Genesys Aerosystems may be a recent name in the aviation industry, however, their roots go back a number of years. The company formed in 2014 after obtaining the autopilot and panel display lines of business from Cobham. These two lines represented the very popular S-TEC autopilots and the former Chelton Flight Systems displays.
Since the acquisition, Genesys Aerosystems has significantly advanced the autopilot line. They have released new digital autopilot products, including the S-TEC 3100 and S-TEC 5000 Digital Flight Control Systems (DFCS). The S-TEC 3100 autopilot is focused on Part 23 aircraft, while the S-TEC 5000 is designed for Part 25 aircraft. The previous S-TEC digital autopilots were the 1500 and 2100, which were standard equipment for the Piper Meridian turboprop and others.
I’ve flown the S-TEC digital autopilots and found them to work well, with higher accuracy than others in the product line. The S-TEC 3100 takes this to a new level, offering envelope protection in both Flight Director (FD) and Autopilot (AP) modes. In the FD mode, aural annunciations are generated when the pilot enters a steep bank, exceeds the maximum certified speed or approaches a stall. While in AP mode, if the speeds exceed these limits, then the autopilot will adjust the pitch of the aircraft to place it in a safe attitude.
The S-TEC 3100 is almost a direct replacement for the S-TEC 1500 and 2100 autopilots. It utilizes the existing servos, however, requires a new rack and connectors. The ability to utilize the majority of the components from the previous versions (as well as the inclusion of an adaptor harness), dramatically reduces the installation time, requiring less than 20 hours for most upgrades. An additional feature is the incorporation of an internal ADAHRS, which eliminates the dependency on an external attitude source that was required with the S-TEC 1500 and 2100 systems. With a hardware cost of $9,995 for the new S-TEC 3100, it offers a nice option for owners wanting to have the latest technology in an autopilot.
I’ve talked with Piper PA46 owners (Malibu, Mirage, Meridian, M350, M500) who have installed the S-TEC 3100. Patrick de Noonevile, based in England, owns a 2000 Mirage and upgraded his S-TEC 55 to the new autopilot during an impressive panel installation. Patrick had some issues with the existing servos during the installation, which was resolved by replacing them. Since that issue was resolved, he mentioned it offers superior tracking (especially on precision approaches), and the new envelope protection is particularly useful. He has installed the software upgrade, offered at no cost to current owners. The upgrade provides improved envelope protection, bank limit adjustments for smoother turns and other features.
Brian Cameron, a Piper Meridian owner, also recently upgraded his S-TEC 1500 to the S-TEC 3100. Brian’s autopilot has the latest software version, which he mentioned flies the approaches perfectly. Avionics are becoming increasingly capable, and Brian told me in his experience, it is very important to read all of the new operating procedures and manuals to maximize performance and safety. Brian also said that “the additional features, such as built-in ADARS, LVL button, and envelope protection made it worth his investment.”
Genesys Aerosystems has also broadened the applicability of the S-TEC 3100. While
current operators of S-TEC-equipped aircraft have the potential to upgrade, owners of aircraft without autopilots can also take advantage of this new digital offering. Genesys has built an approval list of more than 100 aircraft, and they are extending the approvals on an ongoing basis with the King Air 90, 100 and 200 models expected to be approved in the coming months.
Genesys Aerosystems has also committed to continually improving the S-TEC 3100 and 5000. The company has embarked on a software and hardware upgrade to specifically accommodate flying in icing conditions. This is an important consideration since the safe operating envelope of an aircraft changes when flying in icing. As pilots are aware, when operating in icing, you typically will fly at a higher minimum speed both in level flight and on approach. In addition, flying an approach in icing conditions requires reduced flap extension, or none at all, which also increases the approach and landing speeds. This optional FIKI enhancement will utilize the state of the propeller de-ice switch position to adjust the low-speed envelope protection limit for flight segments when it is activated.
The Genesys Aerosystems S-TEC 5000 autopilot offers a similar design for Part 25 aircraft. Currently, it is offered on the Casa 212, Casa CN235 and Dornier 228 airplanes. Genesys Aerosystems is also evaluating potential expansion to other Part 25 aircraft.
Options for Rotorcraft
Helicopter operators can install one of Genesys Aerosystems’ VFR or IFR stability augmentation systems – the HeliSAS Autopilot Stability and Augmentation System. The list of approved rotorcraft for VFR use is substantially large, while the current IFR approvals are limited to the Airbus EC-145e and the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk.
In addition to the autopilot product line, Genesys Aero-systems continues to support and enhance the Chelton Flight Systems EFIS offerings. With an expansive approval list, both airplane and rotorcraft, they provide high-resolution WAAS-enabled displays complete with synthetic vision for the special mission market. Additional information on Genesys Aerosystems products can be found at www.genesys-aerosystems.com.