Garmin Smart Glide

Interesting news from Garmin today: A new Smart Glide feature for their GPS and flight displays.

In the event of an engine failure, a pilot can activate Smart Glide which will locate the nearest suitable airport within the aircraft’s glide range. It will create a flight plan direct to the airport, and if you have a compatible autopilot it can even fly you there.

I’m curious what everyone’s thoughts are about this. How do you feel it compares to other engine failure safeguards like CAPS? Would you feel better flying in an aircraft with Smart Glide?


Quite cool, as a runner, I own many farming products. I don’t think my certain watch has this feature. Good to know though!


What if there are no airports in reach? Do it look for fields as an alternative or other alternative safer landing locations or just not work at all?

I think it just shows a PacMan-style Game Over screen.

Just kidding.

The article mentions it alerts the pilot that there are no airports in gliders range. I bet the best glide and quick-select 7700 features still work, and the glide ring would be helpful.


This is very interesting and seems like a very helpful feature if it is ever needed. Props to Garmin being innovative and producing such a useful tool. Definitely showing us the future of aviation, specifically GA in this case.

I honestly don’t like this… I think what makes aviation so amazing and unique is the pilots. There have been so many incidents where logically there should have been a catastrophic disaster but the Pilots knowledge and experience led them to make a decision that saved lives…
To name a few Cathay 780 and US Airways 1549.
So I don’t like the trend of automating emergency responses in the air. This is where I trust pilot performance the most.

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Also adding on…

Pilots should know where they are at all times and always be looking for a place to land if they need to.


Thanks for sharing this.

It’s interesting this capability is only now being added. Certainly in terms of technology, it’s been possible to have had this feature long ago.

In terms of use and safety, pilot experience and training is the weak link. For a skilled pilot though, being “energy aware” of what your height can buy you, seems to be a good thing in the hands of a skilled pilot.

The risk is a sense of complacency; being undertrained in the use, and in practicing engine out glides. I would think anyway.

Technology works best when it supplements

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exactly. majority of pilots on the small jets are on the path to the big jets, so if they are spoiled with this kinda thing when they don’t even have the most basic experience… then ouch.


I’d have to agree with what some of the others have said already. My biggest fear is that this will be relied upon too heavily. Essentially a crutch. Being able to manage energy, plan, and critically think during a situation is what makes a pilot “good”. They’re a good pilot. Let’s just go back to the basics. You lose and engine, you refer to your GPS or map to determine your location and find the nearest suitable airport. If you can’t do this within a few seconds, then you as a pilot are not situationally aware and are in a poor position to be sitting in that pilot seat.

Smaller GA aircraft are getting to the point where they’re getting technically advanced but they’re not quite to the point where task saturation is overwhelming the pilot. If a pilot is task saturated in say a G36 Bonanza, then the pilot may not be fully qualified/prepared to fly such aircraft given lack of experience to fly a high performance aircraft. Too much aircraft for a pilot.

On the other hand, I do see the the benefit in having such feature. It’s a safety tool, but I’m afraid the disadvantages towards the pilot outweigh the overall benefits. You’re starting to infringe on some of the basics of piloting and that’s a bit of a concern.

Interesting stuff. Its crazy to see where technology is going in aviation with automation.


I especially like your notion of managing “task saturation.”

edit: At some point there’s, perhaps, a philosophical issue of how much control pilots should ultimately have over the aircraft with ever advancing technology. If the pilot could accomplish the entire flight with a single button push, would it be safer? I’d be sceptical (need skin in the game to keep the technology in line, is the gut feeling).

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Hmm. I think if anything, this feature would reduce task saturation. This feature makes it near-impossible to make an error in identifying a suitable airport, letting the pilot take time to focus on running checklists to get the engine restarted or prepare for a landing. Almost like having an automatic co-pilot. Less of a “can’t do this” and more or a “don’t need to do this because of tech.”

You’re very right. But driver should always be looking out to avoid accidents, and yet we have blind-spot detection, backup cameras, etc. I think new tech helping pilots make good decisions is a good thing.

Also worth pointing out, this just flies the plane in the direction of an airport. The pilot still needs to take over and land.


you should still be looking over the shoulder. That’s what I do

Anyways I don’t like this more for the points that others have said and personally me if my engine was to fail. I wouldn’t rely on it. And anyways I know where my best landing spots are in an emergency. Now I might use it if I was in IMC or it wasn’t clear below me.


But human interaction with technology does not always lead to a straightforward outcome. Autothrottle seems straightforward as a safety feature in terms of task reduction. Yet autothrottle has caused complacency incidents where autothrottle had been unexpectedly behind the curve (turned off, etc.) and the pilot failed to monitor airspeed due to increased complacency.

Often the test of time (data from experience of implementation) reveals unexpected bugs. The most notorious recent case was software augmentation of the flight envelope to absorb an engine configuration resulting in increased pitch instability. Unanticipated accidents resulted from good intentions.

Good point! It would be interesting to see the number of incidents prevented by autothrottle vs the number of incidents it contributes to. I bet autothrottle would result in a net decrease in accidents.

Here I was thinking about flying along on a clear blue day… but in IMC or at night, wow! I imagine this could make all the difference then.

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I’m personally against this, I mean, what else should the pilot be doing when he is at cruise? You should always be running that scenario, and looking for places to land. Like @DeerCrusher said, its a crutch. Now pilots don’t have to pay that attention, and they can do whatever else they need to do.

Imo this will make lazy and untrained pilots.

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