The FAA has signed off on a new technology for Sikorsky’s S-92 helicopter called Rig Approach, an automated system that makes it easier for offshore pilots to find and approach oil platforms and rigs. Sikorsky claims the new automation software, which allows the offshore pilot to program an approach to a rig into the helicopter’s autopilot, reduces the “cockpit workload by 60 percent and allows safer operations under challenging weather and operating conditions.”
The idea of the system came from a pilot from PHI, a helicopter operator in the Gulf of Mexico that operates S-92s and S-76s and flew more than 19,000 hours of IFR operations last year. Sikorsky collaborated with PHI on the project, which has been in development since 2007. “Automated rig approach had never been done before so the FAA had no basis on which to compare it,” said Ron Doeppner, Sikorsky’s Project Pilot. “We couldn’t go to the FAA regulators and say we’re certifying this according to existing data.”
“This system provides the crews with technology that is easy to use, makes sense, and reduces the current workload from 17 pilot initiated items to only seven,” said PHI chief pilot Paul Perkins.
Rig Approach will be available as an option for the S-92 and can also be retrofitted to existing helicopters.