A Wave of Low-Cost Autopilots Emerges at AirVenture

Capitalizing on new rules for non-certified avionics in GA airplanes, manufacturers introduced several new affordable autopilots at Oshkosh.

At AirVenture, BendixKing introduced the KFC 230 AeroCruze, which joins its family of "legendary" flight control systems, including the AeroVue (pictured).BendixKing

Last week after Garmin announced its first retrofit autopilots, the GFC 500 and GFC 600, the aviation community cheered -- and then wondered if more products from other manufacturers would quickly follow. Boy did they ever. This week at AirVenture, the autopilot party continues as sub-$20,000 systems from Genesys Aerosystems (formerly S-TEC), BendixKing, TruTrak and Trio Avionics hit the market, bringing autoflight capability to the general aviation masses.

The wave of autopilot introductions actually kicked off at last year’s AirVenture when Dynon and EAA gained STC approval for the formerly Experimental-only D10A EFIS. Following that victory, autopilot makers immediately started work on bringing the safety-enhancing gear to Part 23 certified aircraft, culminating with the autopilot announcements and STC approvals we see this week.

Here’s a rundown of the products announced at Oshkosh:

Genesys Aerosytems introduced the S-TEC 3100 Digital Flight Control System at AirVenture.Genesys

Genesys Aerosystems at Oshkosh announced its new S-TEC 3100 Digital Flight Control System (DFCS), developed for FAA Part 23 single- and twin-engine aircraft, as well as submission for Technical Standard Order (TSO) documentation to the FAA for for a higher-end S-TEC 5000 Digital Flight Control System (DFCS).

A goal of the Genesys Aerosystems engineering team was to ensure the S-TEC 3100 was designed to easily integrate with both legacy analog avionics such as HSIs and DGs and today’s advanced digital systems such as complete EFIS displays. S-TEC 3100 has features like Envelope Protection and Straight and Level Recovery, the option for a 2-axis or 3-axis autopilot system with flight director and optional yaw damper built into the autopilot. Other features include precision and nonprecision approach mode, heading hold, altitude preselect and hold with autotrim, vertical speed control, indicated airspeed control and course intercept.

Initial research identified the Cessna 182, Cessna 210, Beechcraft Bonanza and Piper Saratoga as the four lead candidates to earn FAA STCs for the S-TEC 3100. Price is targeted at under $20,000.

TruTrak Flight Systems has completed the STC for its Vizion autopilot system. The FAA awarded the approval on July 19, making it the first autopilot manufactured by TruTrak to be approved for certified aircraft. TruTrak said it will begin delivering complete autopilot systems at AirVenture. The autopilot system cost with installation kit is $5,000 and the STC from EAA is $100. During AirVenture, TruTrak will be displaying it Cessna 172 fitted with the system at outdoor Booth 174.

Trio Avionics received STC approval for its Pro Pilot autopilot in the Cessna 172, 175 and 182 through an approval program led by The STC Group. The installation kits are available for $2,000, and the Trio Pro Pilot autopilot kit is $5,000. The STC, awarded on July 19, includes the autopilot, servos, harness, circuit breaker, power switch, and override switch. The company expects parts manufacturer approval soon.

**BendixKing **introduced the KFC 230 AeroCruze, a flight computer that lets owners of analog BendixKing autopilots upgrade to digital capabilities with straight and level button and a touchscreen interface. The unit is designed to fit within the existing form factor of the legacy KFC 150 flight computer. The AeroCruze has also been designed to be remote mounted to accommodate KFC 200 and 250 installations.