Monday, August 23, 2010

Autopilot Antics

As anticipated in last evening's post, the northern end of this morning's flight from the DC area to Bridgeport included some weather.

There wasn't a whole lot of precipitation (see image, left) but the New York area was pretty well clouded over, with layers from 1,500 feet to about 6,000. The METAR at KBDR at about the time of the screen shot was:

KBDR 231252Z 06012KT 10SM OVC014 21/18 A2988...
ten miles visibility, wind from the northeast at 12 knots, and an overcast ceiling at 1,400 feet. Not too bad.

That was about when the autopilot decided to stop cooperating.

N631S is equipped with an STEC System 50 autopilot with GPSS (GPS Steering) capability. These units have been extremely reliable as long as N631S has been with us. But not today. This morning, very shortly after I snapped that picture, the autopilot simply turned itself off.

It seemed perfectly content to have itself turned back on again, but it was clearly not to be relied upon. So I planned to hand-fly the ILS 6 approach.

The STEC 50 shut down twice more over Long Island, so as I started across Long Island Sound I shut the thing off and went back to basics. I have to confess that it was a slightly humbling experience, as I'd let myself get a bit rusty in the art of hand-flying ILS approaches in actual IMC. I was quite happy that the ceiling was relatively high. In the end the approach was a bit ragged but acceptable. Below, courtesy of the nice folks at FlightAware.com, is an indelible record of my choppy effort to get established on the localizer.

Dave the Avionics Wizard will be troubleshooting the autopilot tomorrow.

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