I’m looking at purchasing one of the earlier positions, and I’m confused about the Autopilot options. It doesn’t help I know nothing about A/Ps as every rental plane I’ve flown normally has the A/P placarded as inop!!
The options on the earlier positions seem to be either the system20 or 30, whereas the newer options are around the fortyX and fiftyX.
What is the difference between these systems - I’ve studied the website to no avail, just looks
like X series are newer versions.
Plus it seems that Cirrus are insisting you get the 20 or 30, if you have one of these positions. I’m surprised if they upgrade the avionics they don’t allow existing customers to order them for an extra charge. Seems like this would reduce the config they are building - is this really the case?
The new autopilots provide the same capability as the 20 and 30, but appear to add two things–course intercept and GPSS. Course intercept is used when you want to intercept a course and then turn to it (typically you do this by setting the heading bug as well as the CDI or HSI; the autopilot follows the heading bug until the nav starts to capture, and then calculates a turn that will roll out on the desired course.) Typical use: “Fly heading 350 until established on the localizer, cleared for the approach.”
GPSS allows the GPS to directly (and digitally) tell the autopilot what to do, rather than the indirect (and analog) method of pulling the CDI needle around and having the autopilot follow it, and means that you don’t have to switch the OBS (or HSI course needle) at each leg of your flight plan (autopilots use that to get an idea of the correct heading, and then use the needle movement to correct for wind). GPSS will also let the autopilot fly very sharp course changes without flying well outside of the desired course (or losing NAV lock altogether). Basically you can program in your flight plan, climb in the back, and hope you wake up before the fuel runs out. It probably also GPS tracks with less wander than the analog method (even well-tuned GPS/autopilot combinations tend to fly slight S-turns across the sky, causing some folks to use heading hold mode instead and hand-tweak occasionally to keep the needle centered.)
The reason that the early planes don’t have it (and other announced upgrades) are twofold. One is that the manufacturer may not even be shipping the new units yet (they typically preannounce products–the Garmin 530 was announced months ago but they only started shipping in the last few weeks). The other reason is certification–the SR20 must be recertified with the new avionics, which takes some time.
Getting on my soapbox, the lack of education around autopilots (and the feeling that they aren’t sufficiently macho even if they work) appalls me. An autopilot can not only make your life easier, it may well save it (too bad JFKjr didn’t just punch on the a/p…) I’ve been doing multi training recently and came to an agreement with my instructor about splitting my instruction time between hand-flying and autopilot use. It’s a complex system that you need to know how to use without thinking about it, just like anything else in the plane. The pros use them most of the time (and not just because they give the pax a better ride than the pilots would!)
The sad part is that even if the a/p works, most instructors don’t seem to know how to use them, or won’t teach their use.
There, that feels better.