BOOTHVILLE, La. and HOUMA, La., Nov. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and PHI Inc. announced today the completion of the first operational flights of the new "Rig Approach" system, a first of its kind functionality on the S-92 ® helicopter that provides helicopter operators with an automated approach to offshore rigs and platforms. The flights occurred yesterday. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20131113/NE16687) Earlier this year, two FAA Demonstration test flights were flown simultaneously by Sikorsky and PHI, Inc. pilots who utilized Rig Approach to fly to oil rigs off the coast of Louisiana. Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX), developed Rig Approach in close collaboration with PHI, Inc., an important Sikorsky customer who operates S-92 and S-76 ® helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico, providing transportation to offshore oil workers to and from the platforms there. "This milestone culminates a five-year joint development effort between PHI and Sikorsky for Rig Approach. This new capability improves helicopter safety and operations for the offshore oil industry by reducing crew workload, increasing situational awareness and enhancing on-time performance," said Carey Bond, President, Sikorsky Global Helicopters. "Safety is and always will be our priority. Innovations such as Rig Approach are invaluable, especially in the hostile weather environments where many of these rigs operate every day." "We share an absolute commitment to continue to explore new technologies to enhance the safety of the men and women who work in the Gulf," said Al Gonsoulin, CEO and Chairman of the Board for PHI, Inc. "Throughout our 60-plus-year history, PHI has taken great pride in our work to introduce advances with partners like Sikorsky. Together, with the introduction of Rig Approach, Sikorsky and PHI have made an important advancement in the name of safety." Rig Approach reduces cockpit workload by 60 percent and allows for more consistent operations under challenging weather and operating conditions. The system will be available as an option on the S-92 helicopters, providing a fully coupled and automated approach capability with a higher safety margin than currently is available with any other offshore approach procedure. The feature can be retrofitted to aircraft already operating.