottom row is an optional gauge.

In this case the helicopter has a VOR navigation radio installed. This is fairly rare in VFR helicopters because they tend to fly too low to pick up many VOR signals.

Manifold Pressure

The rightmost bottom gauge is the Manifold Pressure gauge:

The pilot uses this gauge to determine the throttle setting. In the R22 the pilot calculates a maximum manifold pressure given the current temperature and pressure. By calculating this maximum and not exceeding it, the pilot derates the engine from the 160 horsepower which is actually available, to the derated maximum which is 124 horsepower continuous, or 131 horsepower for up to 5 minutes. Derating the engine prolongs the useful life of the engine, making it more reliable than if full power was being used on a regular basis. It also means that full power is available to a higher altitude just as if the engine was turbocharged.

Robinson R22 middle Instrument Panel

The middle panel of the R22 contains the engine gauges and some of the cockpit controls. At the very top there are two warning lights, one for the alternator and one for oil pressure. Below those lights, on the top right, we have a cluster of engine gauges including ammeter, oil pressure, auxilliary fuel tank quantity, oil temperature, main fuel tank quantity, and cylinder head temperature. In the upper left, we have a clock, and below that a Carburetor Air Temperature Gauge.

Just below the carburetor air temperature gauge is a potentiometer which allows the pilot to adjust the brightness of the panel lights during night flight. Along the bottom, from left to right we have "Nav Lights" which turns on the red, green, and white position lights. Second from the left is the strobe light which activates a flashing light on the tail and optionally under the belly, then the clutch switch which activates the R22 electric rotor engagement clutch system. Next to that is the alternator switch, the battery switch, and the magnetos/starter key switch.

Robinson R22 lower Instrument Panel

The lower panel of the R22 contains the radio stack and various controls and indiators.

In the upper left is an electronic outside air temperature gauge. This is something I wish other manufacturers would do. It's much easier to read than the normal thermometer stuck through the overhead window trick. This one reads in either Farenheight or Celcius.

To the right of the OAT gauge, is the landing light switch, and a warning light that indicates that the rotor brake is engaged (so you won't try to start the helicopter with the brake activated). The big knob on the right opens the forward fresh air vent.

The radio stack in this case consists of a Loran navigational radio on top, a combination communications and navigation radio in the middle (which drives that VOR indicator on the upper panel) and a Mode C transponder on the bottom which makes the aircraft more visible on radar displays.

On the bottom panel upper left is the friction for the cyclic control. This can be used on the ground and in flight. To the right of that is the right trim knob which has the mixture guard sitting on it right now. The right trim device reduces the tendency of the cyclic to pull to the left in high speed flight. In flight the mixture guard is placed on the mixture control to prevent it being pulled in flight accidentally. On the far right is the mixture knob. Here at sea level this is mostly used either full in when the engine is running, or full out to stop the engine. At high altitude you would pull the control part way out to prevent an over rich fuel mixture.

In the lower right corner of the photo you can see the carburetor heat control. This introduces heated air into the carburetor to melt any ice which has formed. Unlike most airplanes, this air is filtered and thus can be used on the ground.

Paul Cantrell paul at copters.com (replace " at " with "@" to email me - this avoids SPAMMERS I hope)

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