S-TEC eyes turbine market

April 10, 2008 by Paul Richfield, Senior Editor

S-TEC, which owns a majority chunk of the general aviation autopilot market, is setting its sights on aging turbine-powered aircraft.

Speaking at SunĀ ‘n Fun Wednesday, Greg Plantz, the company’s marketing vice president, said the first targets are likely to be older designs whose “legacy” autopilot systems are becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain. The main issue, he said, is the international criteria for reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM), which require a very high level of autopilot and altimetry system performance. Older Cessna Citations are likely candidates for the S-TEC treatment, Plantz said, as are 1970s-vintage Embraer Bandierante and [Bombardier] Shorts turboprops.

The turboprop choices struck me as a little odd, considering the relatively small numbers of these types remaining in service, and the fact that they typically operate below RVSM altitudes. “It’s a logical step, because we’re already on King Airs, Conquests, and Twin Commanders,” he said. Maybe I’m missing something. Can anybody shed some light on this?

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