Garmin GFC 600 Autopilot Certified for the Piper Meridian


In the fall of 2021, Garmin announced the long awaited confirmation that the Garmin GFC 600 autopilot is now certified for the Piper Meridian. The Garmin GFC 600 autopilot has been certified for all other types of the Piper PA46 line of aircraft, but the Meridian was last in line. The airplane has to have been manufactured prior to 2009 and have Avidyne avionics, Meggitt, or have been retrofitted with a Garmin G500 (no G1000 aircraft since those already have the GFC 700 autopilot).

The Garmin GFC 600 autopilot is the ultimate digital autopilot. The integration with the Garmin G500, GTN 750 and GTN 650 units is a beautiful thing. The autopilot communicates with all the heading and altitude bugs, flies approaches smoothly, and even has a level button.

In the latest technological marvel from Garmin, Garmin Safe Glide, the GFC 600 autopilot is critical in reducing pilot workload in an engine failure situation. It flies the airplane for you and takes you to the nearest airport, reducing the stress and allowing the pilot to troubleshoot the situation.

Texas Top Aviation recommends Abilene Aero in Abilene, Texas for any and all avionics installs. They have worked with several of our customers in the last year, are extremely knowledgable and do excellent work. Call them for a quote on a new Garmin GFC 600 autopilot in your Piper Meridian.

Garmin Smart Glide


Recently, I was training a customer who had a brand new instrument panel installed in his TBM 700. The avionics shop that did the work (Abilene Aero, who I highly recommend for any panel installs, located at KABI) told us when we picked the plane up that the new Garmin GTN 750Xi had the most recent software update, which included the Garmin Smart Glide.

I had never used the Garmin Smart Glide before, so I was eager to check it out during our training. When we got to engine failures, we pushed the Emergency button on the Home page of the GTN 750Xi, and then the magic happened.

The plane was also equipped with a Garmin G600TXi PFD and the Garmin GFC 600 Autopilot. In order for Smart Glide to work, there has to be either a GTN 750Xi or GTN 650Xi installed, along with a G500TXi or G600TXi and a Garmin Autopilot. Garmin is working on getting the legacy G500 as well as the GI 275 and G5 to work with the above GPS units for Smart Glide as well.

Here’s what happens. The plane loses it’s engine. The pilot’s workload and stress level suddenly goes way up. Trim the airplane for best glide, find the nearest airport, attempt restart. Do it quickly so you have time to focus on the glide. Oh yeah, squawk 7700 and declare your emergency. All the while plummeting toward the ground in a somewhat controlled crash. Yikes.

Garmin Smart Glide takes over the flying part, allowing the pilot to handle the restart, while making it much easier to squawk, talk and plan the engine out landing. On the home page of the GTN 750Xi/650Xi, the pilot simply taps the Emergency icon on the bottom of the screen. The Autopilot comes on and goes into IAS mode and maintains best glide while descending. The GPS immediately analyzes the Glide Advisor, and turns to the nearest airport in the glide ring (if there is no airport within gliding distance, the GTN 750Xi advises the pilot). Then, the Autopilot flies directly to the Nearest airport, allowing the pilot the ability to take attempt a restart.

Once it is determined that the engine won’t start, the Garmin Smart Glide has excellent situation awareness tools. On all screens, the pilot is constantly being advised of how high AGL the plane is currently, while advising also of how high AGL the plane will be over the airport that the glide is set up for. There is also a short cut on the screen to tap to squawk 7700 as well as runway length information at the airport.

The Garmin Smart Glide Button wasn’t installed yet in the TBM, but that will make things even easier when it is (it will be certified in January). This is amazing technology that all Garmin GTN 750Xi pilots should have their software updated to. Remember, you have to have a Garmin Autopilot and a Garmin PFD for it all to work.

MMOPA Safety Foundation Training Videos


The Malibu and M-Class Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (MMOPA) announced new Safety Foundation Training videos in September. The videos are aimed at both new Piper PA46 pilots and existing Piper PA46 pilots, all in the effort to fly the Piper PA46 to the highest and safest standards.

Six videos have been released thus far, with the promise of more to come. The topics of the first videos are:

  • Instrument Approach
  • Visual Approach
  • Manual Gear Extension
  • Emergency Descent
  • Descent Planning
  • Takeoff and Climb

Eventually, the goal is to release high quality training videos encompassing all aspects of Piper PA46 flying.

To view the videos, you will need an MMOPA membership. The link to the MMOPA Safety and Education Foundation video page is:

Rudder Use


I have the blessing (same say it’s a curse) of being a tailwheel pilot. I did my tailwheel training in a Citabria and have gathered about 400 hours over the years in Citabrias, Super Cubs, and Maules (don’t judge all tailwheel airplanes by a Maule, by the way. The Maule is it’s own unique animal). The blessing of being a tailwheel pilot is that it greatly enhances my stick and rudder skills for all airplanes.

