It is accurate to think of ESP as an “
electronic spring” in the control system.
Many—actually most—airplanes have
springs or weights in the control system to
add stick force beyond what is available
from air loads. ESP is a “smart” spring that
adds stick force to alert the pilot to an
unusual attitude, and to guide him back
toward a normal attitude.
To see ESP in action, Garmin’s top test
pilot, Tom Carr, and I flew the Cirrus SR22
that Garmin used to develop the system.
When I rolled the Cirrus into a steep bank
ESP kicked in so smoothly that I couldn’t
feel it engaging, but could certainly feel the
extra stick force resisting my roll control
input. ESP felt totally natural, just as though
the Cirrus had grown new stability that
wanted it to bank less than 45 degrees. The
10 pounds of force was noticeable, but the
full 20 pounds was really impressive, particularly when rolling left and trying to twist
the side stick away from my body.
I had to zoom the Cirrus to get to the
ESP pitch-attitude onset because a smooth
pull-up would usually get to the low-speed
ESP activation first. Obviously, ESP needs to
do its best to help the pilot avoid a stall no
matter what the attitude, and it does. At
stall-warning onset ESP engages, adding
nose-down stick force to turn the stall
warning off. If you are near redline airspeed
in a dive, ESP pulls back on the stick to help
you slow the airplane.
Because ESP is part of the complete
Garmin system it’s possible for the auto-
pilot to jump in automatically if the
human pilot fails to recover to a more
normal attitude. If ESP is engaged for 50
percent of the previous 20 seconds—
meaning the airplane is in a very steep
bank, very nose high or low attitude—the
autopilot will engage automatically and
maintain a level attitude and maintain
altitude if there is enough available
engine power. This automatic autopilot
engagement is an option the airplane
maker can select, and Cirrus has.
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