Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft won FAA approval for Rig Approach, a new system the helicopter maker has developed with its customer PHI Inc. to help pilots land safely on deep-sea oil rigs.
It’s an automated system the two companies have been developing since 2007. It reduces the workload of a pilot during approach of an oil platform and is expected to be helpful during bad weather and improve overall safety. PHI, which flies a lot of Sikorsky helicopters, transports employees and supplies to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, Sikorsky said a pilot with the company approached a Sikorsky pilot about developing the system and the two companies teamed up on something that’s brand new to the industry.
“Automated rig approach had never been done before so the FAA had no basis on which to compare it, said Ron Doeppener, Sikorsky’s project pilot, in a release. “We couldn’t go to the FAA regulators and say we’re certifying this according to existing data. We’re writing the book on it, working with the operator and the FAA.”
The new system was tested by the FAA in February and Sikorsky will now be able to provide it as an option on its S-92 aircraft. It can also be retrofitted onto older S-92s.
“The… system is one of the most intuitive and innovative systems I have ever flown,” said Paul Perkins, chief pilot for PHI, who said it in a press release, will aid in difficult approaches taking some of the burden off of pilots.
The system is also expected to be available for the new S-76D now in development. Both the 92 and 76 are popular for use in the oil production business and the company is not sure what pricing point it will set for the system.
“We are still establishing market brand pricing for new and existing customers. It is too early to estimate how many customers will buy it, but we believe it will be a very desirable capability,” said Marianne Heffernan, a Sikorsky sp0keswoman.
The added feature will presumably be available on the S-92 variant Sikorsky and Lockheed are entering in the contest for the next presidential helicopter.
Sikorsky is a unit of Hartford-based UTC.