So what do the numbers 36, 35 and 37 have to do with each other? Frankly, until I was talking to Scott Howard, Genesys Aerosystems’, lead technical representative and resident autopilot historian, I had no clue.
Anyway, as Scott explained it to me: It’s been 36-years since S-TEC (now Genesys Aerosystems) introduced our first FAA certified autopilot. The original flight-testing for that autopilot, a System 60, was done in a “borrowed” Beechcraft, V-35 Bonanza. And since that first approval, we have delivered nearly 37,000 autopilots to customers around the world.
Our First Autopilot System
How it all started is a pretty interesting story in itself. According to Scott, it all began as so many other great American success stories do, by a group of four forward-thinking entrepreneurs all having “a better way” to build something. In this case it was autopilots.
It was the spring of 1978, when the four partners used $2,500 in seed money, a friend’s V-35 and rented hangar space right across from Genesys’ current facilities here in Mineral Wells, Texas, to set out to develop a system that would revolutionize autopilots for general aviation aircraft.
And in case you’re interested: the name S-TEC was short for Systems Technologies. An appropriate name considering that in the minds of our founders, autopilots are systems, not products.
Just about two-years later, in late winter 1980, they received FAA certification for the System 60-1 – a roll only autopilot. Just a couple of months later, they received approval for the System 60-2, which delivered both roll and pitch control.
The young company was on a roll so to speak. Soon they added one STC after another until it all totaled up to over 1,200 STC’s. Today we have a full-line of basic wing-levelers to all-digital flight control systems. And we have autopilot STCs covering pretty much every piston, twin and turbine fixed-wing aircraft you can name. No wonder Genesys/S-TEC is the world’s number one name in aftermarket autopilots.
While our past has been pretty exciting, we see the future as even more so. New technologies and capabilities are going to enable us to introduce new systems with amazing new capabilities like envelope protection, return to straight and level, and upset recovery – who knows what we will be able to do?
What I do know is that I now have a newfound respect for the numbers 36, 35 and 37. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going out to by lottery tickets.
Until next time, fly safely,