Garmin Gets STCs for Its GFC 500 Autopilot for Older Aircraft

More aircraft can now use the Garmin GFC 500 autopilot. [Courtesy: Garmin]

Just because you have an older airplane doesn't mean you cannot take advantage of modern technology. On Tuesday, Garmin announced that the FAA had granted the supplemental type certificate for the GFC 500 autopilot in the Cessna 172D/P172D model, and Rockwell Commander 112B, 112TC/TC-A  and 114 models. 

The Cessna 172D variant was introduced in the early 1960s, and the Rockwell Commander in the early 1970s. Both are still widely used today.

The GFC 500 autopilot was designed for light piston aircraft. The GFC 500 integrates with Garmin’s GI 275 or G5 electronic flight instruments interfaced to a G500 TXi flight display or a G3X Touch flight display to provide pilots with an economical and modern autopilot.

The autopilot mode controller features dedicated keys and knobs and a control wheel allowing for easy adjustment to aircraft pitch, airspeed, and vertical speed. The GFC 500 has traditional autopilot capabilities, such as altitude hold, vertical speed, and heading modes, and the GFC 500 also includes altitude preselect, VNAV, underspeed and overspeed protection, as well as the ability for the pilot to select and couple various instrument approaches, such as GPS, ILS, VOR, LOC, and back course approaches when paired with a compatible Garmin GPS navigator.

There is a level mode (LVL) that returns the aircraft to straight-and-level flight with the push of a dedicated button. 

Safety Features

For times when the pilot is hand flying the aircraft, the GFC 500 has the Garmin electronic stability and protection (ESP) function. This is a standard feature of the GFC 500 and helps the pilot maintain the aircraft in a stable flight condition independently of the autopilot. Designed to work in the background, the ESP helps avoid inadvertent flight attitudes or bank angles by nudging the pilot to return the aircraft back to a safe flight attitude.

When there is an uncommanded loss of engine power, the pilot's workload increases.The GFC 500, in an appropriately equipped aircraft, can also take advantage of Smart Glide, a safety tool that helps pilots during an uncommanded loss of engine power by automating tasks and helping to reduce pilot workload, giving the pilot more time to focus on troubleshooting the emergency.

eLearning Opportunity

To get the most out of the GFC 500, Garmin is launching the GFC 500 Essentials eLearning course. It will demonstrate the features and functionality of the unit and allow pilots to apply what they are learning in scenario-based examples. The course is $29.95 and can be purchased here

To learn more about Garmin's continued development of the STC list for the GFC 500 autopilot, view the most up-to-date aircraft STC list, view certifications that are expected to in the next 12 months, or to express interest in a specific aircraft make/model, click here

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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