Avionics Can Give
a Helping Hand
New systems from Garmin and Avidyne help pilots avoid the really big mistake
AN AIRPLANE THAT CAN safely fly itself—at least when the pilot’s attention is diverted—has been a dream for many and certainly would
improve the safety record. But to be acceptable to us pilots, a system
that adds stability and helps us avoid disastrous mistakes can’t be
intrusive or we won’t put up with it.
For a number of years starting in the late 1960s, Mooneys had an
artificial stability system the company called Positive Control (PC).
As the name implies, PC provided positive control in the form of
continuous wing leveling. PC was a basic pneumatic autopilot that
always leveled the wings unless the pilot pushed a large button on
the control wheel to temporarily disengage the system.
PC made perfect sense because when the
wings are level the natural speed stability of
a well-designed airplane keeps the airplane
flying very close to its trimmed airspeed.
When the wings are level it’s almost impossible to lose control of an airplane.
Most pilots hated PC. There appears to
be an improvement in the accident record of
PC-equipped Mooneys compared to others,
but every pilot I know devised some way to
disable PC. Some wound tape around the
Garmin’s ESP is applying at least 10 pounds of left aileron stick force building to 20 pounds of force in this situation to help the Cirrus pilot
recover from the steep bank and nose-low attitude. The double slash marks at the 30-degree bank angle mark shows ESP is active and that
30 degrees is the bank angle recovery target.