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New platform approach system offers enhanced safety, reduced pilot workload in Sikorsky S-92® helicopters

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. today announced the introduction of a new functionality offered on the S-92® helicopter to provide offshore oil operators with an automated approach that reduces cockpit workload and allows safer operations under challenging weather and operating conditions. Sikorsky Aircraft is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).    

The new platform-finding system provides a fully coupled and automated approach capability with a higher safety margin than currently is available with any other offshore approach procedure. Sikorsky introduced the new system during a press briefing at Helitech.    

"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."  

The system will allow the helicopter to land and take off in more weather conditions, maximizing flight availability and revenue potential.    

"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," said Tom Rychlik, Program Manager for the S-92 helicopter program. "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 be retrofitted to all existing S-92 helicopters in operation and can be ordered as an option on future deliveries.    

"At PHI, we have the capacity to fly well over 1,000 passengers per day in our S-92 helicopter fleet," said Pat Attaway, PHI Operations Manager. "Obviously, we want the best systems possible to fly our passengers. We expect the automated approach system in development by Sikorsky to meet that standard."    

Sikorsky is currently flight testing the system at its Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, and plans to have FAA certification by the end of 2009.    

The S-92 helicopter is the first helicopter in its class certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to the most rigorous standards. The aircraft also is certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency to its stringent safety standards. About 100 S-92 helicopters have been produced to date, and the worldwide operating fleet has accumulated more than 169,500 flight hours. The aircraft perform a variety of missions including search and rescue off the U.K. coast, and Head of State transport for the leaders of several nations. The S-92 helicopter also has become the helicopter of choice for transporting oil workers to offshore platforms.

Press release issued by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company on September 23, 2009


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Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company Airframer


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Sikorsky S-92

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