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New Horizons

Advancing Safety Through Automation

Garmin’s Autoland system is just the beginning.

Phil Straub leads a team at Garmin International that is focused on advancing the state of the art in avionics and aircraft control systems for one purpose: enhancing safety.

“Pilots are naturally prone to distraction, fixation, task saturation, loss of situational awareness, among other things,” he said. “Proper training and cockpit resource management go a long way to mitigate these inherent human weaknesses, but they too have limits. While computerized systems also have limitations, when blended and integrated properly with the crew, they provide for highly safe operation of the aircraft by offsetting the limitations of each other.”

In August 2019, Garmin introduced its “Autoland” fully-automated emergency landing system, which is FAA certified on the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet, Piper M600 and Daher TBM 940.

“Autoland establishes a new level of expectation for safety features in an aircraft.”

Phil Straub Managing Director of Aviation, Garmin International

“Autoland establishes a new level of expectation for safety features in an aircraft,” Straub said, and while it also hints at even greater possibilities for flight systems automation, he warned that several limiting factors remain.

“National airspace infrastructure must be architected and developed to overcome existing limitations placed on the system,” he said. “While it’s technically [possible] to autonomously taxi, take off, climb, cruise, descend, approach and land an aircraft without a supporting infrastructure that enables that type of operation, expect in the nearer term to see automation used in a manner to simplify operations of aircraft while simultaneously increasing safety.”

For example, Straub pointed to once-cumbersome pressurization systems that, on newer aircraft, are now largely automated.

“It’s more likely we will focus on increased connectivity and capability with the aircraft to yield a system capable of making more complex decisions,” he said. “Connectivity, in combination with more expansive information, allows the system to operate with increased flexibility and capability, providing an infinite number of possibilities in the future.”

Phil Straub is executive vp and managing director of aviation at Garmin International. He joined the company in 1993 and was a key contributor in the creation of the GNS 430/530 and G1000 integrated cockpit systems. Besides being an engineer, he is a pilot with an airline transport pilot certificate.

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