Sikorsky is working to add its automated Rig Approach system to the S-76D medium-class helicopter, following a successful introduction of the technology on the heavier S-92.

Carey Bond, president commercial systems and services at the US airframer, says: “What is good in the heavy market is good in the medium market.”

Key to the successful integration of Rig Approach is the processing power of the rotorcraft’s flight-control computers “and the one thing on the S-76D is that there is a lot of processing power”.

Sikorsky has been driving research into automated rotorcraft flight through its SARA flying test lab, which uses an S-76 airframe equipped with a suite of advanced systems, including fly-by-wire controls.

Technology derived from SARA is utilised in the Rig Approach system, which was introduced in the US with operator PHI in November 2013.

PHI will now retrofit its entire S-92 fleet with the system, says Bond, and he believes other operators will follow suit.

“I fully expect all major oil and gas operators to install it – all our big customers,” he says.

“We think about automation as the biggest change we can make to the aircraft to improve safety.”

EASA certification of the system is anticipated shortly, says Bond.

The 5.3t S-76D entered service earlier this year and the lead aircraft, which is operating in Trinidad with National Helicopter Services, has recently completed more than 500h of flight time, says Bond.

Source: Flight Daily News