IT was heartening to see Robin Aircraft at AERO Friedrichshafen and especially with a new aircraft, the DR401. It’s not brand new, of course, being based on the DR400 which has served the company well for so long but significant improvements have been made in the cabin.

Most obvious change is 10 cm (4 in) extra width at shoulder height. It’s been gained by mounting the sliding canopy on a curved frame.

“The idea was to get the same roominess as the DR500 without compromising the DR400 payload,” said Robin. “Everyone knows and loves the DR400. Nobody wants to change its flying qualities, payload, manoeuvrability, safety. And yet, the world is moving. Lovers of the DR400 have grown up, gained weight and acquired a taste for comfort and finish. It was time for a make-over.”

More legroom has also been gained by redesigned the lower part of the instrument panel, and the view forwards is also better thanks to a lower coaming above the panel.

Changes too in the cabin, with the old flap lever and intrusive trim wheel that used to be between the front seats gone. Instead, both the flaps and trim are now operated by an electric mechanism. Sports seats have been fitted and the stick itself redesigned to allow for the bigger pilots Robin refers to.

Robin DR401
Cleaner panel of the DR401, with lower top coaming for better forward vision.

The instrument panel has been completely redesigned to allow more space for large digital screens though standard analogue gauges are also available. Annunciator lights, trim indicator, magnetic compass, brightness adjusters and ancillary switches are at their usual place in the new upper section. The centre console has switches for the fuel pump, landing light, flaps, the engine management levers, the fuel selector and the parking brake knob. There’s also a 12 volt power socket accessible from the rear seats.

Since 2013, all new Robin aircraft have been equipped with a flight recorder, SafetyPlane, that supports a warranty of 20 years for the aerostructures. It is also possible to access a real time flight management tool for added safety.

An option on the DR401 is Oratex fabric, claimed to improve performance, eliminate cracks in the paint and make repairs easier and quicker. It’s also lighter by an incredible 15 kg because paint is part of the fabric. Exterior lights on the DR401 – landing, taxy and navigation – are now all LED.

There’s a choice of powerplants: four Lycoming avgas engines (which can use Mogas through an STC) and two Centurion turbdodiesel engines, including the latest 155 hp 2.0S. Price of the aircraft starts at around 200,000 euro which is highly competitive.

Robin says it is producing around 30 aircraft a year. It would like to make more but that would require investment in production tooling. The French company, having come back from the brink of insolvency, is cautious although it has a ready home market – almost every airfield in France has a DR400 on its fleet.

MORE Robin Aircraft