Offshore oil-and-gas helicopter operator PHI recently conducted the first operational flights of a Sikorsky S-92 equipped with the new “rig approach” automated system, the U.S.-based rotorcraft manufacturer has announced. Earlier this year, Sikorsky and PHI pilots flew two FAA demonstration operations to oil rigs off the coast of Louisiana.
The FAA approved the optional feature on the medium twin in May. It is said to reduce cockpit workload by 60 percent and allow safer operations under challenging weather and operating conditions. Sikorsky and PHI started joint development in 2007. At that time, automated rig approach had never been done so the FAA had no basis on which to compare it, Sikorsky officials said. Therefore, the helicopter manufacturer “wrote the book on it,” working with the operator and the FAA.
Thanks to its claimed intuitive interface and a reduction in pilot-initiated items to seven from 17, “rig approach” promises to improve safety and raise another barrier to controlled flight into terrain. It can be retrofitted to helicopters already in service.