October 5, 2018

Garmin announces two new autopilots

Aftermarket digital autopilot segment gets reinforcements

The long-lived post-modern digital autopilot segment got a big boost this July 18 when Garmin International announced not one but two new autopilots. Both share similar characteristics, but are designed for different market segments. The GFC 500 is designed for lighter general aviation aircraft that can use a Garmin G5 solid state attitude indicator as the main source of attitude. The GFC 600 will be of interest to those who fly high-performance singles and light twins through turbine aircraft. The GFC 600 is well suited to the Garmin G500 and G600 glass flight displays, to Garmin browsers and to a variety of third-party flight displays.

Both autopilot systems operate servos manipulated by brushless DC motors and a gear train that eliminates the need for a mechanical slip clutch, which reduces maintenance and improves reliability and longevity. Both autopilots derive much of their performance from the well-considered GFC 700 autopilot that Garmin introduced a decade ago on its Garmin G1000 integrated panel; The GFC 700 has since migrated through a variety of turbine aircraft, but always as part of an integrated panel, not as an aftermarket independent product.

In fact, the new products appear to be a fusion of Garmin technologies developed for the autopilot in its G3X Touch, which is an integrated cabin for experimental aircraft and the GFC 700 autopilots covering all the way to FAR Part 25 aircraft.

Among the safety enhancement technologies that are transferred to the new products of the GFC 700 are the electronic stability protection (ESP), which pushes the controls towards safety if a flying pilot approaches unsafe conditions, if not introduced No response from the pilot, the system will activate the autopilot and level the plane. Continuing with the incapacitation scenario, if the plane ran out of fuel while flying on autopilot, another characteristic, protection below speed, would prevent the airplane from stopping after the engine leaves, theoretically keeping the plane flying under control in a descent just above the stopping speed all the way to the ground. In general, protection below speed can help prevent the airplane from stopping. It can also be useful when combined with the jog function. If a pilot reaches the minimum of time for an instrument approach and wants to go around, a touch of the button leaves the autopilot engaged and causes the airplane to launch up a climb attitude while driving the Garmin GTN navigator in the procedure. of lost approach. The pilot would only need to apply power, raise the gear and turn. However, if the pilot forgets to add power, the protection below the speed would prevent the plane from stopping on the climb. Garmin officials told the AOPA Pilot editors that it was the availability of under-speed protection that convinced the FAA that it could include a coupled turn on the autopilot.

At the opposite end of the flight envelope, the over-speed protection will rise to prevent the aircraft from exceeding its approved maximum speed.

Another characteristic brought from the GFC 700 is the Level Mode, the blue button that engages the autopilot to restore the plane to straight and level flight. Other features that are uncommon in GA basic automatic pilots are speed rise and descent modes. A pilot can select the desired speed indicated and the autopilot will launch the aircraft during the ascent or descent to maintain that speed in a terminal zone where the ATC wants it at a particular speed. Again, over speed or protection below speed will invalidate the option to keep the plane safe. Finally, a Flight Director Mode, which helps the pilot to follow navigation commands even when the autopilot is not on, is a help in the conditions of the instrument. The vertical navigation functions will be available as future updates, according to Garmin.

In addition, autopilots will fly almost any typical instrument approach and related procedures when associated with a navigator. The addition of a yaw servo provides yaw dampening. An optional tilt adjustment servo adds automatic compensation and manual electrical compensation capabilities. For the GFC 600, a control wheel steering button (CWS) is available, which allows you to