Flying with ESP

Do you have ESP – Extrasensory Perception?  I don’t.  But some new Cessnas do.  

I do a little work as a Check Pilot at Infinity Flight Group in Trenton and they just received a brand new C-172 that has this new Garmin safety feature.  ESP – “Electronic Stability and Protection” is an “envelope protection” mechanism that works when the autopilot is OFF.  It comes with the G-1000 glass panel installation.

The concept of helping the pilot avoid bad situations is nothing new; a stall warning horn is a perfect example.  All commercial jets and many advanced light twins in the air today have some sort of similar automation.  Boeing’s much-maligned MCAS on the 737-MAX is an envelope protection mechanism. Airbus has “Alpha Prot.”, “Alpha floor”, “Overspeed”, “Under-speed” etc.  These are all designed to prevent the pilot from exceeding the normal flight envelope. 

And now this concept has arrived at the door of general aviation. In fact, beginning this year, all new Cessna and Beechcraft piston-powered aircraft are delivered with the GFC 700 autopilot, which includes ESP. 

So, how does ESP work? When a parameter is exceeded, a control force is applied through the autopilot servos to resist further movement.  Bank angle in excess of 45º and pitch angles leading towards stall or Vne will activate ESP.  If the pilot continues with control force in the “wrong” direction,  ESP’s opposite force increases. Additionally, after a specified time period of envelope excursion, the autopilot will automatically engage in a wings-level mode.  The assumption here is – incapacitation.  There are methods to both override and deactivate ESP also.

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

2 thoughts on “Flying with ESP”

    1. Hey Tom, I just saw this comment now and, for some unknown reason I had to “approve” it before it got published. (Maybe “they” are afraid you’re gonna use profanity!)

      Garmin has also developed something called Emergency Descent Mode. I think it’s basically for incapacitation from hypoxia, so it turns on the autopilot and descends to a habitable altitude.

      I think that the auto land feature is for a similar use – emergency or incapacitation. It’s not for routine use in landing with poor visibility.

      Change a comin’!

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