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S-TEC Autopilot Q&A

With a list of fantastic workload reducing and safety-enhancing capabilities like automatic trim, Envelope Protection/Alerting, Straight and Level recovery, the ability to fly precision and missed approaches, and a lot more, it’s no surprise that the new-generation Genesys Aerosystems S-TEC 3100 digital flight control system is generating a lot of attention in the aviation community.

Of course, along with that attention, come a lot of questions. And that’s an excellent thing. I came back from the recent Sun ‘n Fun and AERO Friedrichshafen events with some very thought-provoking questions and even more interesting answers about the 3100 and other S-TEC autopilots. 

Q: Does Genesys Aerosystems have online training for the S-TEC 3100?

A: We are finalizing a comprehensive online training course, which we will post on our website very soon. I will do a blog on it when it is up and running. 

Q: I have a yaw system installed in my airplane. Can I use it along with a new S-TEC 3100?

A: That’s very installation specific, but the short answer is, if the current system is entirely independent of the factory autopilot, then yes you can. But, keep in mind that the S-TEC 3100 will not command a 3rd party yaw damp controller. 

Q: What is the total installed price on an S-TEC 3100 digital flight control system?

A: Unfortunately, there’s no one answer to that question. The installation costs between aircraft have so many variables that are truly knowing a price before you see the airplane are next to impossible. Plus, you have the diversity of avionics shop rates to consider, and those can even vary depending on how busy the shop is at the time. 

I’ve been doing this a long time, and my number one suggestion is to call two or three well known authorized Genesys Aerosystems avionics shops and tell them exactly what you are looking to install. An even better idea is to prepare a detailed description of your aircraft and current equipment, including photos, and email them to each of the facilities. 

They may or may not be willing to give you a firm estimate based on this information, but it will undoubtedly help them come up with a pretty good ballpark. But, even with that, there’s no way of knowing precisely what the job is going to cost until the shop takes a peek behind the panel.

Q: Can I buy an S-TEC autopilot online and install it myself?

A: While that sounds like an excellent way to save money, it’s not a good idea for several reasons. First of all, every autopilot is configured to a particular make and model of aircraft, so if your airplane differs from the one the autopilot was removed from, it will not work correctly. And even if it does come from the exact make and model, it also needs to match the correct voltage of the aircraft. 

The next thing to keep in mind is that an S-TEC autopilot system is made up of several components. So, before you buy anything online or from another pilot, make sure you know what parts are included and which you have to purchase separately.  

The added cost of those parts and the required installation kit may make online purchases more costly than buying a complete system from your avionics shop. Plus, there’s always the question of warranty support. 

Q: Should I buy an autopilot based on price alone?

A: Well, for most of us G.A. aircraft owners, pricing is undoubtedly a prime consideration. But, that’s just the beginning of what you need to consider when selecting an autopilot. Start with the flying you typically do: If you primarily fly VFR or very light IFR, then a basic track and altitude hold system may meet your needs. But if you fly mostly moderate IFR, then you’ll benefit from a more advanced system with features like precision approach tracking, and altitude preselect. 

I believe that no matter what type of flying you do, new-generation features like Envelope Protection/Alerting and Straight and Level Recovery are well worth considering. You really can’t put a price on safety.

Another thing to consider is what other equipment is needed to interface the autopilot and does the new autopilot limit future upgradability to other avionics. Some autopilots only allow limited interface with 3rd party equipment. If you choose an autopilot with a limited interface, make sure you love it because it won’t be possible to change your other avionics in the future. That is unless you scrap your initial investment in the limited autopilot and go with one with a more open architecture. That’s a significant investment to scrap in my book. 

While most aircraft owners love their airplane and can’t imagine selling, the appeal of the avionics suite should still be a consideration when deciding what to install. While you may operate your aircraft in a way that is well suited for a basic “wing-leveler” systems, you might well want to consider going ahead and installing a more advanced autopilot now as the next owner may require more sophisticated systems. 

Aircraft with more appealing avionics are often the easiest to sell and typically draw a better price than a similar model with basic avionics. After all, if you’re going to the trouble and expense to do an upgrade, you might-as-well enjoy the benefits of a more capable system.

If you ever have any questions about which autopilot is right for your needs and budget, you can always call an Authorized Genesys Aerosystems dealer or email Genesys directly at inquiry@genesys-aerosystems.com.

Q: Are you still manufacturing S-TEC autopilots other than the S-TEC 3100?

A: Absolutely. Like I said earlier, there is not a one-size-fits-all autopilot solution. As amazing as the S-TEC 3100 is, there are still plenty of situations and aircraft types that are best served by another S-TEC autopilot. And, don’t for a minute worry about us ‘orphaning’ any of these systems. We’re committed to standing behind every product we sell for a long, long time.

I do hope that this short autopilot Q&A has been helpful to you. If you have any questions you’d like answered, please drop by the Genesys Aerosystems booth #3058AA at Oshkosh AirVenture 2019. Or, please feel free to email me at jamie.luster@genesys-aerosystems.com

Until next time, fly safely,

Jamie