Smart Technology: Improving Helicopter Safety

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When extreme weather conditions and storms threatened hundreds of offshore workers in the North Sea, Bristow Helicopters and its fleet of Sikorsky S-92® aircraft answered the call to heroically airlift and evacuate nearly 800 people over three days.

Each day, the fleet of more than 275 S-92 helicopters operate around the world to safely transport oil and gas workers, executives and heads of state, and airline passengers. With more than a million fleet hours of service, this aircraft also conducts Search and Rescue missions for international rescue agencies. The S-92 along with Sikorsky’s medium class commercial product, the S-76D™ helicopter, are known for their versatility and outstanding safety record.

To make all of these missions safer for pilots and passengers, Sikorsky engineers have integrated new technologies, helping to make the aircraft smarter and more efficient.


iFLY SIKORSKY  FLIGHT PLANNING APP

iFly Sikorsky™ App for Flight Planning iFly Sikorsky™ includes both a performance calculator and a flight publications app that includes the Flight Crew Operating Manuals (FCOMs). The FCOMs are part of an effort led by the HeliOffshore industry association to enhance safety and build collaboration across the industry. Sikorsky’s FCOMs support the commitment to providing safe and efficient aircraft for customers.

Lifesaving missions often require helicopter pilots to plan their flights in the air or on short notice. 

Sikorsky's iPad-based application iFly Sikorsky™ replicates common performance calculations outlined in the S-92 and S-76D rotorcraft flight manuals and eliminates the need for complicated paper charts, enhancing performance and situational awareness. The app improves safety, efficiency and effectiveness by providing a high level of accuracy and syncing with operator's online credentials to keep data up-to-date.

“When our pilots asked for a more efficient way to do their performance calculations, our team of Technical Publications, Sikorsky Innovations, and Performance Engineering worked together to develop the app and validate the calculations,” said Director of Fleet Management at Sikorsky, Simon Gharibian. “Now, pilots who need to quickly respond to emergency, VIP or paramilitary situations can verify they have the aircraft performance to do so quickly and safely.”

iFly will also host Flight Crew Operating Manuals (FCOMs) for both the S-92 and S-76D helicopters, which provide standard operating procedures such as detailed aircraft pre-flight, enroute, emergency and shutdown procedures as well as crew resource management guidance.  


APPROACHING AUTOMATION: S-92 RIG APPROACH TECHNOLOGY

Rig Approach™ Rig Approach™ is a first-of-its-kind functionality, available as an option on the S-92 helicopters. It provides a fully automated approach capability with a higher safety margin than is currently available with any other offshore approach procedure.

Off shore oil operators fly their helicopters over stormy seas, through howling winds and sheets of rain that significantly limit their visibility. When it comes to precision, they’re often required to land in small spaces – surrounded by water – with very little room for error.

To ensure these pilots are able to land safely, iFly Sikorsky works in tandem with the Rig Approach™ system to calculate the maximum allowable approach and departure weights based on current ambient conditions. This technology automates the steps that pilots take as they approach offshore rigs and conduct platform landings, which substantially reduces the number of pre-landing actions required by the pilot.

"Reducing cockpit workload is a key safety feature that benefits our customers and their passengers, especially under challenging weather and operating conditions," said Sikorsky’s Director of Commercial Programs, Alan Walling. “The Rig Approach technology reduces a pilot’s cockpit workload by 60 percent, which allows them to focus on monitoring the mission, rather than maneuvering the aircraft.”


FORECASTING FOR SAFETY

For years Sikorsky has been leveraging health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS) to enhance safety and drive improvements to the aircraft. Now, the new state-of-the-art Customer Care Center in Trumbull, Connecticut combines HUMS data with operator’s maintenance information to improve material forecasts and drive direct operating cost reductions. This fleet management focus coupled with an Aircraft on Ground (AOG) Center, dedicated to returning grounded aircraft to service, have already resulted in measurable improvements to AOG turnaround time and aircraft availability.