January 30, 2014

Did You Know? Dynon SkyView Autopilot - "Level" Mode

An exciting safety and workload-reducing feature in SkyView’s integrated autopilot is the LEVEL mode. This is an easily accessible mode intended to assist the pilot in controlling the aircraft, even in extreme circumstances such as recovering from an unusual attitude, pilot disorientation, or loss of control. It’s also useful when you want to quickly go “hands off” for a moment, at any moment.
The LEVEL mode has a dedicated button in the AUTOPILOT menu in both the Simplified and Expert control schemes.  It can also be activated via a dedicated button mounted within easy reach of either pilot on the aircraft’s instrument panel. The LEVEL mode is available at all times, regardless of whether the autopilot is engaged at the time the mode is selected.
Configuration as Level Mode engaged 
Configuration as Level Mode engaged 

When the LEVEL mode is activated, the autopilot immediately executes the necessary maneuvers to return the aircraft to straight and level flight. In fact, the terms “STRAIGHT” and “LEVEL” will be enunciated in the autopilot portion of the Status Bar in the top left corner of the SkyView display while the LEVEL mode is engaged.

Aircraft returned to Straight and Level flight

In maneuvering the aircraft with the LEVEL mode engaged, the autopilot follows the same procedures a pilot is taught to use in recovering from an unusual attitude. That is - it first applies roll inputs to get the aircraft wings level. After roll is substantially neutralized, it then applies pitch inputs to achieve a vertical speed of zero. Importantly, the LEVEL mode behaves differently in the pitch axis than the other autopilot modes. Specifically, it ignores any altitude bug values and does not attempt to capture or maintain a specific altitude. This is critical, as the aircraft might be either climbing or descending at a relatively rapid rate when the mode is engaged. The LEVEL mode will simply cause the autopilot to smoothly level the aircraft’s flight path to achieve zero vertical speed.

Also important is that the autopilot respects both G load and airspeed limits when LEVEL mode is commanded. This ensures the airframe is not overstressed. Unlike many standalone autopilots, SkyView’s integrated autopilot is able to do this because it has access to ALL of the sensor-based ADAHRS data available to the EFIS system, including airspeed, altitude, pitch and roll data. Once the LEVEL mode has been engaged, all other autopilot modes are also subsequently available.

 The SkyView integrated autopilot’s LEVEL mode may be a pilot’s single best tool for regaining or maintaining controlled flight while coping with an emergency or other stressful situations.
Kirk Kleinholz, CFII
Sales Manager, Dynon Avionics