Garmin Introduces Retrofit Autopilots…
“As a long time disruptor in the industry, we are excited to bring two game-changing autopilots to the market and redefine the benchmark that aircraft owners should expect from an autopilot,” said Carl Wolf, Garmin vice president of aviation sales and marketing. “The GFC 600 and GFC 500 bring an affordable, cutting-edge design, a feature set and performance not currently available from mechanical attitude or rate-based autopilot systems. By incorporating unique benefits such as solid state attitude with robust self-monitoring capabilities, ESP, underspeed/overspeed protection, Level Mode, airspeed climb and decent modes, and many more, the GFC 600 and GFC 500 truly set themselves apart from any other autopilot on the market.”
Earlier this week Garmin introduced the GFC 600 and GFC 500, solid state attitude-based (AHRS-derived) autopilots for fixed-wing general aviation aircraft. The unique design of these autopilots deliver superior in-flight characteristics, self-monitoring capabilities and minimal maintenance needs when compared to older generation autopilot systems. Boasting a robust feature set, the GFC 600 and GFC 500 incorporate a number of safety-enhancing technologies, including Electronic Stability and Protection (ESP), underspeed protection, overspeed protection, Level Mode, Flight Director (FD) and more. The GFC 600 autopilot is intended for high performance piston single/twin-engine and turbine aircraft that have a wide range of aircraft speed and performance characteristics, while the GFC 500 is intended for less complex piston single-engine aircraft. Built upon the acclaimed performance of the popular GFC 700 autopilot, the GFC 600 and GFC 500 provide pilots with a suite of advanced autopilot capabilities that are an economical addition for a growing number of aircraft.
The GFC 600 autopilot was designed for high performance, piston single/twin engine and turbine aircraft. It’s a standalone autopilot that boasts superior integration potential with G500 and G600 glass flight displays, Garmin navigators, as well as a variety of third-party flight displays, instruments and navigation sources. The self-contained autopilot controller incorporates backlit keys and a bright, sunlight readable display that depicts autopilot status and mode selection. An intuitive built-in control wheel also provides convenient adjustment of aircraft pitch, airspeed and vertical speed modes. When the level button is selected, the aircraft automatically returns to straight-and-level flight. Environmentally hardened autopilot servos designed for harsh operating conditions contain brushless DC motors and a gear train that eliminates the need for a mechanical slip clutch, offering improved performance and reducing maintenance requirements when compared to decades-old servo designs on the market today. Standard mark-width design of the GFC 600 ensures the autopilot controller allows for routine installation into the aircraft’s avionics stack. Autopilot mode annunciation is available on the G500 and G600 glass flight displays. The addition of an optional autopilot annunciator panel also displays the selected autopilot mode in the pilot’s primary field of view and retains an identical footprint of third-party autopilot annunciators on the market. Initial Supplemental Type Certification (STC) for the GFC 600 has been completed in the A36 Bonanza and B55 Baron aircraft with the 58 Baron and other high performance piston single/twin-engine and turbine aircraft to follow.
The GFC 500 autopilot was designed mainly for certified single-engine piston aircraft. It was built upon the new and very popular G5 electronic flight instrument. The GFC 500 autopilot uniquely integrates with the G5 to provide pilots with an economical autopilot and modern flight instrument. The autopilot mode controller contains large dedicated keys and knobs, a control wheel that allows for easy adjustments to aircraft pitch, airspeed and vertical speed and a level button that returns the aircraft to straight-and-level flight. Similar to the GFC 600, the GFC 500 servos also contain a brushless DC motor and a gear train that eliminates the need for a mechanical slip clutch. G5 provides input and display of altitude preselect, heading, vertical speed target, airspeed target and Flight Director command bars for the GFC 500. An optional adapter allows the GFC 500 and G5 to interface with select Garmin GPS or VHF navigators. Initial STC for the GFC 500 is expected to be completed on the Cessna 172 in Q4 of 2017 with the Cessna 182 and Piper PA-28 aircraft series to follow.
The GFC 600 and GFC 500 autopilots provide thousands of existing general aviation aircraft with a simple, light-weight, cost-effective autopilot upgrade path. The GFC 600 and GFC 500 both incorporate solid state attitude with robust self-monitoring capabilities to provide superior autopilot performance, greater reliability and safety benefits that are similar to the popular GFC 700 autopilot.
In addition to traditional autopilot capabilities such as altitude hold, vertical speed and heading modes, the GFC 600 and GFC 500 also include:
- Premium functions and advanced capabilities such as altitude pre-select and indicated airspeed hold mode. VNAV will be a growth function when appropriately equipped.
- Pilots can select, couple and fly various instrument approaches, including GPS, ILS, VOR, LOC and back course approaches.
- Built in GPS roll steering capability eliminates the need for external roll steering converters, allowing for smoother navigation tracking when installed with a compatible navigator.
- Level Mode button, which automatically engages the autopilot to restore the aircraft to straight and level flight.
- Underspeed protection helps prevent the pilot from stalling the aircraft.
- Overspeed protection helps prevent the pilot from exceeding aircraft maximum speed (VNE).
- With the addition of an optional yaw servo, Yaw Damping (YD) mode minimizes yawing oscillations while also helping to maintain coordinated flight by keeping the slip/skid indicator centered.
- Flight Director command bars can be displayed on the G5 with the GFC 500, while the GFC 600 displays Flight Director on a variety of flight displays, such as the G500 and G600 and select third-party flight displays.
- Pilots can fly coupled ‘go-arounds’ during missed approach sequencing. A remotely-installed go-around button commands the Flight Director to display the appropriate pitch attitude required for the missed approach procedure and activates a loaded missed approach when paired with a GTN 650/750 navigator.
- An optional pitch-trim servo adds automatic trim and manual electric trim.
- Control wheel steering is available on the GFC 600, which allows the pilot to adjust pitch, roll, altitude hold, vertical speed or airspeed references using the control yoke while the autopilot is engaged.
As a standard feature, pilots receive Garmin ESP with the GFC 600 and GFC 500 autopilots, which works to assist the pilot in maintaining the aircraft in a stable flight condition. ESP functions independently of the autopilot and works in the background to help pilots avoid inadvertent flight attitudes or bank angles and provide airspeed protection while the pilot is hand-flying the aircraft.
Should the pilot become inattentive and exceed pre-determined pitch, roll or airspeed limitations, ESP provides gentle nudges on the flight controls to lessen the aircraft’s pitch attitude or bank angle. The correcting force becomes stronger if the aircraft pitch, bank or airspeed exceedance grows further away from the preset limits. In the event the pilot becomes incapacitated and the system detects it has been activated for an extended period of time, the autopilot engages with the Flight Director in Level Mode, bringing the aircraft to level flight until the pilot commands otherwise. For maneuvering flight, ESP can be disabled manually.
The GFC 600 autopilot has received FAA STC in the A36 Bonanza and B55 Baron for a suggested retail price starting at $19,995 and $23,995 respectively for a 2-axis autopilot with electric pitch trim. For customers who already have a G5 electronic flight instrument, the GFC 500 for the Cessna 172 starts at a suggested retail price of $6,995 for a 2-axis autopilot. The GFC 500 can be purchased with the G5 electronic flight instrument for less than $10,000. Initial STC for the GFC 500 is expected to be completed on the Cessna 172 in Q4 of 2017 with the Cessna 182 and Piper PA-28 aircraft series to follow.
During EAA AirVenture, July 24-30, 2017 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the GFC 600 will be on display in a 58 Baron while the GFC 500 and dual G5 electronic flight instruments will be on display in a Cessna 172 at the Garmin exhibit.