AUTOPILOT!!!

Discussion in 'Cleared for the Approach' started by Adam Weiss, Dec 4, 2017.

  1. Adam Weiss

    Adam Weiss Pre-Flight

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    I've got about 30 hours into my instrument training, and feeling pretty good about things. I've been hand-flying everything in a C172 and C182.

    Then Saturday I flew as safety-pilot for a local guy with a Centurion. Beautiful plane. Panel had an old KLN-89 GPS, King digital radios, and 2-axis autopilot. As we shot 3 approaches, completely hands-free (with the autopilot), my eyes were opened! I couldn't believe how much lower the stress/workload was! Need to write down hold instructions: no problem. Adjust for wind: no problem. Basically, all he needed to do was manage his power settings.

    I understand the value of learning to hand-fly all this, but I completely see the value of reducing workload with an autopilot!!!

    I'm sure you guys all knew this, but never actually having seen it in use in IFR, it was an eye-opener for me!
     
  2. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    An AP is great. Just make sure to hand fly still because it’s a skill that can quickly deteriorate.
     
  3. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Definitely reduces the workload doesn't it. Trouble is, that mean old DPE would probably simulate failing it on your check ride. But an AP is very nice to have.
     
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  4. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Adding to @jordane93 -- also keep your hand flying skills sharp for when the box starts doing something you didn't expect or want. See my confession thread about the RNAV 46 at Joplin MO.

    And I agree a good AP can really aid with workload.
     
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  5. labbadabba

    labbadabba Pattern Altitude

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    Yeah, I usually have my AP engaged en route thru initial capture of the lateral guidance on approach. After that I kick it off and hand-fly. I find flying IFR en route w/o an AP is not generally difficult but after a couple hours I am pretty worn out.
     
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  6. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    I am required to use the AP on at least one approach during check rides.

    Years ago in Alaska I was flying a Chieftain. The AP would quit when it felt like it. No warning light, no warning sound. Even the AP light would stay on.

    That really developed my scan. Only thing I would notice when the AP quit was the plane would start a very shallow turn in one or the other direction.

    Since we were single pilot the AP was required in IMC flights when carrying passengers.
     
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  7. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route

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    When you fly an autopilot you need to monitor the gyros that the autopilot DOES NOT use. Autopilots can fail, sometimes spectacuarly (put you upside down).
     
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  8. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I use the AP a lot enroute. Just makes things easier. I try to practice half of my approaches fully coupled down as far as possible and half hand flown. You want to be proficient at both.
     
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  9. TRocket

    TRocket Line Up and Wait

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    After an IR and a fair amount of flying, I finally saw my first AP in action yesterday. I was riding in the right seat but just watching it's a totally different world. I like that I have to hand fly everything now, but eventually would like to become familiar with some AP flying.
     
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  10. Tantalum

    Tantalum Cleared for Takeoff

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    My instructor told me that during instrument flying, especially in actual IMC, that "judicious use of the autopilot" can help tremendously with the work load and staying ahead of the plane... and he's certainly correct! Currently we do about 1/3 of our flying on the AP, primarily because of the whole "you should know how to hand fly in IMC and to shoot approaches and keep that skill sharp" like @jordane93 said but overall the AP is great.. it can certainly keep you oriented and facing right side up!
     
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  11. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    don't forget to look out the window.....with all those blinky lights happening. :D
     
  12. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I fly two opposites; one has had no ap for the 18 years I've owned it, the other a/c I've flown for 16 years needs an ap to fly it well.
    In the first, I sweat a bit managing everything; in the second, I sweat for worry it will quit!
     
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  13. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There's a reason single pilot 135 IFR guys are normally required to have an autopilot.

    Makes a huge difference single pilot for sure!
     
  14. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

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    You should be proficient in both for sure. Not as easy as it sounds.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  15. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Yeah, there's nothing like getting the "WTF is this thing doing" panic and hitting the red button and hand flying it. It took me a long time before I stopped flying approaches with my finger poised over the red button continuously.
     
