From Southern California, public radio for your eyes.

The making of a helicopter

It started 40 years ago, out of Frank Robinson's Palos Verdes living room.

Now, Robinson Helicopter Company is the world's leading manufacturer of civil helicopters.

Before starting his own business, Frank Robinson had worked for big aviation companies like Cessna and Bell.

He spent years trying convince them to start offering a small, low-cost helicopter to consumers.

They wouldn't listen, so he decided to do it himself.

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Eighty percent of the manufacturing that goes into each helicopter is done in their 617,000-square-foot space at Zamperini Field in Torrance, Calif.

Engines and avionic systems like radios and navigation equipment are built elsewhere and installed here in Southern California.

Robinson makes all their other parts in-house – cutting, pressing and welding them from scratch. Computer-maneuvered machines cut parts from blocks of metal.

It takes about 1,300 employees to make the 500 helicopters Robinson plans to sell this year. Each one is built to order.

Once an aircraft is finished, many customers like to come to Robinson and fly their brand new helicopter home.

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