The STC Group on December 10 received FAA supplemental type certificate approval for its Trio Pro Pilot autopilot to be installed in Piper PA–24 Comanches.
The autopilot features a new capstan servo and is universal for all Comanches, ranging from the 1958 Comanche 180 to the Comanche 400 and 1972 Comanche C model. The STC Group began working with Comanche experts to design the autopilot installation kit in August 2020 and started test flights in January, followed by demonstrating the installation of the autopilot during the 2021 Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, Florida, in April.
The company has had Comanches and Twin Comanches in its plans since it certified the first Trio Pro Pilot autopilots in July 2017 for the Cessna 172 and 182, but the Comanches required a newer servo than the Skyhawk and Skylane. “Developing a new second generation capstan became an ongoing project but it necessarily took a back seat to adding the PA-28 and PA-32 Pipers and the Grumman-Americans and other types that our first generation servo could handle,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the second-generation servo from Trio Avionics, which produces the autopilot for the experimental and warbird markets, makes the autopilot installation easier than the first generation one, estimating that it would take A&Ps about 30 to 35 hours to install.
The price for the Comanche autopilot will be higher than that of the Cessna 172 and 182 because the servo, provided by Trio Avionics, is more expensive to produce and because of microprocessor chip shortages and rising costs. Sullivan estimated that the Comanche STC will retail between $6,000 and $6,100 versus the $5,595 for the Cessna 172, 175, 177, 180, 182, and 185; Piper PA–28 and PA–32, and Grumman AA–5. (The Cessna 190, 195, LC 126 A and B autopilot kits cost $6,300.)
The autopilot’s design is compatible with the Twin Comanche and once The STC Group works with the FAA to establish the tests required for multiengine aircraft, the company will pursue an STC for that aircraft, Sullivan said.
In addition, he said the company has already developed an autopilot kit for the Cessna 150 and 152 (pilots can place a deposit for this kit on The STC Group website). “There is a demand from flight schools who would love to use the venerable 150/152 as a Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) trainer,” Sullivan said. “We want to fill that demand and also serve the growing market for ‘like new’ re-manufactured 150/152s.”
Also on The STC Group’s horizon is adding electronic flight information systems (EFISs) to its approved avionics list. In “the next few months,” the company plans to have approval for the Garmin G5, Aspen Avionics systems, and the Dynon Skyview, Sullivan said. The uAvionix AV-30 and Garmin GI 275 are part of the company’s future plans.
The STC Group has sold more than 400 Trio Pro Pilot autopilots for certified aircraft, the most popular being for the Cessna 172 and 182 (AOPA installed the autopilot on its 2017 remanufactured Cessna 172 sweepstakes aircraft). Meanwhile, Trio Avionics has sold more than 3,000 of the autopilots for experimental aircraft and warbirds.
The STC Group formed in 2016 to bring more affordable autopilots to the certified market.