The FAA has granted the first certification for Autoland, Garmin’s automatic landing technology. Specifically, the approval was for the Halo safety system in Piper’s M600/SLS turboprop single. The Daher TBM 940 and Cirrus Vision Jet are next in line for Autoland approvals, and other aircraft are slated to receive the system as well.
Autoland is designed to land the airplane at a suitable nearby airport without any intervention by pilot or passengers, other than engaging the system by pushing the Autoland button. Once activated, Autoland finds an airport and flies the airplane there while avoiding terrain and adverse weather, then it descends and slows down, flies an approach, and lands the airplane. After landing, Autoland applies the brakes until the M600 stops, then it shuts down the engine so passengers can exit safely.
Autoland is part of Garmin’s G3000 avionics suite and requires Garmin’s autothrottle system. In the M600/SLS, Autoland is part of Piper’s Halo package. This also includes automatic level mode, hypoxia recognition and emergency descent mode, and Garmin SafeTaxi, TerminalTraffic, SurfaceWatch, and Flight Stream 510 wireless gateway.
Autoland is also able to engage automatically, for example, if the pilot doesn’t interact with the avionics within a certain time period. After pressing the Autoland button, the system will conduct the landing process until engine shutdown, however, a pilot can disengage Autoland at any time by pushing the autopilot disconnect switch on the yoke or the autopilot button on the mode control panel.
During an automatic landing, the system provides information for passengers on the G3000 displays, clearly informing them about the airplane’s location, destination airport, time of arrival, distance, and fuel remaining as well as airspeed, altitude, and heading “in an easy-to-understand format.” While Autoland announces the airplane’s location and intentions to ATC and nearby aircraft on local frequencies, passengers also receive clear instructions on how to make a radio call using the G3000 touchscreen controls.
Although Autoland can land the airplane safely in a variety of conditions, it is intended only for emergency situations. A runway with a GPS approach with lateral and vertical guidance is required. If the airplane is too high to initiate the approach to the runway, Autoland will fly a standard hold to lose altitude. It also lowers flaps and landing gear as needed.