“The Garmin Autoland system marks a significant improvement in civil aviation,” said NAA Chairman Jim Albaugh in a June 3 announcement. “Its ability to take over an airplane with a disabled pilot and land it safely will save many lives in the future. It’s a remarkable technical achievement and clearly merits the Collier Trophy.”
Noting that pilot incapacitation accidents are rare but predictably fatal, the NAA praised the creation of Garmin Autoland as an effort “born of a moral responsibility and obligation to improve and enhance the safety of the entire aviation industry.”
A passenger can activate the system with the press of a button. Once activated, “the system calculates a flight path to the most suitable airport, while avoiding terrain and adverse weather, initiates a stabilized approach to the runway and lands the aircraft—without pilot or passenger intervention,” the announcement said.
“Autoland began as a simple exploration to develop automation technology for general aviation aircraft,” said Garmin President Cliff Pemble. “It is a tremendous honor for Autoland to be recognized as one of the greatest achievements in aviation history. We owe this accomplishment to the many Garmin associates who dedicated themselves to creating this game-changing aviation safety technology.”
AOPA Editor in Chief Thomas B. Haines gave AOPA Pilot readers a pilot’s-eye view of Garmin Autoland in his October 2019 article “Hands Off,” noting after seeing it in action that the technology “appears very ready for prime time.” In April 2020, AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman reported on Garmin Autoland’s potential to have a profound and long-lasting impact on general aviation.
A date for the formal presentation of the Collier Trophy, which is awarded annually for “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America,” will be announced later, the NAA said.