Garmin adds IFR and 4-axiscapability to its GFC 600H rotorcraft flight control system

Feb. 22, 2024
Leonardo Helicopters' AW109 Trekker is the first platform to incorporate the GFC 600H with IFR and collective axis capabilities.

OLATHE, Kan., - Garmin in Olathe, Kan. announced its GFC 600H Helicopter Flight Control System is now available in an instrument flight rules (IFR) configuration with a stability augmentation system (SAS). The latest update includes collective axis control, marking the first time the GFC 600H system incorporates 4-axis capability. Leonardo Helicopters' AW109 Trekker has become the inaugural platform to integrate this system, offering operators an innovative flight control solution designed to reduce pilot workload and enhance mission effectiveness.

The GFC 600H now features a console-mounted mode controller equipped with push-button controls and a night vision goggle (NVG)-compatible display. The digital control system incorporates newly developed linear actuators by Garmin, delivering faster, crisper, and more powerful responses for smooth handling across the entire flight envelope. Supported autopilot modes include altitude acquire, altitude hold, approach auto-level, radar height hold, vertical speed, indicated airspeed, heading select, attitude hold, and more. Additionally, the GFC 600H can execute various approach types based on navigation system inputs.

In the IFR configuration, the GFC 600H comprises a GMC 605H mode controller, GFS 83 smart servos in each of the four axes, and three GLA 85 smart linear actuators (pitch/roll/yaw). This configuration establishes a reliable digital system that is lightweight while offering robust features. Notably, the GFC 600H leverages smart servos to eliminate the need for dual linear actuators and flight control computers in each axis, ensuring a cost-effective yet redundant setup required for IFR flight.

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The SAS functionality of the GFC 600H enhances the helicopter's fundamental flying characteristics, providing improved handling and precision throughout the flight envelope. With rate damping through smart linear actuators, the GFC 600H delivers an effective SAS solution for operators. In a significant development, the system can now control the collective, allowing for hands-off operations during cruise, transition to hover, and hover. Safety features associated with the 4th axis include low height protection and power limiting, which can prevent controlled descent into terrain and maintain engine parameters below maximum limits, respectively.

The IFR configuration of the GFC 600H expands upon previously certified features in the visual flight rules (VFR) configuration, available for AS350 and Bell 505 helicopters. Safety tools like Garmin's Helicopter Electronic Stability and Protection (H-ESP™) and a dedicated LVL button further contribute to pilot safety, assisting in maintaining a safe flight envelope during manual helicopter control. The IFR configuration has received approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for use on the AW109 Trekker helicopter, with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval anticipated soon.

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