Sikorsky Tests World's Most Advanced Search and Rescue Helicopter Flight Controls

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Sikorsky Tests World's Most Advanced Search and Rescue Helicopter Flight Controls

October 24, 2006

  WEST PALM BEACH, Florida - Sikorsky Aircraft is finishing developmental flight tests of its S-92TM helicopter with a search and rescue automatic flight control system (AFCS) that is able to lock in and fly point-in-space approaches, hands-off, and hover for rescues. Sikorsky is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX).

The system is the first to fly automated approaches to a set position "hooked" by a search radar, flight management system way point, thermal imager, or digital map. "This system does a fully coupled approach, hover and departure. A nighttime, IFR rescue in icing conditions is now possible, military or civilian, with this system and aircraft family," said S-92 project pilot Ron Doeppner.

The civil S-92 system is a subset of the sophisticated AFCS prototyped in the HH-92 SUPERHAWK® helicopter variant entered in the U.S. Air Force CSAR-X competition. The search and rescue (SAR) flight control modes were tested first on the HH-92 demonstrator last year.

With the aircraft on an automatic descent to a set altitude and position, the flight crew can keep eyes looking out of the cockpit for added safety and mission effectiveness.

"I wish I'd had a fully integrated flight control system like this when I was flying Air Force rescue and special ops helicopters," Doeppner said. "When you put this into an aircraft with the safety and survivability features of the HH-92, you've got the world's most advanced SAR helicopter."

SAR rotorcraft such as the Sikorsky S-76® helicopter have long been equipped with coupled flight control systems that can fly stored approach profiles to a hover near a visual target. The S-92's AFCS adds more precision and functionality over previous systems. "We've now demonstrated a three-dimensional precision approach system compatible with multiple aircraft sensors," Doeppner said. "The pilot can enter GPS coordinates through the S-92 flight management system or 'hook' a target with the cursor on the radar, FLIR, or map display."

The new SAR mode in the S-92 dual digital automatic flight control system is on course to receive European Aviation Safety Agency certification by year-end. Sikorsky is under contract to provide four SAR-configured S-92 aircraft to CHC Helicopters, which the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency selected to provide coastal search and rescue services. In the U.S., Federal Aviation Administration certification is expected in 2007.

The SAR mode for the S-92 Avionics Management System was developed jointly by Sikorsky Aircraft and Rockwell Collins engineers.

The HH-92 blends the unique flaw-tolerant, crashworthy design features of the Collier Award-winning S-92 with the ballistically tolerant design legacy of the combat-proven BLACK HAWK. In combat SAR deployability demonstrations, the HH-92 demonstrator was unloaded from a C-17 transport airplane and ready to fly in 22 minutes - a fraction of the time required by older technology helicopters.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., based in Stratford, Connecticut, USA, is a world leader in helicopter design, manufacturing, and service. United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Connecticut, USA, provides a broad range of high technology products and support services to the aerospace and building systems.

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