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President’s Message

John K Foster - Skytech, Inc

The trajectory of major improvements to General Aviation aircraft is always the same. The military develops a system that enhances situational awareness, saves the pilot, saves the airplane, or does all three. Many times these systems are classified for years on end.

Then one day they become mature enough and sufficiently common to be adapted to commercial operations and large business jets. They receive wide acceptance and are enhanced by multiple operating environments.

Much later (although with the advent of digital technology and the application of Moore’s Law the time frame continues to shrink) the technology makes its way into General Aviation aircraft. The examples abound: autopilots, flat-panel displays, traffic avoidance systems, weather radar, lightning detectors, GPS, head-up displays, and the list goes on and on.

The development of long-range airliners in the late 1960s heralded the development of a system that would allow an airplane to land in conditions that were essentially 0/0. After all, if you had just flown from Tokyo to San Francisco, but the West Coast was experiencing one of its famous all-day fog events, you had a problem. By 1968 a new system made its way into the cockpit, relegating the crew members’ function to essentially that of an Observer. Not only would the system control the throttles and land the airplane, it would deploy the reversers and apply the brakes. In some Airline Operations Manuals once one of these “Category III” approaches was initiated the crew was not allowed to touch the controls until after the reversers had been stowed. That system – Autoland – is still awaiting its debut in General Aviation.

Or was until today.

Enter the 2020 model Piper M600 SLS. The first “S” stands for Safety and it is safety in a whole new light. The SLS features the first emergency Autoland system in the industry. The push of a button by a passenger or a woozy pilot sets in motion a sequence of events born of the estimated 3 million flight hours on unmanned aircraft. Specifically, the airplane selects an appropriate airport based on runway length, weather conditions, available approaches, wind direction and speed, and available emergency services. It tunes the transponder to 7700 and the radios to both the emergency frequency and the appropriate Center/Approach/Tower frequencies. It initiates automated broadcasts through both radios every 15 seconds on 121.5 and every 30 seconds on the others, stating that an emergency has occurred and giving automated position and intention reports. It selects the best route to the prime destination while taking convective weather into account and activating the de-ice system. If the weather changes it can change the route while considering the fuel available. And it does all this while talking continuously to the passengers and giving them updates and instructions on how to talk to ATC if they would like.

And how, you might ask, do the passengers lower the flaps and the landing gear on approach, or apply the brakes? Or shut down the engine? They don’t. Automation of the flaps, landing gear, and throttle/speed configuration is part of the package – but there is much, much more.

As of today, an M600 SLS does not need a Co-pilot in an emergency that incapacitates the Pilot. It just needs a passenger with the ability to push a button and the confidence to keep their hands off anything except the microphone. Rounding out the SLS moniker is a standard Luxury package loaded with useful features for the connected world. Security completes the package with a standard Five-Year maintenance package, effectively meaning all you do is purchase the consumables…fuel and oil… that run the M600.

Taken in the aggregate, the 2020 M600 SLS is the most advanced Personal and / or entry-level Business aircraft ever manufactured. Buck Rogers would be proud. So would Steve Jobs. To get a first-hand look at this incredible machine contact Skytech.  And bring your favorite passengers, with confidence.