DON BARTHOLOMEW ANSWERS BOB O’DELL’S AUTOPILOT QUESTION… (070400)
From: Bob O’Dell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As someone who files IFR in my Swift (N80881) I find it takes all my attention and sometimes then-some to keep pointed in the right direction and at the right altitude while giving ATC all the attention they deserve. I don’t have wing leveler or autopilot of any sort. My search of the records shows that only the Edo-Aire Mitchell “Century I” has an STC for use in the Swift. This unit is pretty low tech, heavy, and expensive for what you get (wing leveler and NAV tracking). Does anyone out there know of any other devices that have been STC’d for the Swift? Failing that, do you (that expert out there) know of successful installations using the 337 route? — Bob O’Dell
Saw your question on the newsletter about the auto pilot. I installed a Century II in my plane. I used the paperwork for the Century I and wrote the 337 “Installed in accordance with STC xxxxx with the following deviations: removed turn coordinator p/n xxxx and installed Attitude indicator p/n xxxxxx and Directional Gyro p/n xxxxxxx to drive the auto pilot. The paperwork went through without much effort. — Don Bartholomew, Aeroplane Factory
NEED HELP KEEPING YOUR WINGS LEVEL??? (110200)
From: C. Robert O’Dell <email@example.com>
Subject: Adding The Brittain Wing Leveler to a Swift…
I’m one of those guys who really likes the responsiveness of the Swift but don’t enjoy the side-effect that the bird isn’t very stable around the roll axis. No matter how well I have the aileron trim tab adjusted it likes to head off in a new direction, depending on the last bump it passed through. This is especially annoying when flying in IMC (nee IFR). So, I started researching what autopilots and winglevelers had been STC’d for the Swift. My search uncovered the Century and Brittain units. The Brittain 401-015-501 Basic Stability System (single axis, aka wingleveler) is about a third the cost of the Century unit and has turned out well. I’m just back from a trip with the Swift and I was able to get the airplane washed at the same time as giving the unit its maiden voyage. It makes all the difference in the world on the pilot load when flying IMC.
The unit is available from Brittain Industries in Tulsa (3266 N. Sheridan Rd, 74115). My main contact was Jerry Walters (918-836-7701).
The heart of the unit is a 3 1/8 inch diameter, panel mounted gyro which also gives a rate of turn display, i.e. no more holes needed in your panel if you have this size T/B or Rate of Turn indicator. This is electrically driven, but will operate on vacuum too. If the vacuum pump fails you still have the Rate of Turn, and if the electrical fails, you still have that plus the wing leveling function. The regulated output vacuum drives a pair of servos attached to the aileron cables in the bay accessed through the after big removable (belly) panel. This is NOT an installation where you just open the panel and screw on the servos if you have the belly auxiliary tanks like I do, since one must remove the fuel plumbing that connects the tanks and the float fuel indicator. However, once that is out, installing the servos was only a few hours effort and most of that was measuring twice before cutting once. Installing the panel mounted unit and the on/off switch is straightforward if you have that 3 1/8 inch hole (of course I didn’t). The plans provided are clear, once you know how to do it and what to watch out for. In particular, one needs to install the servos slightly lower than the plans specify in order to get plenty of clearance with the belly tanks (which the plane used for getting the STC did have, although evidently of a slightly different dimension than mine).
If you follow their directions on adjusting the vacuum going to the unit and the servos you’ll probably have too much control command and the airplane will rock back and forth when the unit is turned on. If anyone out there gets one of these units, give me a call (615-279-8180) and I’ll tell you how to do the final adjustments.
I found Brittain to give good service and am obviously pleased with the performance of the device. It sure makes life simpler flying the Swift cross country. — Bob O’Dell
AUTOPILOT… (DEC 03)
From: Gene Gillott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Century Autopilot
I just wanted to give you my experience with the Century I Autopilot. I installed it and it works….kinda! The problem with the 0-300 is the lack of a vaccuum pump so I had to install 2 large venturies (UGHHH!). Even then I had to fine tune the tensions on the aileron cables and polish the control column to get the friction down to a minimum. After all was said and done, I found that the response of the vaccuum actuators was just too slow for the roll rate of the airplane and as soon as you got into any rought air it would start to hunt and set up a very uncomfortable rocking motion. In smooth air, it would track a heading (I was using Loran at the time). I have since given up on it and have disconnected the actuators. Just not worth it. At some point I will remove it all and get rid of the excess weight. I did remove the venturies and gained a few MPH in the process. I do know that others have used electric wing levelers but do not have any experience with them. I suspect that they would do the job much better. You need something that will act quickly. Gene Gillott (Swiftbird 2) Swift C-FKXY
MORE AUTOPILOT… (DEC 03)
Subj: Julian Allen’s Autopilot question
From: Sam Swift <Flyboycpa@aol.com>
Hope all is well. I was contemplating the autopilot idea and looked on Century’s website. They list both the Century I and Century 2000 as approved for the Swift. I don’t know any other details about the installation (i.e.-single axis, two axis, etc.). take care, Sam Swift N3760K
YET, EVEN MORE, AUTOPILOT… (DEC 03)
From: Steve Roth <Swift97B@aol.com>
Subject: Autopilot for the Swift
Although I have not checked recently (last six months), the Century I is the only autopilot STC’ed for the Swift. There is a Britain unit (or something like that), but I have never seen one other than in very old Cessnas. I believe they worked from vacuum. The Century I is wing leveler only, although it will track a heading from the GPS is you get it within a few degrees of the heading then push the “Track” button. I have found it to be a great wing leveler and a reasonable tracker. It is expensive for what you get. I tried to buy one but was told that Century will only allow them to be sold by installing dealers. I eventually found another way. I had called S-Tec (as others have) but was eventually told that basically they are making too much money on the big stuff to spend the time and money to work up the STC for the Swift with such a little market. They already have a Swift to do their installation on to get the FAA paperwork done. Bottom line – S-Tec will never build an approved autopilot for the Swift. The Tru-Track stuff is the highest tech stuff on the market and it will do anything. BUT, it is not approved for certificated airplanes and can be used on experimentals only. Regards, Steve Roth