No matter what airplane you fly, basic stick and rudder skills are always important. At some point during a flight, the rudder will need to be used, even if you have an airplane that has a yaw damper. Rudder use is vitally important in the takeoff and landing phase, especially if you fly an airplane that generates a lot of torque on the takeoff roll. Rudder in that phase of flight is pretty evident, because if the rudder isn’t used, you’ll go off the left side of the runway.

Where I want to focus is rudder use in the landing phase. As an airplane comes down final, there are several forces that are be acting on the airplane. When it’s bumpy, updrafts and downdrafts are moving the plane up and down and all around. To correct for a bump that sends the airplane into a roll, aileron is added in the opposite direction of the roll. That aileron input also induces adverse yaw, pulling the nose of the airplane in the opposite direction that the pilot is moving the ailerons.

If a pilot isn’t using his feet correctly, then the nose of the airplane will wallow around through the air as aileron inputs are used. The tail is also moving around quite a bit, so the pilot might not “feel” the yawing moment, but the passengers in the back seat certainly will.

The other advantage that comes with proper rudder usage on short final is the airplane is more responsive to control inputs. When utilizing both the ailerons and the rudder, a pilot is able to fly the airplane much more precisely and control it much better.

This doesn’t mean you have to be staring at the turn coordinator the whole time down final. In fact, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do. Your eyes need to be outside the airplane. Just get in the habit of stepping on the rudder whenever you move the ailerons on final and eventually, you will feel what your airplane is doing. Don’t step on the rudder as hard as you can, but slight pedal pressure in the direction of aileron input will make a big difference.

Rudder is also vitally important for landing in a crosswind no matter that airplane. Crosswind landings are a learned skill that take a lot of practice to perfect. There is also a lot of confusion as to what control input does what during the landing.

Here is the simplest way to picture a crosswind landing and what the controls do:

  • Aileron-When performing a crosswind landing, the ailerons keep the airplane over the centerline. If the airplane is drifting to the right of the centerline, add left aileron to bring it back to centerline, then keep enough aileron control pressure in to keep the airplane over centerline. In a perfect crosswind landing, the main tire on the windward side will touch down first. Left crosswind means left tire touching first.
  • Rudder-When performing a crosswind landing, the job of the rudder is to straighten the nose to point down the runway. You will not be coordinated in a crosswind landing, you will be slipping, which is the goal. So, with a left crosswind, you will be inputting left aileron to remain over the centerline and you will also need right rudder to straighten the nose. This also prevents the airplane from actually rolling in the direction of the aileron input.

If you remember for a crosswind landing: “Aileron into the wind to stay over centerline, opposite rudder to straighten the nose.” Too much aileron and the plane will drift into the wind. Too much rudder and the nose will yaw in the opposite direction.

Rudder is very important, even in our day and age where a lot of general aviation airplanes have yaw dampers. Our feet only have a job for a short period of time, but that is the most critical time. An excellent way to get more proficient in rudder use is to go get a tailwheel endorsement. If you are in the central Texas area, check out TacAreo in Fredericksburg, T82.

Don’t let your feet fall asleep!

Iridium Zoleo Allows In Flight Messaging


Satellite communications company Iridium now has a really nifty little product called the Iridium Zoleo Satellite Communicator. Most pilots who fly newer Cirrus Aircraft will be familiar with the company name Iridium. Iridium manufactures the built in satellite phone that is an option in all Cirrus after 2012. The Iridium Zoleo brings messaging capability to any airplane in a cost effective and simple manner.

The Iridium Zoleo is a device roughly the size of a walkie-talkie. It links up with the Iridium satellite network to send and receive messages and emails anywhere in the world (or air!). To make things easier, the Iridium Zoleo links with a phone via Bluetooth to a free app that allows the user to write a message directly from the phone and send through the device.

The Iridium Zoleo is affordable at only $200. A plan has to be purchased in order to send messages, with 3 different levels of subscription offered: 25 messages a month for $20, 250 messages a month for $35, or unlimited messages per month for $50. Each plan offers a $6 upgrade to allow unlimited worldwide breadcrumbs and tracking.

The Iridium Zoleo has a 200 hour battery life and is designed to be shock, dust, and water resistant. Plus, the device has a built in SOS that can be used anywhere in the world. So, you can take it rafting down the Grand Canyon, hiking in the Andes, flying over the Atlantic, or SOS if you are stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Click here to read more about Zoleo and here to read more about the Zoleo plans.