With the unveiling of its new Smart Glide utility, Garmin has created a capability you hope you’ll never have to rely upon, but if you do, it could be a life saver. What Smart Glide does could fit on a fortune cookie-sized quick-use guide: “Lost engine power? Smart Glide shows you where to go.” But the more you look into what that calculation really involves, the more complicated and intriguing it becomes.
For starters you need the right equipment, which is basically a compatible Garmin display and navigator. The utility, which is all software, does this: You lose engine power, you activate the utility (either by a three-second push of the Direct To button or the dedicated guarded panel button, if there is one) and Smart Glide puts a ring of where your glide range is, as based on the plane you’re flying, obviously—the setup is done by the installer. It nominates the best airport for you to go for, offers alternate choices, gives you frequencies and shows you your inflight situation in colorful and easy- to- interpret manner. You do the flying.
- So, question one is, “ls Smart Glide dynamic or static?” It’s dynamic. That means it changes the values it shows you based on a number of factors, including your altitude and the winds aloft and the terrain, among others. So the information Smart Glide gives you will change depending on how things go. As you fly, the size and shape of the box and the data associated with it will change, too. And obviously, the data for your glide will be aircraft dependent.
- What about Smart Glide and Autoland? So what if you have an airplane with Autoland, Garmin’s utility for taking over control of the plane in an emergency and landing it in case of pilot incapacitation? The answer is, no, Smart Glide will not automate the whole thing for you. In essence, Smart Glide and Autoland are two separate utilities, though both under the Autonomi envelope protection banner. Would it be possible to have an Autoland- equipped plane do the flying? Presumably, it would be, though Garmin wasn’t talking about any future integrations with Autoland-like capabilities, though we’d be surprised not to see something like that happen at some point.
- What if there’s no airport within gliding distance? Garmin wasn’t entirely clear about this, but a spokesperson did suggest that it would possibly suggest recommend military or private fields if no public landing site was available. Also, let’s remember that the Smart Glide ring continues to be a huge planning bonus for off-airport landings.
- What’s the biggest benefit? In our view, the biggest benefit is cutting down on the time it takes pilots to figure stuff out on their own. Within microseconds, Smart Glide has it all figured out and offers the best engine-out option for the conditions.
And the sooner the pilot makes that call and pitches for best glide, which Smart Glide helps you do, too, the better the chances for a successful outcome.