Technology has provided many advances that help us get from one place to another. GPS helps us know our route, go back to our favorite fishing spot, and works with autopilot systems in aircraft to navigate automatically. We are beginning to see self-driving cars and trucks. Robots are moving about warehouses picking and sorting packages. The applications are expanding exponentially every year.

I have a GPS system in my aircraft that with a push of a button will tell me where the nearest airport is if I have to make an emergency landing, but I have to fly the airplane to get there and manage all the other things to do in an emergency. There are three things a pilot will need to do in sequence during an emergency: aviate (fly the airplane), Navigate (get the airplane where it needs to go) and Communicate (let others such as air traffic control, destination airport, other aircraft in the vicinity know what is going on and what you need).

There is a lot to manage and monitor. We are trained to do these things as pilot-in-command. But what happens if the pilot is not capable of flying the airplane? Garmin Avionics has developed an answer for general aviation and business aircraft.

Kate O’Connor writes in Aviation News, “The Piper M600/SLS became the first aircraft equipped with Garmin’s Autoland system to receive FAA type certification on Monday. In the event of an emergency, Autoland is designed to ‘control and land the aircraft without human intervention,’ taking into account factors such as aircraft performance, terrain, obstacles and weather. In addition, the system, which is capable of activating automatically or via a dedicated button, communicates with air traffic control and provides visual and verbal information for passengers. Autoland activation can be canceled at any time using the autopilot disconnect button.

“The FAA certification of Autoland is a day of celebration for the entire aviation industry as we redefine the expectations of not only the pilot, but more importantly the passenger, and what should be standard equipment on general aviation aircraft,” said Garmin Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Aviation Phil Straub. “Our congratulations to Piper for certifying this safety enhancing technology on the M600 and delivering one of the industry’s most significant innovations to our respective customers.” According to Piper, deliveries of Autoland-equipped M600s will begin immediately. Garmin expects Autoland to be available for the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet and Daher TBM 940 shortly with additional aircraft approvals in the works. The system was introduced last October.”

If you would like to see the system in action, there is a 14-minute video demonstrating and explaining the system by going to this link below. It is worth the effort to go online and view it:

Commercial airliners have had auto-landing systems for many years, but this is the first system that could be activated by a passenger. We don’t expect to see this expensive system in many of the privately owned general aviation aircraft, but as time goes on the cost of technology will become lower, so who knows when it might be available for the general aviation fleet. Now if we could get some of our “roadway pilots” to put down their technology while they were driving, we’d all be safer.

And now a word from Boeing. Boeing has announced a new initiative, The Confident Travel Initiative, aimed at developing solutions to help minimize air travel health risks during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Confident Travel Initiative team will also focus on raising awareness of existing health safeguards. According to Boeing, work on the initiative will be conducted in partnership with airlines, global regulators, industry stakeholders, flying passengers, infectious disease experts and behavioral specialists.

Boeing’s effort will build on the industry’s enhanced safety approaches —including enhanced cleaning, temperature checks and the use of face coverings — and promote the proven systems already in place to help maintain cabin cleanliness. Boeing continues to research and evaluate new technologies to enhance safety, including ultraviolet light disinfecting systems and antimicrobial coatings for high-touch surfaces. Along with advising operators on disinfectants compatible with the aircraft flight decks and cabins, the team intends to test additional sanitizers. The Confident Travel Initiative will be led by Vice President of Digital Transformation at Boeing Commercial Airplanes Mike Delaney. “Air travel is coming back,” Delaney said. “As that happens, we want passengers and crews to board Boeing airplanes without hesitation.”

Meanwhile, here in Highlands County, please do what you can by wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing and using common sense when you are out and about as we “open up.”