Sikorsky’s S/H-92: Leading the Charge in Safety & Standardization

Process and product standardization takes flight during S/H-92 development using DDC-I tools

Product:TADS i960


The S/H-92 medium lift twin-engine helicopter, evolved from Sikorsky’s legendary S-70 Black Hawk and Seahawk. When it officially took to the air, FAA New England regional administrator Amy Corbett said, “On December 17 [2002], precisely 99 years after the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk, the S-92’s certification was signed. What a wonder it was to see the birth of the world’s safest helicopter, on the same day as the first flight.”

Where the Wright’s first shaky experiments seem risky by today’s standards, the “new generation” S/H-92 is designed around the concept of safety. Based on technology perfected during over five million flight hours of global mission experience logged by Black Hawk and Seahawk, it is the first helicopter in the world certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency/Joint Aviation Authorities (EASA/JAA) to the latest, most rigorous safety standards. The S/H-92 is also the first certified by the FAA to FAR Part 29 Transport Rotorcraft, Amendment 47, the latest U.S. safety regulations.

Beating deep within the digital heart of the next-generation flight-control and fuel- control avionics is safety-critical code generated with proven DDC-I software development tools. Primary contractor Sikorsky used DDC-I tools to develop redundant flight control systems code as S-92 software development came online in the mid-nineties. Hamilton-Sundstrand, working for engine subcontractor General Electric, coded the FADEC (Full Authority Digital Electronic Control) engine and fuel control systems. Code originally developed for the European NH-90 “Eurocopter” project was wisely (intentionally) re-used and updated during development.

A December 1998 maiden flight at the Sikorsky Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, preceded a production launch in 1999. First orders landed in 2000. Working with Sikorsky in project development was an international consortium: Embraer of Brazil, Gamesa of Spain, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan, Jingdezhen Helicopter Group/CATIC of the People’s Republic of China, Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) of Taiwan and major subcontractors Hamilton-Sundstrand, Rockwell Collins and General Electric.

Also noteworthy in the S/H-92 is Sikorsky’s consideration of intelligent standardization of technology between civil and military development. The desire to reduce the cost of avionics and produce a more versatile, universal S-92 “has caused… a market conversion,” according to Sikorsky manager Mike Myers, reflecting on the early development strategy of Sikorsky and Rockwell Collins to build systems certifiable in both commercial and military markets, due to demand from military customers for H-92 avionics also certified for civil operations.

The commercial S-92 is designed for roles such as passenger transport for the offshore oil and airline industries, executive transport and civilian Search & Rescue. The military H-92 Superhawk prefers jobs like utility and troop transport, anti-submarine warfare, combat Search & Rescue and Head-of-State transport. Advanced rotor systems and 5000+ horsepower from dual General Electric CT7-8A turboshaft engines carry 19 passengers in airliner comfort 490 nm (907 km), search for a full hour 275 nm (510 km) from base to rescue six survivors and return to base — with 30 minutes of reserve fuel — and perform at weights to 31,000 lb. (14,065 kg).

Intelligence extends throughout the helicopter, as the S/H-92 monitors and captures all operational airframe and flight data and identifies system health issues in real time, providing an onboard display to enhance flight safety and an integrated air-to-ground Configuration and Maintenance Management System (CMMS) for smart maintenance and — that’s right — increased safety. Mission flexibility and low operating costs were primary design points at program inception, aimed at providing a multi-mission helicopter with unprecedented levels of reliability, maintainability and operational economics.

At 7:30 a.m. on February 21, 2005, a Norwegian sunrise met the first Sikorsky’s S-92TM entering revenue service over the North Sea, nineteen Statoil employees in full survivor gear taking part in the historic first flight. The S-92 flew the first of four flawless round trips, transporting a total of 152 different passengers to and from various Statoil platforms in the North Sea. Operated by Norsk Helikopter on contract to Statoil, Norsk is the first European off-shore oil S-92 customer. A second S-92 is scheduled to enter service in spring 2005, and Sikorsky anticipates several S-92’s will begin offshore operations in the North Sea within the year.