An emergency landing system that passengers can activate

Nov 28, 2019

ON NOVEMBER 9TH 2018 a Piper Dakota light aircraft flying over Iowa broadcast a distress call. The pilot seemed to have suffered a heart attack. One of the other three people on board, a student aviator, had taken over the controls, but to no avail. The plane crashed shortly afterwards, killing all four.

How often such things happen is not well recorded. But an Australian report published in 2016 listed 15 cases in the five years from 2010 to 2014 of the pilots of small aircraft being incapacitated. In three of these the aircraft suffered what is known euphemistically in aviation circles as a “collision with terrain”. Occasionally, an instructor on the ground, perhaps assisted by a pilot flying alongside in another aircraft, has been able to provide an instant flying lesson to someone on board a plane that has lost its pilot, and talk them down successfully. But not often. It is tricky enough for a neophyte to keep an aircraft flying straight, level and on an appropriate bearing to arrive at a suitable airfield. Landing the thing safely takes a miracle. What small aircraft need in these circumstances is a panic button. And a firm called Garmin has now created one.

Garmin, a Swiss-registered, American-operated technology company, is best know for its GPS satellite-based navigation systems. But the firm also makes...


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