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An iPad app can land your plane if the engine quits

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
December 18, 2014
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If the engine quits in a small plane, it's not the end of the world -- just glide to the nearest airport and make a dead-stick landing. Simple, right? Sure, if the pilot makes perfect, lightning-quick decisions. Since we're only human, there's now an iPad app called Xavion that can connect with a small-plane's autopilot, find the nearest airport and, if possible, fly you to the runway's threshold by itself. It'll even tell you if you can't make it, so that you can find a nearby farmer's field instead. According to Popular Science, the autopilot update will arrive in a few weeks for the app, which currently offers manual pilot assistance in an emergency (see the video below).

It'll even tell you if you can't make it, so that you can find a nearby farmer's field instead.

Xavion keeps track of airports near your flight path as you go, along with airplane flight data, the weather and even cabin pressurization, thanks to the iPad's built-in barometer. If something goes wrong, you just tell it to go to the nearest airport. It'll then connect to your autopilot via WiFi and guide the airplane home, while showing a virtual track of the path, simulated terrain and a moving map in case you need to take manual control. It's only during the landing flare that the pilot needs to grab the controls. On top of engine-out situations, the app could also be useful for a medical problem or other emergencies, giving the pilot a second set of "hands" to get to the nearest airport safely.

The Xavion system with autopilot assist will never be certified by the FAA as a primary (or even secondary) flight system, but it can be used by pilots as a discretionary backup since it's not attached to the plane. Some capabilities, like the alert when you can't make a runway, aren't available at all in any commercial systems, even those that cost $10,000 and up. For a bit of extra peace of mind, that makes the app's $199 per year price tag a relative bargain.

[Image credit: Flightlog/Flickr]

In this article: App, Autopilot, Flying, Ipad, TruTrak
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