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  16. luvflyin

    luvflyin En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Auto pilots can really make task management easier and reduce fatigue. I got IFR rated before GPS was invented. After returning to flying after many years off and getting an IPC, I became convinced that GPS was invented just to increase autopilot sales. I'd take heed to what's said above about not over relying on them. There are a lot of 'I learned about flying from that' stories and accident reports out there about how the 'autopilot tried to kill me' and there are some where the autopilot succeeded.
     
  17. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    In the Bonanza I'm able to talk, eat, drink, nap, ....sleep....and what ever with George doing the work.

    If George decides to take a dump.....all that restful-stressless activity comes to a halt. :eek::confused::eek:
     
  18. luvflyin

    luvflyin En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I'm going to be in San Diego in a month or so. Which Plus One Cessnas have A/P's that actually work. Last year they were almost all placarded OTS
     
  19. wayne

    wayne Line Up and Wait

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    ^This

    The AP can fail, or the pilot can fail to set it up correctly. Being able to kick the AP out and hand fly the approach is necessary.
     
  20. wayne

    wayne Line Up and Wait

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    One common issue is setting up a climb that the engine cannot maintain and the plane stalls. Or the opposite, you set up a descend and as you descend the engine develops more power due to more oxygen and the speed picks up into the yellow arc or even crossing the red line.
     
  21. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route

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    Some autopilots hold altitude by adjusting trim. Then when the airspeed gets "too slow" they disconect and you are at full power and full up trim. Whee!
     
  22. Tantalum

    Tantalum Cleared for Takeoff

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    Grab a beer?

    Really the only two I could recommend would be:
    5676V
    I fly mostly out of SEE, and use the Archer there, 5676V. It's what you would expect for a late 70s plane but the owner takes good care of it, flies it often, it has a GTN 650 in it and a single axis (heading, nav, vloc, etc.) hold autopilot. It *used* to have altitude hold as well but that was taken out since people reported too many squawks on it. **Frankly, I think people just didn't know how to use the alt hold since you had to separately encode the altimeter in another window. Has some other cool features like playback of the last transmission, etc.

    106HP
    It rents for a bit higher but it's much newer Archer III. Steam gauges with a 430 but it has alt and heading hold autopilots and it's from 2006 I believe so it's in great shape. Owner flies it often

    Short of that the fleet at Montgomery has a Grumman that has dual axis autopilot as well, but otherwise I would have a hard time recommend anything else. I believe @jkaduk is in our club as well, he may have more recommendations
     
  23. luvflyin

    luvflyin En-Route PoA Supporter

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    BEER!!!!! I'll give ya a shout when I get down there.
     
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  24. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    Some do the same for turning. Be careful disengaging AP in (an unexpected) turn for these, you have to re-trim ailerons.
     
  25. jkaduk

    jkaduk Cleared for Takeoff

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    I rarely fly the Cessna's so I don't have any recommendations. The Grumman AP works well.
     
  26. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    That reminds me of one time I was departing out of IAD. It was a fairly gusty day so I hadn't noticed it and I swung the heading bug to the departure course and engaged the AP.
    After a few minutes I realize the thing is flying S-turns across the course. This is unusual I think so I say "what the hell" and click the red button. The thing sharply rolls to the left.
    Hmm... took me a few seconds before I realize that the left tip tank is empty and the right is full. I fly this grossly out of trim down to the next airport and fill up the tip.

    Thinking about it I realized what has happened. I had full tips when I started. Normally, during taxi, I run on the tips alternately to make sure they are flowing (the Osborne tanks can get a little minor vapor lock and not flow if you empty them and then refill them without doing this). At IAD, the taxi from Landmark to 30 is over two miles. I'd left the tank selected up to the time I did the pretakeoff check where it goes back to the main. An odd quirk of the Continental IO-550 fuel system in my plane is that the thing will draw a lot of fuel out of the tank at low power settings. It returns to the main (my fuel selector only goes one way). So I'd drained the tip tank back into the main.
     
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  27. chartbundle

    chartbundle Line Up and Wait

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    I highly recommend everyone flying with an autopilot go out and test how it can fail(with a CFI who knows it well if you can find one).

    Command a climb and hold the nose down. Command a descent and hold the nose up. Command a climb and reduce power. Try and intercept a glideslope from above. Better yet, level off, miss the first glideslope and see what happens when it tries to intercept one of the false glideslopes(hint: it can suck). Intercept Localizer and VOR/GPS navigation from crazy angles.
     
