Garmin ESP has a mind of its own

 - September 21, 2010, 10:02 AM

Garmin ESP has a mind of its own
Some are calling it a kind of stick shaker for light airplanes. Others describe it as a hand-flying backup. Garmin calls
it “ESP.”

In reality, the “electronic stability and protection” system Garmin unveiled at AirVenture last month is an electronic monitoring system that operates in the background, in concert with the autopilot, whenever the pilot is hand flying the airplane. The technology is intended to keep ham-fisted aviators from doing anything dumb, such as stalling, spinning, overspeeding or inadvertently entering a graveyard spiral.

As designed, Garmin ESP “gently nudges” the controls back toward stable flight whenever pitch, roll or high-speed deviations exceed pre-determined limits. The system will then disengage when the airplane returns to normal flight. So in reality, ESP isn’t a stick shaker, but rather an automation tool similar to the envelope-protection technologies in fly-by-wire aircraft. As such, it will prevent airplanes from doing certain things and make them do others.

Garmin ESP will also provide airspeed protection. If the airplane approaches its speed limits (Vmo or Vne), the system engages and applies force to the control yoke to increase pitch attitude and prevent a further increase in airspeed. Garmin ESP also has built-in parameters to prevent the airplane from exceeding G-limit load factors on pullout. In high-performance aircraft with angle-of-attack sensors, Garmin ESP offers low airspeed and stall protection by providing gentle pitch-down control force.

Garmin ESP will be offered as an option on “select” G1000- and G3000-equipped aircraft. Retrofit G1000-equipped King Air 200s will be the first to receive Garmin ESP this year at an expected list price of $17,995.