Elliott Aviation Delivers First King Air B200 Autoland Retrofit

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Milan, Illinois-based Elliott Aviation announced this week it has delivered the first Beechcraft King Air B200 to be retrofitted with Garmin’s Autoland system. The King Air is equipped with Garmin’s G1000 NXi avionics suite, which interfaces with the award-winning Autoland technology.

In the event of pilot incapacitation, pushing a large button on the panel will activate Autoland. The system engages the autopilot and, based on distance, weather and available instrument approaches, selects the best airport for an emergency landing. The autopilot then flies the airplane to the airport, descends for an instrument approach and completes the landing autonomously—even shutting down the engine.

Dan Edwards, Elliott Aviation CEO, said, “Safety is always our top priority, and the Garmin Autoland system represents a groundbreaking advancement in aviation technology. This achievement reflects our team’s expertise and commitment to providing our customers with the latest and most advanced avionics solutions.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

17 COMMENTS

  1. why wait for pilot incapacitation? why not use the system when the pilot just realizes he is in over his head, or maybe the system can detect when the pilot has consciously or unconsciously succumbed to actions resulting in a crash, the details of which would be published in Avweb, and then subject to a ton of “replies”?

    • From a 2020 FAA overview, when the system was certified for three planes: the Piper M600, the Daher TBM 940, and the Cirrus Vision Jet SF50:

      EAL can be activated in three ways:

      1. EAL senses erratic flying, stabilizes the aircraft, and checks for pilot responsiveness; if no input, EAL activates.
      2. Emergency Descent Mode (EDM) activates. After descending, EAL checks for pilot responsiveness; if no input, EAL activates.
      3. EAL can be manually activated by a pilot in distress or a passenger.

  2. Much better than a BRS in a Cirrus…and in other aircraft…
    This system has you all set up to just exit the aircraft and pay the landing fee and parking fee,too.
    Win win.

  3. Is this a solution looking for a problem? Pilot incapacitation is not high on the scale of risk, kind of down there with lightning strikes to pedestrians or shark attacks. I bet this expensive feature is never used, except when the pilot says, “Hey everybody, watch this!”

  4. Question-based on Brian’s comment: Does anyone know if this system has been used in a real emergency yet in any aircraft? I realize it is fairly new and not that many aircraft have it installed yet. The first real use will be news. And I have a question on this: “…why not use the system when the pilot just realizes he is in over his head…” If I punch out (so to speak) and use the button because, say I get into an IFR situation with only VFR experience or VFR rating, will I be in trouble with the FAA? If the nearest airport is Dulles and all of a sudden I’m in line with my small, slow, GA plane to land when they did not count on me I imagine a long conversation with someone (but a conversation or not, I’ll still be alive).

    • You won’t be incompacitated so I would hope you would make some radio calls to the effect that you are a VRF only pilot who inadvertently flew into IMC, were declaring an emergency, and auto-land was taking you to Dulles.

      I would imagine there would be a few forms to fill out once you land. In triplicate.

    • Garmin says:

      “ It automatically communicates its intentions and routing to air traffic control and passengers.”

    • “ say I get into an IFR situation with only VFR experience or VFR rating, will I be in trouble with the FAA?”

      Really? 178 seconds to live and you’re pondering over being in trouble with the FAA vs. a smoking hole?

      Sure. Go ahead and take it like a man, ride it all the way to the ground.

  5. This is a great and logical development. Certainly there will be some misuse of it, but in the end, it will benefit GA and save lives. Presumably, there is ongoing development toward smaller GA airplanes, too. However, I’m not holding my breath for development of an autoland version for the J3!

    • For a J3 just pull the throttle back, kick back, and watch the aircraft autoland itself. Or wait until it runs out of gas…

      Oh the other hand, I doubt there are any VFR-only KingAir pilots.

  6. I’d like to know more about the logic of the system.

    If you have two or more airports within range, how does it decide which one? Weather? (if one is clear and the other at minimums, how does it decide? Runway length? (it doesn’t matter that much to the aforementioned singles, but what about higher-performance aircraft?). How about weather–you’re flying in an area if convective activity–in the clear for the time being, but what if the airport selected by the system is affected by the thunderstorms? Is there a way to select “find a different airport?” so you know what the options are?

    Is there a provision for “precautionary” landings vs. “emergency” landings? I’d like the option of having it look for other airports–in the event of an engine failure on a single engine, you take what you can get–in the event of “I want to put this airplane on the ground in the next 20 minutes” (low fuel, rough running engine vs. NO engine, weather, com failure, PASSENGER (vs. pilot) incapacitation (“the passenger occupying the right seat is having chest pains”) or even “the airport selected is low IFR–select another airport”–all of these precautionary landings are more likely than a total engine failure, and having automation ASSIST the pilot rather than a dead stick landing is a much more likely scenario.

    Think of the automation as “the co-pilot that you WISH you had” instead of the unlikely “pilot incapacitation.” The market for automation that will ASSIST the pilot is far larger than “What if the engine quits” or “what if the pilot dies?”–these are the subject of “Grade B movies”–possible, but unlikely.

    But then, then those reasons aren’t as dramatic as “what if the pilot dies?” (roll eyes)

    • Thunderstorms over the airport notwithstanding, if the airport selected is 0/0, the Autoland should work just as well as if it is CAVU…

      Another scenario would be if ALL on board are incapacitated (for instance oxygen system failure), would a system that senses that all personnel are incapacitated not be desirable? Oxygen system failure is rare, but it has happened more than once in recent years.

        • No question about DH–just questioning whether there is a way to either have “George” pick a better option, or for manual selection by the pilot.

          Consider fog–usually a localized phenomenon. Or perhaps the “Thunderstorm in progress” mentioned.

          Most stories about auto land are based on scenarios of either “pilot incapacitation” or “catastrophic engine failure on a single-engine aircraft.”

          The reality is that there are any number of scenarios where a pilot simply needs to make a precautionary landing RIGHT NOW (the mentioned “passenger is having chest pains”, for example.)

          I would like to at least have the option to pick a different airport if desired–imagine having the avionics picking a marginal airport for you simply because it is “nearest” (example, a short paved runway–when a much more suitable airport is ALSO within range)–just because it is “nearest.”

          The whole rationale for the system is due to “what if the ONLY engine fails catastrophically”–rather than the MUCH MORE COMMON “I need to put this airplane on the ground in the next 20 minutes–give me some options and give me some assistance.”

          Having the assistance of automation would be a big help to a single pilot in coping with the impending emergency.

      • No need to monitor all the occupants – just the pilot. The system is designed self activate if the pilot is non-responsive.

  7. An article dated July 26, 2023 by AOPA states “Garmin estimates Autothrottle installations for the King Air will be $50,000, and $100,000 for Autoland retrofits including the autothrottle. G1000-equipped aircraft also will need upgrades to the latest G1000 NXi.” If this system can really be installed for $100,000 if you have a Garmin G1000NXi avionics suite this is a bargain.

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