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Piper Aircraft has announced an exciting new advance in the company’s product line-up with the addition of Garmin’s advanced GFC 700 Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS)-based automatic flight control system to the Garmin G1000-equipped Seneca V piston twin business aircraft.

With the GFC 700- the Seneca V now features a flight control system fully integrated with the G1000® glass flight deck that Piper announced as standard equipment on the aircraft last year.

The new system provides a flight director- autopilot- yaw damper- and both automatic and manual trim capability in an all-digital system originally developed for turbine aircraft. The GFC 700 maintains attitude- altitude- airspeed- vertical speed and heading with the capability for VNAV descent profiles and automated Takeoff/Go-Around procedures.

Among the new safety features of the GFC 700- not available in conventional autopilot systems- is a new “Level” mode that- with the push of a single blue button above the Primary Flight Display (PFD)- will return the aircraft to a wings-level situation with zero vertical speed. The Level mode can be engaged throughout a wide maneuvering envelope- including roll attitudes of plus or minus 75 degrees and pitch plus or minus 50 degrees.

Garmin says the scalable architecture employed in the GFC 700 makes it suitable for installation in an increasingly wide range of general aviation aircraft. The Seneca V is to be approved by the FAA soon for GFC 700 installation.

“The G1000 system in the Seneca V brings new levels of situational awareness- simplicity and safety to the pilot-” says Piper President and CEO Simon Caldecott. “Now- with the addition of the GFC 700- we are adding a further layer of safety- redundancy and reliability to an already excellent system- while optimizing performance over the total airspeed envelope of the aircraft. This is a significant forward step in capability for this class of aircraft.”

Addition of the GFC 700 brings added capability to an already very sophisticated avionics system. The Seneca V G1000 installation features three large-format (10-inch) high-resolution displays that provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for flight instrumentation- navigation- weather- terrain- traffic and engine data.

The system uses Garmin’s GRS77 AHRS and GDC74A Air Data Computer (ADC) to provide a highly accurate digital display of the aircraft’s position- rate- vector and acceleration. Features on the Seneca V-installed system include Vertical Profile View and user-defined holding patterns that the GFC 700 will capture and fly with laser precision.

The GFC 700 is linked to Garmin’s micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS)-based solid-state AHRS. It utilizes sophisticated brushless servo motors linked with the Seneca V’s control surfaces to apply inputs based on the GFC 700’s commands- employing pre-stored airspeed limit data from the aircraft’s flight manual to provide outstanding stability and control and deliver precise lateral and vertical navigation guidance for all phases of flight.

Garmin says the servos have the power necessary to control the aircraft crisply- but are digitally limited in both torque and speed to preclude over-controlling or stressing the airframe. During approaches- the digital servos respond quickly to provide smooth transitions during gear or flap extension.

The system’s airspeed-scheduled automatic trim control provides consistent trim adjustment throughout the flight envelope. Advanced software modeling provides for smooth round-outs when capturing pre-selected altitudes while an automatic navto-nav feature facilitates en-route and approach transitions in busy terminal areas.

The GFC 700 is fully enabled for wide area augmentation system (WAAS) guidance capability. It can fly fully-coupled GPS-only LPV approaches into runways not equipped with ILS or other ground-based electronic approach systems- and can fly any WAAS published procedure in the navigation database- including holds- procedure turns- arcs and missed approaches.

In addition to its innovative Level function- the GFC 700 incorporates over-speed protection- which will pitch the nose up if the maximum speed limit is exceeded and dual flight director bars on the PFD so that if one fails the back-up command bars automatically appear. A Flight Level Change (FLC) mode that maintains a constant airspeed during climbs or descents to a pre-selected altitude is included along with en-route VNAV capture and tracking- and yaw damper rudder trim that provides coordinated turns. The GFC 700 uses a dual-channel digital self-monitoring system that disconnects the autopilot in a “fail passive” state and alerts the pilot to assume manual control if the two channels encounter disagreement.

The Seneca V is a six-place business aircraft with a range of 828 nautical miles (1-533 km) at speeds up to 197 knots (365 km/hr).

Enhanced AFCS features include ESP (Electronic Stability & Protection)

– Envelope protection using pitch & roll servos; USP (Underspeed Protection)

– Prevents aircraft from stalling by lowering the nose; Level Mode (LVL)

– Forces the A/P to wings level and zero vertical speed; Takeoff (TO)

– Allows pilot to manually follow flight director commands during take-off phase; and Go-Around (GA)

– Allows pilot to perform go-around with A/P engaged

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