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Garmin gives pilots a sixth sense

A system to detect unusual aircraft attitudes and initiate recovery is in development by Garmin International and will be offered soon under the marketing name “ESP.” It will spring into action if needed during the time the aircraft is hand flown.

The electronic stability and protection system (ESP) will first appear on the G1000-equipped King Air 200. It is up to individual manufacturers as to whether the $17,995 option is offered. Can it be retrofitted to your aircraft? A Garmin spokeswoman said it depends on the type of servos used by the manufacturer in your G1000-equipped aircraft. A few manufacturers—the ones using compatible servos—are expected to announce ESP during the EAA AirVenture airshow.

It is also available for G3000 integrated flight decks and assists the pilot in maintaining the aircraft in a safe, flight stable condition. It can help in certain situations to prevent the onset of stalls and spins, steep spirals or other loss-of-control conditions should the pilot become distracted, disoriented, or incapacitated during flight.

“Until today, this type of stability augmentation system has only been available on fly-by-wire aircraft that cost millions of dollars,” said Gary Kelley, Garmin’s vice president of marketing. “We’re thrilled to be the first to make this safety enhancing technology available to business and general aviation pilots.”

Garmin ESP functions independently of the autopilot, and operates “in the background” whenever the pilot is hand-flying the aircraft. Garmin ESP gently nudges the controls back toward stable flight whenever pitch, roll, or high-speed deviations exceed the recommended limits. Garmin ESP will then disengage when the aircraft returns to its normal flight.

High and low airspeed protection will also be available with Garmin ESP while pilots are hand-flying the aircraft. If a Garmin ESP-equipped aircraft approaches the aircraft’s speed limits (VMO or VNE), Garmin ESP engages and applies force to the control yoke to increase the aircraft’s pitch attitude and prevent a further increase in airspeed. Garmin ESP also has built in parameters to prevent the aircraft from exceeding G-limit load factors upon pullout. In high performance aircraft with angle of attack or lift sensors, Garmin ESP offers low airspeed or stall protection by providing a gentle pitch-down control force through the control yoke when the aircraft’s wing approaches its critical angle of attack.

It is similar to the leveling system in the Garmin Perspective G1000 developed for Cirrus Design, but goes beyond it to meet the needs of higher performance aircraft. The pilot-initiated system is commonly referred to as the “blue button” that can be pushed by the pilot when the aircraft is perceived to be out of control.

Alton Marsh
Alton K. Marsh
Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.

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