Piper Aircraft and Garmin International announced on Monday, May 18, 2020, the final FAA certification on the Halo-equipped Piper M600SLS, which uses Garmin’s Autoland feature to land the airplane without human intervention in the event of a pilot-incapacitating emergency. The last push to finish flight tests on the innovative system consisted of validation and coordination with air traffic control, among other scenario-based events. Piper conducted the final series of tests in M600 in Vero Beach, Florida, and Garden City, Kansas, concluded on May 5.
Garmin’s Autoland system forms the basis for the Piper’s version of the automated system, which also incorporates several recent updates to the aircraft, including an autothrottle, and rounding out the Autonomí suite of safety protocols, including emergency descent management (EDM), and electronic stability and protection (ESP).
Unique among those systems, however, Autoland takes the airplane all the way to the conclusion of landing on a runway. How it does this combines an intricate ballet of GPS-based situational “awareness” on the part of the Garmin G3000 flight deck, voice and data communication with air traffic control, and mechanical functions normally operated by the pilot but automated within the airplane once the system is activated.
Autoland, as executed in the Halo system, can be initiated by an occupant of the airplane—typically a passenger—so its interface was designed to be transparent and straightforward to non-pilots. Once the passenger presses the activation button (a guarded installation on the instrument panel), the system calculates through a wide range of performance, operational, and weather data and criteria to conclude the nearest safe airport at which to land the airplane. Autoland communicates with ATC over standard frequencies so that not only are controllers alerted but also other pilots flying in the area. The autothrottle is used to control speed, and manage engine performance and power, allowing the M600 to climb, descend, or stay at a given altitude as appropriate as Autoland guides the airplane to the chosen airport.
The full report on Autoland was published in the January/February 2020 issue of Flying. Garmin expects certification of the system on board the Cirrus Vision Jet and the Daher TBM 940 to follow.