August 2011 Issue
Smart Autopilots: Is There a Downside?
New autopilots poke their nose in even when the system is technically off. Is this lifesaving technology or a sales gimmick with a dark side? Or is it both?
We pilots routinely kill ourselves. Not only is this a bummer for the people intimately involved in the wreck, itís also bad for business. Cirrus Aircraft defined itself as a trend-setter in combatting this with certified aircraft when the first SR20s rolled off the line with whole-airframe parachutes in 1999. Better than just surviving a catastrophe at the expense of the airplane, however, would be recovering back to controlled flight. Cirrus again led the charge in light GA with "LVL" button as part of the Garmin Perspective avionics suite (a modified G1000) in 2008. More sophisticated than a simple rip-cord solution, the LVL (blue) button leverages the tumble-proof digital "gyros" to pitch and/or roll the aircraft back to level flight without overstressing anything. Avidyne came up with a similar feature called "Straight and Level" in its DFC 90/100 autopilots.
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