  28. Shawn

    Shawn En-Route

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    Yup...I do a lot of long XC trips and knowing what I know now a 430 and two axis autopilot are on my MEL for current and any future plane I will ever own.

    ...well, except for maybe an Extra someday...but you get the point.
     
  29. Skyrys62

    Skyrys62 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Some folks really love their autopilot..

    upload_2017-12-5_21-27-56.jpeg
     
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  30. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I don’t recall any Plus One 172s with working APs, but they have added a bunch of new airplanes in the last couple years.

    Problem with APs is they get really expensive to repair when they stop working. Consequently, a lot of owners just placard them INOP and never both to fix it.

    You usually have to get into s9me of the bigger Plus One airplanes to find a working AP


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  31. Rykymus

    Rykymus Line Up and Wait

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    I love my AP and wouldn't fly IMC without it. I don't rely on it, but rather I use it for times when my attention needs to be on other things, and dividing it too many ways increases the risk of losing track of something.

    I tend to hand fly from takeoff to about 3k agl, then use the autopilot for the rest of the climb out and most of the cruise. I use it in the descent, down to the FAF, at which point I hand fly the remainder of the approach.

    To balance things out, when I do any practice approaches under the hood with a safety pilot, the whole thing is without my AP. Seems to keep me proficient with both skill sets.
     
  32. oregonboy109

    oregonboy109 Line Up and Wait

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    Did my IR with no autopilot then did a lot of instrument flying in Seminoles with the GFC700 and it's a fantastic tool IF your know what you're doing. With an autopilot that capable, it's easy to mess up with button sequences and then have a "crap what's it doing?!" moment. Learn it by hand first then throw in the autopilot if available later on.
     
  33. SbestCFII

    SbestCFII Line Up and Wait

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    Yep, that's what it's there for. A great tool with proper use. Even a basic wind-leveler can help a lot. As far as the instrument check-ride, if you are taking the ride in an aircraft with an operational AP, then the examiner will likely ask you to demonstrate it's use. In that context, you can use it as you see fit...you can use the heading-only mode for vectors, or just to "steady the ship" while you're setting up for your next approach, or tracking an approach. If your autopilot is capable, the DPE may ask for you to set it up for a fully coupled approach, but don't expect for it to be used during more than one of the required approaches. Remember...a great tool, but the PIC still needs to be able to hand-fly the entire check-ride if needed.
     
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  34. aterpster

    aterpster Pattern Altitude

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    If a pilot uses a GFC700 enough, the buttons become straight-forward. When it doubt marry the heading bug with present heading to sort things out.
     
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  35. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    BTDT! :D
     
  36. oregonboy109

    oregonboy109 Line Up and Wait

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    Yep. Very capable tool once you get proficient with it. VNAV profiles were one of my favorite features.
     
  37. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Fly the airplane,I don’t engage the auto pilot untill I’m on an established heading and altitude,on departure. You never know how the auto pilot will react after it’s been sitting in the cold or rain.
     
  38. BigBadLou

    BigBadLou En-Route

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    Agreed.
    I love to fly. I mean hand-fly. I love to feel the airplane, nudge it gently, be one with the controls.
    But I also love to use the AP if I need to. Like you mentioned, it is very handy when you need to review an approach plate or dig something out of your flight bag.
    Of course, the immortal words apply: "trust but verify". I never just set the autopilot and look away. Especially in IMC. I set up the heading/altitude/course, engage the appropriate hold and monitor for several seconds. I even give the controls a gentle push/turn/twist to see whether they are in hands of George. Then I can divert my attention (temporarily) from the instruments. But I re-check often. To make sure that George isn't trying to kill me.
    An AP is a great tool. It just needs to be used wisely and monitored frequently.
     
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  39. tsts4

    tsts4 Line Up and Wait

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    I do exactly the same thing.
     
  40. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow En-Route

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    I get hand flying... to a point. It really depends on your auto pilot and the type of flying you are doing.
    I use TONS of autopilot, but hand fly on certain occasions. Than again, I have to prove my hand flying in the sim every six months.