The button sits under its clear guard, without drawing much attention to itself until you know what it does. All of the elements that went into Garmin’s Autoland had been similarly lying in wait, ready to come together as components of its Autonomi suite—going first into Piper’s M600/SLS Halo, then Daher’s TBM 940 HomeSafe and the Cirrus Vision Jet G2 with Safe Return.
The intelligence was there: in the form of electronic stability protection (ESP) to level the airplane, overspeed and underspeed protection, automated emergency-descent management, GPS navigational guidance and approaches that take you to the pavement, and weather, traffic and terrain input to analyze where to go and how best to get there. The brains only needed the “muscle” to make an autoland system happen—managing the throttle or power lever, extending the flaps and gear, executing a proper round-out, and braking to a safe stop on the runway.
We honor the foresight and decade of effort invested by the team at Garmin Aviation, as well as those significant contributions of their OEM partners—Piper Aircraft, Daher, and Cirrus Aircraft—to bring an automated landing within reach of general aviation pilots and passengers. With more than a thousand test landings completed during its run-up to certification, we’re still waiting for that first use of the silent button that will save a life. It’s a privilege to give the 2021 Flying Innovation Award for this incredible leap forward in GA safety to Garmin Aviation.
We also commend our 2021 Flying Editors Choice Award winners: Innovative Solutions & Support with Pilatus Aircraft and Textron Aviation, for the ThrustSense autothrottle in the Pilatus PC-12 and the Beechcraft King Air 360; and SpaceX and NASA, for the successful Crewed Dragon Module that carried astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station in 2020.