AVSIM Utility Review

Century Triden Autopilot

Product Information
Publisher: Flight1 Software
Description:  General Aviation Flight Control System.

Download Size:
8 MB

Format:
Auto-installer
Simulation Type:
FS9 and FS-X
Reviewed by: Bert Pieke AVSIM Senior Staff Reviewer - May 18, 2007

Introduction

The Century Flight Systems TRIDEN SERIES Autopilot is an advanced General Aviation Flight Control System. The Century Triden AP system includes the Triden AP with vertical speed, alt hold, approach, nav, hdg, flight director and yaw damper modes. The Century Triden rivals features and performance found in commercial airliners.

In addition to the Autopilot, the TRIDEN Automatic Flight Control System includes the Century NSD-1000 HSI, Century ADI w/FD and the Century GPSS/HDG switch, plus an Altitude Preselect and Alerter.

A panel editor interface allows you to add the autopilot system to existing aircraft in your flight simulator library. Two manuals, one for the autopilot system and the other for the panel editor, are also included with the software.

If you have ever wanted to change some gauges in one of your aircraft, you have likely run into the task of editing the “panel.cfg” file with a text editor. Well, based on the description of this add-on by Flight1 software, you might think that those days are over. I decided to try to install and test this gauge set into some of my current aircraft and take it for a test flight.

Installation & Documentation:

The package comes as an 8 Meg download, and can be purchased at www.flight1.com.

The auto-installer worked well on both my FS9 and FSX systems and installed the panel editor program and two manuals into the Flight One Software folder. The manuals are brief and to the point, and should get you ready to install the gauges in no time. Below are the gauges, as they will appear in your panel: nice, high-resolution graphics that are a definite improvement over most of the FS default gauges.

ADI HSI AP
Alerter HDG/GPS switch

As you look in the panel editor manual, you’ll see an example of the “Before” and “After” treatment, applied to Flight1’s own Cessna 172R.

Panel editor 1 Panel editor 2

Adding the Century Triden gauges to a cockpit panel:

Next step, after reading the manual, is to pick the aircraft you want to modify. I jumped right into the deep end of the pool by picking the FSD Seneca V, but quickly came to the realization that the panel editor does not work with just any panel. So, second time around, I chose the FS Caravan with much better results.

You essentially pick those gauges you want removed from the panel (here the ADI, HSI, ADF, Alerter, and GPS switch) and after deleting them, you pick the gauges from the menu (above left) in the screen and drag them to the positions where you want them displayed. Then, while holding the Ctrl-key down, you can use the mouse to stretch the gauges to their final dimensions. Now, you exit the editor, power up Flight Simulator, select your aircraft and Voila, you are ready to fly ! Kind of...

As you read through the documentation a second time, you find that the Triden gauges work best when they are the only autopilot in the cockpit - this means that you have to examine the other panel windows for traces of an autopilot, or a NAV/GPS switch. This works, up to a point, for the radio stack panel, but you cannot access the virtual panel window through the editor. At this point, I came to the conclusion that the panel editor was great for getting started, but that the text editor is still required for cleanup.

Caravan default Caravan modified

Flying with the Century Triden:

Another lesson I learned the hard way, is that the Century autopilot is designed to work with the default FS GPS. Unfortunately, I’ve replaced this unit in many of my aircraft, so I had to use some care in selecting the aircraft for the “Triden treatment”. Still, the Caravan worked well as a test platform and I soon got the Triden autopilot installed in the FS Mooney as well.

Mooney 1 Mooney 2

Flying with the Triden autopilot is a treat. It feels like you’ve just spent a bundle to upgrade your GA avionics to a high-end set, costing 10’s of thousands of dollars more. The autopilot gauge has all the buttons conveniently located around a screen that indicates the “soft buttons” to push, and if you are used to having to switch to the radio stack to access the autopilot, you can now position the autopilot right on the main panel, in most cases.

The GPS steering mode takes some getting used to, but is really powerful. The Century autopilot tracks the GPS course in its HDG mode, unlike the default autopilot that has to be switched to NAV mode. This allows you to start by setting the heading bug on the runway, for the initial heading. And then after turning on the autopilot for automatic flight, set up the GPS, and switch to GPS steering by just flicking the GPS source switch. Likewise, you can take back control and follow the HSI heading bug, just by switching the GPS switch back to HDG mode. Simple and functional. While in GPS steering mode, the autopilot follows a GPS flight plan smoothly, without overshoot at the waypoints... really nice.

After some trial and error, I found that I could still install the Triden gauges in a an airplane with a non-default GPS unit, but was then limited to tracking a GPS flight plan in NAV mode only. This is an “undocumented feature”, and not supported by Flight1.

Below, the Triden gauges in my modified FSD Seneca V. The popup window for the autopilot gauge does not come with the package and should only be required if the panel does not allow for a large enough gauge image to be easily readable and “click-able”.

Seneca V Seneca V pop-up

Limitations:

One of the nicest looking modifications ended up being in the FSX Cessna 172. The gauges fit well, and also work well in the 2D cockpit. I was able to use the panel editor to install the gauges and I was quite happy with the result.

In the virtual cockpit, however, the space allowed for gauge placement is quite restricted (as it is in many add-on aircraft). As you can see, the gauges are cut off into round shapes, which is particularly troublesome for the autopilot gauge. You can still have the functional gauge in a popup panel, but that kind of defeats the seamless nature of the virtual cockpit. If you do not use the virtual cockpit much, this does not matter, but for many, this will complicate the installation process.

FSX Cessna FSX Cessna pop-up FSX Cessna Virtual Cockpit

Summary:

Test System

P4 - 2.8 GHz
1 GB DDR 3200 Ram
Nvidia 7600GT 256MB Video Card
17" LCD monitor 1280x1024 resolution
CH Products joystick w/throttle
WindowsXP Professional

Flying Time:
20 hours

This is a high function gauge set that will appeal to real world pilots who are familiar with the Century product line (or those who would like to explore this set of gauges). It is professionally put together and is very satisfying when used as intended.

For the casual user, it may be difficult to determine how to make this set of gauges work in a favorite aircraft, especially in the virtual cockpit view where the included panel editor does not offer assistance.

Luckily, Flight 1 offers a 30 day full refund guarantee, which may well be the safety line that some purchasers are going to need. On the other hand, if you carefully select your aircraft for this “avionics upgrade”, you can end up with a great looking and very satisfying result!

 

What I Like About The Triden Autopilot

  • High degree of functionality in an easy to operate instrument package
  • Nice “Point & Click” panel editor for 2d cockpit view
  • High resolution graphics for great looking gauges
  • Smooth GPS flight plan following with FS GPS

 

What I Don't Like About The Triden Autopilot

  • Requires advanced panel editing skills to be properly installed, especially in virtual cockpit
  • GPS steering logic tied to default FS GPS

 

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Triden Autopilot

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