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ADS-B and Autopilot Upgrades

So why am I: the Director of Sales and Marketing for Genesys Aerosystems – a company that makes autopilots and does not even have an ADS-B product – writing my blog about ADS-B?

Interestingly, the motivation came from a recent conversation I had with two of our bigger dealers. Both mentioned a connection between installing ADS-B systems and updating autopilots that frankly, had not occurred to me.

The ADS-B Autopilot Connection

With the FAA’s ADS-B mandate deadline still four-years away, it’s no surprise that the considerable majority of the U.S. fleet of aircraft has not made the required upgrade. While there are a lot of reasons (cost), the one that both dealers shared was that pilot/owners were waiting to do their ADS-B upgrade in conjunction with other work on their aircraft.

It makes perfect sense. If you’re going to have to take the aircraft out of service for the ADS-B work, you might as well perform other maintenance or add other upgrades at the same time. It saves time and time is money.

The one shop manager told me he was seeing a fair number of their ADS-B customers opting to make a change to their aircraft’s original autopilot. The majority of the aircraft he’s seeing are over 30-years old. And quite often, their legacy autopilots are the old one- or two-axis systems that, on a good day, struggle to hold attitude and heading. Not to mention that support and spares are next to non-existent. If you’ve tried to find new parts for an ARC or Century autopilot you know what I mean.

So instead of putting up with an incapable, unreliable and an increasingly expensive-to-maintain autopilot, owners are upgrading to new-generation units like our digital IntelliFlight 2100 or our S-TEC 55X – arguably, the most popular aftermarket autopilot on the planet.

They get a host of performance capabilities their old units can’t match, plus, they have the confidence in knowing that their new autopilot will be ready to handle whatever the new generation of ADS-B compliant airspace has to offer.


The owner of the other shop, which specializes in light turbine helicopters, said that nearly three-quarters of the EMS and Part 35 helicopters that are coming in to his facility for ADS-B are also installing Genesys’ HeliSAS Stability Augmentation System.

He said that while an autopilot is not yet required for EMS operators (but probably will be soon), because of the necessity for EMS pilots to fly in all kinds of weather and often into rural areas, a system like HeliSAS is proving to be a safety enhancement most operators are glad to make.

So whether it’s replacing a legacy analog unit in an airplane or adding the unsurpassed safety enhancement of a HeliSAS to a helicopter, when it comes time to perform the ADS-B upgrade to your aircraft, give some thought to your autopilot. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.


Until next time: fly safely,