We hear the same thing at aviation tradeshows, airshows and fly-ins all the time: Time and again VFR pilots tell us they never use their autopilots. That’s too bad. But even on those CAVU Sunday $150 hamburger flights, George (the nickname comes from George DeBeeson, the “father” of today’s autopilots, but that’s a subject for another blog), can be an excellent in-flight partner.
And he’s an even bigger help when visibility goes down and cabin workload goes up.
VFR Autopilot Systems
Yes, I hear you saying it now: “I fly because I enjoy the feel of the yoke in my hand. That’s the fun of it.” No argument there.
But what about those times when your eyes are down looking at your iPad for airport information, traffic, or weather? Or maybe you’re distracted by an engine anomaly. Or maybe your kids are kicking up a fuss in the back seats. Or if you’re flying a light helicopter VFR at night and inadvertently encounter IMC conditions. (Probably the #1 cause of helicopter accidents.)
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that with a touch of a button a qualified “pilot” can take control: Even for just a minute?
It sure would. But flying with George isn’t something you can just do whenever. Like any cockpit relationship, it takes time to get to know your automated co-pilot. The good news is, George comes with a User’s Manual – don’t you wish every relationship did? The book tells you how to set him up. What he can and can’t do. And what to do in the extremely unlikely event he misbehaves. (Today’s autopilots are extremely well mannered.)
Flying with George is really pretty simple. All of the autopilot systems that Genesys/S-TEC makes for airplanes and helicopters are pretty straightforward fellows. Very easy to manage. After you read the POH, it’s just a matter of a bit of cockpit familiarization and good ‘ol George is there to help you whenever you need him.
But, if you’re really new to autopilot operations, I suggest you take an instructor who is familiar with your aircraft and your particular autopilot along for that first familiarization flight. Yes you can walk through the operational basics on the ground, but it’s much better to strengthen your new relationship in the air.
If you’re like so many other VFR pilots, after learning first hand what George can do to make every flight safer and more fun, chances are you’ll never want to fly without him again.
Until next time, fly safely,