6 Common Myths About Autopilot

Airplane cockpit

The advent of autopilot systems has revolutionized the way in which pilots control airplanes. Autopilot systems are computer systems that, as you may know, are designed to automatically control airplanes. While autopilot sounds self-explanatory, though, there are several common myths about autopilot systems that you shouldn’t believe.

#1) Available in All Airplanes

While common, not all airplanes have an autopilot system. Older commercial airplanes, as well as smaller private airplanes, typically lack an autopilot system. Pilots must control these airplanes manually and without the assistance of an autopilot system.

#2) During During Takeoffs

Some people assume that pilots use autopilot systems during takeoffs. The truth is that pilots must typically wait until they’ve achieved a certain altitude before they can enable autopilot. This means pilots must initiate the takeoff manually, and after reaching the necessary altitude, they can switch over to the autopilot system.

#3) Only Used Occasionally

If an airplane is equipped with an autopilot system, pilots will likely use it for most of the flight. Some reports suggest that 90% to 95% of the flight time of a typical commercial airplane is spent on autopilot. They’ll typically take off manually while switching over to autopilot shortly thereafter.

#4) Not Affected By Bad Weather

Another common myth is that autopilot systems aren’t affected by bad weather. Autopilot systems can, in fact, see through dark clouds and other visibility-restricting weather conditions. But most autopilot systems perform poorly in gusty winds. If there are strong wing gusts present, pilots may have to control the airplane manually. Autopilot systems often struggle in gusty winds.

#5) It’s a New Invention

Autopilot isn’t a new invention. While associated with modern airplanes, it’s been around for over a century. The world’s first autopilot system was invented in 1912 by Sperry Corporation. It features a heading indicator and altitude indicator, which it uses to automatically adjust the airplane’s elevators and rudder. Autopilot systems have become more advanced since then. The

#6) Limited to Airplanes

Contrary to common belief, autopilot systems aren’t limited to airplanes. There are other types of vehicles that feature an autopilot system. Some helicopters are equipped with an autopilot system. Some electric vehicles, such as Tesla, also come with an autopilot system. They use different mechanics than the autopilot systems found in airplanes, but they are designed for the same purpose of automatically controlling the vehicle in which they are equipped.

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