September 2010 Issue
Avidyne’s DFC90: One Smart Autopilot
Avidyne’s fully digital autopilot delivers on its claims of terrific performance and improved safety. But the cost-benefit equation won’t work for everyone.
Cirrus Aircraft’s installation of the Avidyne Entegra PFD in 2003 was really the turning point for glass cockpits in GA. But at the time, there was no attitude-based autopilot on the market capable of using the digital gyros (AHRS) from the PFD to fly the aircraft. That meant that Cirrus (as well as Columbia, Piper and anyone else who used the Avidyne system) hid an electric turn coordinator behind the panel and used it to drive the S-Tec 55X rate-based autopilot. We’ve always seen the S-Tec 55X as an acceptable, but not stellar performer. Its weaknesses are most pronounced on coupled ILS approaches in strong, gusty winds where it will often hunt left and right to try and find a heading that keeps the needles centered.
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