Garmin has added four new Piper models to its STC for the GFC 500 autopilot. Previously approved for most models of the PA-28 Cherokee, PA-28R Arrow and PA-32R Saratoga retracts, Garmin now supports the turbo and non-turbo Dakota models (PA-28-201T and PA-28-236) as well as the fixed-gear, six-place PA-32-260 and PA-32-300.
According to Garmin, “The GFC 500 autopilot uniquely integrates with the G5 electronic flight instrument or a combination of both the G5 and either a G3X Touch or G500 TXi flight display to provide pilots with an economical and modern autopilot solution.”
A two-axis version of the GFC 500 with the external mode controller panel lists for $6995 but requires a compatible electronic display to drive it. (The GFC does not use conventional gyros.) A single G5, built to fit into a large instrument hole, is sufficient. Adding a basic GFC 500 and a single G5 with the required integrating hardware can cost less than $10,000, according to Garmin. That’s before installation, of course, and without add-ons such as electric trim (which can be controlled by the autopilot, therefore offering an auto-trim function) and a yaw damper. The basic system is capable of heading hold, vertical-speed hold and, of course, altitude hold and intercept.
Depending on the navigation sources in the airplane the GFC 500 can intercept flight plans and fly fully coupled approaches. It also features ESP, which “works to assist the pilot in maintaining the aircraft in a stable flight condition. ESP functions independently of the autopilot and works in the background to help pilots avoid inadvertent flight attitudes or bank angles and provide airspeed protection while the pilot is hand-flying the aircraft.” The GFC 500 also provides under- and over-speed protection when engaged.
Previous approvals include most Beech Bonanza aircraft; Cessna models including the 172, 182, 182RG, 185 and later 210; Grumman’s AA-5 series; Mooney M20J through M20S models; and the aforementioned Pipers. Garmin says that it has the Beech B36TC, Cessna 177 and 177RG, Piper PA-28-235, and taper-wing, fixed-gear PA-32s (301, 301T, 301FT and 301XTC) programs in process. Future applications include the Cessna 172RG, 206 and earlier 210 models; earlier Mooney M20 models; and the T-tail versions of Piper’s PA-28 and PA-32 models.