Vertical Power Offers Emergency Runway Seeker
Runway Seeker displays the path to the best available airport, but the system can also be linked to an autopilot and actually fly the airplane to final approach at the airport.
March 29, 2012 - Vertical Power, maker of advanced electrical systems for amateur-built experimental airplanes, announced this week at Sun 'n Fun the VP-400 backup EFIS that can also automatically fly the airplane to final approach in an emergency.
The VP-400 system is a complete EFIS with its own AHRS electronic gyros and air data computer that provides redundancy for the airplane's primary instruments. But the unique feature is Runway Seeker technology that continuously monitors the airplane position and calculates which is the best available airport in the event of an emergency, such as power failure.
Runway Seeker displays the path to the best available airport, but the system can also be linked to an autopilot and actually fly the airplane to final approach at the airport. Vertical Power's electronic circuit breakers can also operate the flaps and pitch trim to manage glide to fly the airplane to the proper position for final approach. VP-400 cannot actually land the airplane, but can fly the airplane to the optimum position on final approach.
At first it would seem that the nearest airport is the best option in an emergency, but that's not always true. High terrain between you and an airport can make it impossible to glide to the nearest, but an airport farther away without obstructions between you and it can work. VP-400 considers terrain. It also accounts for winds aloft, which distorts glide range in ways that are not always immediately apparent. And the system also considers runway length and obstructions near the runway when selecting the optimum emergency landing site.
The VP-400 Runway Seeker continuously makes the emergency descent calculation but is passive until you press the single engagement button. Then, VP-400 engages the autopilot and begins flying the profile, which may include 360 degree turns or other maneuvers necessary to lose altitude. The flight path, including orbiting turns if necessary, is displayed on the EFIS so the pilot can hand-fly the airplane or use the autopilot. If there is no available airport within gliding range the VP-400 alerts you and suggests the most favorable flight path even though it's unlikely you can reach the runway.
Each airplane owner measures the actual glide performance of his airplane and enters the information into the VP-400 so the flight path calculation is based on real world performance, not theoretical data.
VP-400 is available only for experimental airplanes. Vertical Power developed the system in conjunction with Laminar Research, maker of the X-Plane flight simulator software. The system requires an airport data base subscription from Seattle Avionics. Runway Seeker is designed to operate with TruTrak autopilots. For more information, click here.