Smart Glide Guides Stricken Airplane to Suitable Airport

 - July 23, 2021, 10:26 AM

Garmin introduced the newest member of its Autonomi family of safety products, Smart Glide, which helps pilots deal with engine failures by recommending a suitable nearby airport and engaging the autopilot to fly to that airport at the appropriate airspeed.

The avionics maker expects Smart Glide to be available in August and will provide it as a free software upgrade for compatible avionics, although dealers may charge installation fees. Smart Glide is available on GTN Xi navigators paired with Garmin’s G500/G600 TXi and G3X displays and GI 275 and G5 electronic flight instruments, as well as experimental G3X Touch and G3X autopilot systems. If equipped with a compatible autopilot, including the GFC 500/600, Smart Glide activation will automatically engage the autopilot.

Pilots can activate Smart Glide either using the optional $129 Smart Glide button or by holding the "direct to" button for two seconds. After activating Smart Glide, which creates a "direct to" route to the recommended airport, the map page on the GTN Xi shows a glide range ring with airports within gliding distance. The ring adjusts dynamically to account for wind and terrain, and also displayed in a decluttered view are current altitude above ground level (agl), estimated agl at arrival, bearing, and distance to the airport.

A Smart Glide page is also available, which shows glide speed, airport name, a list of alternate airports (from which the pilot can choose if needed), arrival agl, longest runway information and wind components (if available), and an alert banner that gives information on glide status and pertinent instructions.

The criteria for picking the recommended airport are based on runway length and condition, proximity, terrain, and weather information that the system gleans from sources such as ADS-B In (FIS-B), SiriusXM, and Garmin Connext, as well as measured winds calculated by the PFD. Smart Glide also considers VFR or IFR conditions when recommending a suitable airport, according to Garmin, for aircraft equipped with a Garmin GTX 345/345R transponder, GTX 375 acting as a transponder, GSR 56 Iridium transceiver, or GDL 69/69A SiriusXM satellite weather receiver with an appropriate weather subscription.

According to Garmin, the key benefit of Smart Glide is to free up the pilot to focus on dealing with the emergency situation—for example, running the engine-failure checklist. Even if there is no suitable airport within gliding distance, Smart Glide still uses the Garmin autopilot to adjust the attitude for best glide speed and then during the off-airport approach and landing gives the pilot audible altitude alerts. In addition to the information displayed on the avionics, Smart Glide provides aural messages such as bearing and distance to the airport. Once it selects the airport, it also sets that airport’s CTAF or tower frequency into the standby field and switches the CDI to GPS mode plus switches the transponder to the 7700 emergency code.

The system warns the pilot with an aural alert and visual banner at 4 nm to the airport, then at 2 nm advises the pilot to take over control with an audible position alert and flashing red alert (on the GTN Xi).

“Garmin continues to provide pilots with safety-enhancing tools through our Autonomi family of technologies that help simplify emergencies to reduce the workload required during these task-saturated and stressful situations,” said Carl Wolf, Garmin v-p of aviation sales and marketing.