Single pilot IFR - autopilot req'd?

Center_Mid

Well-Known Member
Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

I just completed my IFR long xc this past weekend. I was flying a C172SP. The airways and traffic patterns were very busy and I was very glad to be flying an aircraft with a 3-axis autopilot. This leads to my question:

Do you think that an autopilot should be mandatory for single-pilot IFR? I DO NOT mean mandatory in the legal sense here. Still, do any of you regularly fly aircraft into IMC without an autopilot, or at least a wing-leveler? Is this by choice or because your employer cannot afford (or is too cheap) to install an autopillot? I found the thing so damn useful when I needed to pull out a chart or an approach plate (sure, I could have looked at the GPS-MFD, but I turned it off - too easy).

Maybe I'm just spoiled by the new equipment...
 

Alchemy

Well-Known Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

Nope, I've never flown in actual IMC with an autopilot (I have logged a meager 9.5 hours of actual IMC flying). Only three types of airplanes I've flown in actual are a 172P, 182RG, and a Seneca PA-34-200; none of these had a (working) autopilot on board. IMO, it's almost cheating to use an autopilot all the time when you're flying IMC, you have to learn how to stick fly without visual reference and I'm sure your examiner will want to see that on your checkride. However, Autopilot is nice to have on flights where you might be in the soup for 2 hours straight. Longest I've ever been in it continuosly was 45 minutes, and I didn't have any problems or any real need for an autopilot.

An autopilot does reduce your workload, but I wouldn't want to put too much trust into the ones you'll typically find on light piston aircraft. You'd still need to keep your scan going strong to verify that the A/P is working properly at all times. You're not spoiled but you should be comfortable flying IMC without an autopilot when you go to take your checkride.

Just my 2 cents.
 

EatSleepFly

Well-Known Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

I've got about 25 hours of single pilot actual in a complex airplane with no autopilot (owner too cheap). That was before I knew how to use an autopilot. The airplanes I am instructing in now all have full autopilot (at least the IFR equipped ones). Its definitely nice, but I guess whether its mandatory depends on an individuals comfort zone. Personally, I don't care much either way. If I'm flying one of our airplanes single pilot, I'll use the autopilot because its there. Which brings me to my next point...

[ QUOTE ]
(sure, I could have looked at the GPS-MFD, but I turned it off - too easy).


[/ QUOTE ]

Why turn it off? I can understand if your instructor turned it off, just for practice. I click off our Garmin 430's occasionally to make students think. But if you're single pilot IFR, you should use every available resource to keep up your situational awareness. Just my worthless opinion.
 

Center_Mid

Well-Known Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

Actually, I wasn't single-pilot. I was under the hood with an instructor. We kept the GPS on during much of the flight. However, after using the AP during the flight, I got to wondering about my future IFR flights as a single pilot and whether I would, if given the choice, rent a cheap plane w/o an AP ($90/hr at my field) or rent a more expensive one with an AP ($120/hr).
 

EatSleepFly

Well-Known Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

Oh yeah...duh...."IFR long XC" would imply that wouldn't it. Sorry, I overlooked that part. [insert foot in mouth for about the 15th time today]
 

zombie5225

New Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

During my instrument training I was NEVER allowed to use my autopilot. My instructor would give me hell for just asking. The day of my checkride the DE allowed me to use it. It failed five minutes into the checkride. A brand spanken new autopilot.
 

PFactor

New Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

Needle6, If it was me, I would spend the extra money and rent the aircraft with AP. My take on it is this.. Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!
 

eodfe

New Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

I just returned from Montana, it was a total of 12.5 hours of cross country,the autopilot and GPS were great to have! It really helped out a lot, expecially when I had to go....you know......number 1, and do it in a bottle. This is the first time I used an autopilot, most of the aircraft I train in do not have a working one.

When I do any long cross countries in the future, I'll try and get the airplane with the working autopilot.
 

E_Dawg

Moderator
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

[ QUOTE ]
Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!

[/ QUOTE ]

You really shouldn't include the autopilot in the go/no go decision. If you are unsure of whether you'd be able to complete the flight safely without an autopilot... don't even leave the ground no matter what equipment you have.

That said I really like the autopilot in the newer Cessnas. I don't trust it too much in climbs... the VS feature scares me (set the VS and the autopilot maintains it... but you set power, and the autopilot can and will stall the aircraft if you set too high a VS or have a creeping throttle). I use it mainly while in cruise; approaches are just too much fun for me to let it fly... however I've never flown in worse than about 400' above mins.

In VFR it is fantastic as well... used it about 80% of my long Commercial XC
 

Mr_Creepy

Well-Known Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

Part 135 requires an autopilot in lieu of SIC, but I've heard of small charter operators getting waivers, for a 172RG for instance.
 

ready2fly

Well-Known Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

[ QUOTE ]
You really shouldn't include the autopilot in the go/no go decision. If you are unsure of whether you'd be able to complete the flight safely without an autopilot... don't even leave the ground no matter what equipment you have.

[/ QUOTE ]

Ditto what Ed said.

Autopilot is a fantastic tool, but not a mandatory tool.

You should be both competent and proficient in your stick and rudder skills in actual.

NEVER count on a machine.

That said - I've also heard - if you have it - use it. It's not cheating. It's there to help you out.

BUT - be prepared to hand-fly the plane safely if autopilot should fail.
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

Required? Nah.

Helpful in a more complex aircraft? Depends on the situation and your familiarity of the aircraft.

Is it cheating to use it? Nope.
 

Josh

Well-Known Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

Since you are still doing your training, I would STRONGLY recommend you learn how to fly it. Some 3 year old computer wiz type kid could likely figure out how to set an autopilot. But what are you going to do when you don't have a plane with it, or if it fails on you? Will you be able to fly it manually?

Is it nice to have, and when working, more safe? Yes, I believe so.
Should you do your initial IFR training always using it? No, I don't think so. Save that for after you get the ticket, and then go out and learn how to use it (in VMC). Any rating is the ability to begin learning anyhow, right?


When I get CFII, that is what I'll require of my students. BAIF, workload management are big parts of IFR flying, and I don't think you should always rely on a crutch that may not be there/working.

That's my 2.5 cents.
Josh
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

[ QUOTE ]
Some 3 year old computer wiz type kid could likely figure out how to set an autopilot.

[/ QUOTE ]

Not the McDonell-Douglas autopilot!


I'm a 32 computer geek and I'm still learning new tricks!
 

Center_Mid

Well-Known Member
Re: Single pilot IFR - autopilot req\'d?

[ QUOTE ]
Since you are still doing your training, I would STRONGLY recommend you learn how to fly it.

[/ QUOTE ]

Of course. That long xc was the first time that I had used it. I have always hand-flown every flight so far and was just experimenting. That being said, I still found it to be very useful on long legs and when approaching a busy part of the flight. I don't intend to become too dependent on it, but then again I won't hesitate to use it to alleviate workload when necessary (after my checkride, of course).
 
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