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Trio announces Pro Pilot install kit approval

The ability to install equipment designed for experimental aircraft into certified airplanes continued to make progress at the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida, as The STC Group announced that it had received a supplemental type certificate for the kit to install a Trio autopilot into Cessna 172s and 182s.

Trio Avionics has secured installation kit approval for Pro Pilot autopilot installations in Cessna 172 and 182 models. Photo courtesy of Trio Avionics.

The company hopes to have a complete STC and Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) to build and sell the entire system by EAA AirVenture in July.

Paul Odum, president and CEO of The STC Group, said that compared to traditional STC projects, which often take months or years to complete, the process was fast, at only five months. He praised the FAA for its willingness to consider the risk associated with the particular installation and to base the system’s approval process on that.

Other industry partners chimed in with a similar theme at the STC Group press conference. Jack Pelton, president and chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association, said the movement is all about finding pathways to bring proven safety-enhancing gear into the legacy fleet at affordable prices. He said other companies that traditionally would not consider certifying products may want to look into the FAA’s newly simplified processes.

Another beneficiary of the new risk-basked process is TruTrak, which announced at Sun ‘n Fun that it has received an STC and PMA for the kit to install its digital autopilot in the Cessna 172 and 177. TruTrak President and CEO Andrew Barker said it was a new day at the FAA, and he welcomed the agency’s willingness to change policies while staying focused on safety. The TruTrak installation kit, for which EAA owns the STC, sells for $1,000. He also expects to have a complete STC and to be selling full-up systems by AirVenture.

Melissa Rudinger, AOPA’s vice president of regulatory affairs, said the movement has reached a “tipping point.” At the press conference, she said she and her staff have worked diligently with FAA headquarters and regional staff as well as with individual companies to help provide a simple and repeatable path for bringing the non-technical standard order equipment from experimental into certified airplanes. “We’re seeing a real culture change at the FAA—and that’s hard, we understand that but welcome their willingness to change.”

Chuck Busch of Trio Avionics developed the Pro Pilot autopilot for experimental airplanes, delivering the first units in the early 2000s. Since then they’ve delivered more than 3,000. Using an input from a GPS, the digital autopilot will fly a course or a heading. It will climb or descend at pilot-selected rates of climb and level off at the selected altitude. It also includes a button to level the airplane if the pilot loses control. A 180-degree button will turn the airplane around and fly it out of dangerous weather encounters, he said.

Odum expects the Trio installation kit to be available for purchase by around May 1 for about $2,000. The balance of the necessary gear, including the panel-mounted autopilot computer and interface, STC, drawings, and flight manual supplement, will be about another $5,000.

Thomas B. Haines
Thomas B Haines
Contributor (former Editor in Chief)
Contributor and former AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
Topics: Aircraft Regulation

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