Garmin Smart Glide acts as co-pilot in engine shutdown air emergencies
Garmin International is trying to take the pressure off of pilots caught in an engine shutdown emergency with its Smart Glide safety tool. Part of the company's Autonomí family of autonomous flight technologies, its function is to reduce the pilot's emergency workload by automatically engaging the autopilot and steering the aircraft toward the nearest available airport.
One of the more heart-stopping things that can happen in a small prop plane is when the engine suddenly sputters to a stop. With the noise dropping to the sound of wind and the creaking of the airframe, the pilot is faced with setting the plane on the proper glide angle and trimming the craft, setting the autopilot, trying to restart the engine, looking for the nearest airport, and sending off a Mayday message, among other things.
Having so many things to do at once increases the danger of making a potentially fatal error. Working with compatible avionics like the Garmin GTN Xi series navigators and the GTX 345/GTX 345R transponder, Smart Glide is designed to take over many of the tasks involved in an engine-out situation, either automatically or on demand.
In the event of an engine shutdown, Smart Glide engages the autopilot and sets the pitch for the best glide speed while using factors like runway length and condition, proximity, terrain, wind conditions, visual flight rules, instrument flight rules, and available weather reports in seeking the closest suitable airport, as well as creating a direct-to route for the pilot. If no airport is within range, Smart Glide sends an aural and visual alert to the pilot, and continues searching. In addition, it provides the pilot with a shortcut to switch the transponder to transmit the 7700 emergency code.
When approaching the airport, Smart Glide sends the pilot alerts and signals when to resume manual control for approach and landing. If a landing has to be made away from an airport, the system provides audio alerts and updates the pilot on altitude.
The Smart Glide will be available on the GTN Xi series navigators with a compatible Garmin flight display. Compatible Garmin autopilots can be automatically engaged when Smart Glide is activated. It will be available as a software upgrade for free in August 2021, and the Garmin Smart Glide activation button sells for US$129.