June 2001 Issue

Savior or Crutch?

Autopilots can increase precision and reduce fatigue, or they can insulate you from a dangerous lack of flying skill

Pilots who fly IFR – especially single-pilot IFR – love to debate the merits of George. Not as in Bush, but as in that electronic servant who will fly your airplane any time you want.

Some advocate handing over the manipulation duties as soon as the gear is up on all flights, and letting George have it all the way to short final. Others consider the autopilot a necessary evil, to be used only when absolutely necessary – and turned off as soon as possible. To some it’s a savior, to others a crutch for the weak. What’s the truth?

To my eye, a crutch that can fail for those who lack skill, a snake waiting to bite those who misuse it, and a tool that can help the pilot who uses it effect...

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