Sikorsky Aircraft has introduced an automated approach system that reduces cockpit workload and allows safer operations under challenging weather and operating conditions for offshore operators. The new oil platform-finding system provides fully coupled and automated approach capability with a higher safety margin than currently available with any other offshore approach procedure.
“Depending on the weather, landing a helicopter on an oil platform can be challenging,” said Ron Doeppner, project pilot on the S-92 helicopter program. “With the platform-finding system, the pilot programs the approach into the autopilot and the aircraft flies the approach. This allows the pilots to spend less time concentrating inside the cockpit and more time looking outside for visual cues. This feature is especially valuable in night and low visibility conditions, adding an extra element of operational safety.”
According to Tom Rychlik, program manager for the S-92 helicopter program, “Sikorsky developed this feature with the encouragement of key S-92 helicopter customers and regulatory agencies looking to leverage precision navigation capabilities found in WAAS [Wide Area Augmentation System] and other national infrastructure investments. It fulfills the promise of precision approach to offshore oil platforms utilizing the latest navigation technology and helicopter flight control systems engineering.”
With the current offshore approach procedure, at least 14 pilot actions are required to initiate an approach to an oil platform. The new software reduces that number to seven, all of which are conducted prior to departure or during cruise. The system will allow the helicopter to land and take off in more weather conditions, maximizing flight availability and revenue potential.
Sikorsky is currently flight testing the system at its Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., and plans to have FAA certification by the end of 2009. The system can be retrofitted to all existing S-92 helicopters and ordered as an option on future deliveries.