Garmin Introduces Retrofit Autopilots

Thousands of legacy airplanes flying today are several decades old but still maintained in terrific working condition. A growing number of owners have updated or are updating their panels with new glass. But so far there have not been a lot of choices for those who have their minds set on installing an autopilot. Garmin is changing that with the introduction of its affordable GFC 500 and GFC 600 retrofit autopilot series.

The GFC 500 is designed for light, simple, single-engine piston airplanes while the GFC 600 is suited better for high performance pistons and turbine aircraft. The systems integrate with the G500 and G600 glass panels, Garmin's navigators and other flight displays. The autopilots also integrate with Garmin's recently introduced, low-cost G5 electronic flight instrument. The price for the G500 combined with the G5 is less than $10,000, Garmin said.

In addition to flying a selected altitude, vertical speed and heading, the autopilots have a level mode, underspeed and overspeed protection, Electronic Stability Protection and much more. When used with navigators, the new autopilots can fly a variety of instrument approaches.

While a series of STCs are expected for the systems, the GFC 500 will be introduced first on the Cessna 172 for a suggested retail price of $6,995. This STC is expected by the end of the year. STCs for the Cessna 182 and Piper PA-28-series single-engine pistons will follow. The STC for the GFC 600 has already been completed for the Beechcraft A36 Bonanza and B55 Baron. The price tag is $19,995 for the A36 and 23,995 for the B55.

The integrated Garmin GFC 700, which is installed with many G1000 systems, provides exceptionally smooth aircraft control. If the GFC 500 and GFC 600 can deliver the same quality, they will be big winners.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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