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7 Perfect Times To Use An Autopilot

If you've flown an airplane with an autopilot, here are some of the best times to use it.

1) VFR...If You're Not Comfortable Using It

If you don't feel comfortable using all the capabilities of your autopilot, practice its use during daytime VFR conditions. If you can, bring an experienced pilot with you to give you some tips.

Autopilots are great tools, but they can lead to dangerous situations when you don't understand how to use them properly.

2) Complicated Instrument Departures Or Arrivals

If you're flying a complex procedure, consider using the autopilot to help meet altitude and speed restrictions. This allows you more time to cross-reference your flight path with the text/graphical depiction of the procedure.

3) When You Become Task Saturated

When used correctly, autopilots help you manage a task saturated environment. If you need to handle other cockpit tasks or communications, use the autopilot to ensure you're maintaining altitude and desired track.

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4) During Holding

Holding for long periods of time is never fun. Use the autopilot to take some of the repetitive flying off of your shoulders. Plus, with your hands free, you'll be able to better manage approach checklists and briefings.

5) High Altitude Flight

At high altitudes, aircraft are difficult to hand fly. Using the autopilot takes the tedious work of maintain altitude off your hands, so you can focus on monitoring systems and communicating with ATC.

Live from the Flight Deck

6) Instrument Approaches

If you haven't performed one in awhile, fly an autopilot coupled instrument approach. It's a great way to stay current and proficient, especially if you plan to use it in IMC.

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7) During Certain Types Of Emergencies

Some emergencies aren't flight-control related at all. It may be a passenger, crew member, cargo, or communications emergency. Engaging the autopilot is one way to reduce your workload, so you can focus on problem-solving.

Swayne Martin

While they shouldn't be relied on, autopilot systems are a important tools to utilize when you fly. How do you like to use your autopilot? Tell us in the comments below.


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