One of the other things D wanted to play with in his plane was the autopilot. I’ll admit to being intrigued. None of the planes I’ve ever flown have autopilot, it is either not installed or deliberately disabled, lest us students learn to actually utilise it!*
Oh I’m so envious, I really want one! Even just the “altitude hold” function takes a massive workload off of you. Being able to track a VOR radial is amazing and the fact that you can set your own “virtual waypoints” is mind blowing to me. And all of this in a plane with a traditional “steam gauge” cockpit.
There are drawbacks of course, you really have to understand what the different modes do, so you realise just what it is the plane is actually going to do, whether it is track the heading, hold the altitude or seek out whatever waypoint you ask it to. Actually I think D’s autopilot can fly IFR holds on its own.
But the most disconcerting thing of all, is watching a plane do a 15 degree bank to pick up a heading with no one’s hands anywhere near the controls. It is very very freaky to watch. I may have mentioned this once or twice. D just laughed.
You can actually use your hands to do stuff, like unfold your chart or pull out an approach plate, hard for me to get my head around, I’m barely beyond the “if-you-take-your-hands-off-the-control-column-the-plane-will-instantly-crash” stage of flight management.
But I’m going to have to get used to it I guess, for various reasons RTH is planning on getting checked out in the flight schools 182. It has a glass cockpit with a G1000 FMS. Half of the “fun” is going to be learning the glass cockpit system alongside dealing with a variable pitch prop.
One of our “projects” this winter is to take some online training and familiarise ourselves with it. I need to know just as much as RTH who’ll be flying it as chances are I’ll be programming the thing.
Fun times ahead.
* I understand why they disable these things for students but it does add another thing to the list of "things-they-don't-teach-you-on-your-ppl-that-you-have-to-figure-out-for-yourself"