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2 min read

Auto-Pilots & Industry Progress

By Ron Oetjen on January 22, 2018

I gotta say that I hope that our industry sees as much progress in 2018 that we saw in 2017! Like it or not, we’re part of an industry that is notoriously slow with progress. For many years, GA airplanes got products 10 years after heavy iron had them, but what can we expect with the past record of the FAA. There was little to no progress from the time the Wright brothers flew in Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903 to 1950 as aircraft position was crew calculated. Twenty three years after that we saw progress with Mode C and then again in another 20 years we got Mode S. Fast forward to 2010 from there and we get ADS-B. My point….our industry doesn’t exactly have a track record of moving at gazelle speed.

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But 2017 felt like something different to me. New products were announced by manufacturers at a high rate and we actually saw those products get released in the same calendar year. If you’ve ever had the sales team from a manufacturer sell you on a new avionics product they have coming out with that “should be certified any day now” you know what I’m talking about! You see the same sales team the next year at AirAdventure in Oshkosh selling that same product that is still pending certification. However 2017 was different from my perspective.Need an Auto-Pilot for you Cessna 210?

Because this is a Blog, and not a magazine article, I’m only going to focus on the retrofit auto-pilot market to articulate my point. Prior to 2017, people coming into our shop were really looking at two choices for auto-pilots for their certified airplanes. They could go with S-TEC or the Avidyne DFC90, and the prices were not for the faint of heart. In 2017, we saw Garmin, TruTrak, and Trio get in that game with STC’s for the Cessna 172, Cessna 182, and the Piper PA-28 with promises for further certified aircraft STC’s coming. In one year, the industry more than doubled the options for a major portion of the GA industry? That, my friends, is big progress!

To be clear, not all of these auto-pilots are equal either in performance or in price. Some are GPS only and some can do it all, which is exactly what the industry needed...an option for aircraft owners with different missions. For the aircraft owners with higher performance aircraft like the Beechcraft Bonanza and Baron, Garmin has been moving forward with GFC 600 3-axis digital auto-pilot. From what I am told, Garmin has a Cessna 210 coming in this month to start the STC process for the GFC 600, so if things go well, we might have another option for Cessna 210 owners this year. S-TEC released their new 3100 digital auto-pilot recently and it has an STC for the Cessna 210, but only in a 2-axis configuration. Looks like we have some competition for our business now and the likes of TruTrak, Trio, Avidyne, Garmin, and S-TEC are going to be competing for our business. What’s not to like about that?

I’d love to talk with you about progress in our industry or about any of these auto-pilot systems. Feel free to contact me and we’ll chat it up! Oh, one more piece if progress that I failed to mention earlier! Sparkchasers has a new Vlog that we’re excited about and we hope you check it out. Not sure what a Vlog is? It’s just a Blog in which the postings are in video format as opposed to written. If you’d like to check out our latest Vlog, Click Here and enjoy!



Sparkchasers Aircraft Services specializes in expert installation and technology recommendations to customize your airplane’s flight panel with modern avionics from the top brands in the industry. Sparkchasers is an award-winning, experienced team that strives to provide excellent customer service, stay current with the latest avionics technology, and draws on years of experience to diagnose technical issues quickly and efficiently. Sparkchasers provides services for piston-driven, turboprop, and turbine engine aircraft. When you plan to upgrade your aircraft’s avionics or need FAA certifications completed, give us a call at (919) 934-1654 or visit www.flysparkchasers.com for a quick quote.

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