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Guest BobKK

When to engage the autopilot?

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Just wondering, what is the correct time to engage the autopilot? When reaching cruise altitude? When passing through 10000 feet? Would real life airline pilots wait till reaching the cruise altitude or would they engage it before that? Sorry... just trying to have a realistic flight experience.Thanks

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Alot do not engage the AP below 1000 agl.If the AP does something unexpected, you have time to react.

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Here's a real world pilot's advice:http://www.fepco.com/article.otto.htmlDon't know about other simmers, but here's what I do:Before takeoff, I set the autopilot to the settings I'm going to want when I turn it on. These are essentially, cruise altitude and I try to predict what heading I'll want and set the bug to that heading.Once I take off, I climb out, and accept any air traffic commands that are designed to get me out of the airport airspace and onto my preset course.Once I'm on my preset course, and have the airplane cleaned up a bit (flaps in, lights set, etc.) and I'm on my intended course, that's when I turn the AP on to finish my climb. This reduces the workload as ATC can sometimes start handing you off pretty aggressively once you get out of the immediate airspace of your departure airport.I fly AP pretty much all the way, as it's the most efficient means of getting from one place to the next, and turn the autopilot off when I receive my approach directions and clearance. I like to fly the approach myself, just to keep sharp, but some people like to fly the autopilot to the point where they capture the localizer and begin their descent.You can, of course, allow the computer to land the plane for you ... but then well, why don't you just play Microsoft City Bus Simulator v.2.1b

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This is all good advice! For me, I try to make sure I have all of the settings in advance, preferably before taxi. Depending on the aircraft, the Autothrottle may be engaged on the take-off runway. You run the risk, though, of a bad take-off if you have the Autothrottle set too low, but on the other hand, if you are trying for realistic speed limits, then the Autothrottle can help you stay at your best climb speed. If you want a number, I would estimate that in many cases the autopilot is in control of a Boeing 737 somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 feet AGL. Real world airlines have procedures for this, and some pilots have their own set practises as well, so my estimation is just a ballpark number for you.Jeff ShylukSenior Staff Reviewer, Avsim

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I heard this second hand-but a friend of a friend was a Northwest 747 pilot-company regs said you had to hit the autopilot practically from liftoff to landing-he had to do monthly sim training to stay current and was so disgusted that he took a demotion to Dc9's so he could fly again.In any case-I have a flight director/full autopilot on my bird but I generally don't use it except if I have to get busy doing paperwork, copying clearances etc.-or if I am flying a long time like 8 hours in one day. While neat-for me it isn't really flying when George is doing the job and doesn't do anything to hone my skills which will deteriorate if I don't constantly challenge them...I also have found in any kind of turbulence-I can provide a much more smooth flight for my back seat passengers-George tends to Dutch roll back and forth and make them uncomfortable.http://mywebpages.comcast.net/geofa/pages/rxp-pilot.jpgForum Moderatorhttp://geofageofa.spaces.live.com/

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I have a friend who is a freight dog MD-11 captain (for a while, anyway -- he was a 727 pilot for many years). He said their chief pilot did some calculation of how much actual stick time pilots were getting and I guess decided to change SOP to hand fly up to cruise to maintain airmanship.scott s..

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The company I work for, it is 500 agl minimum for the jets, though most pilots fly to at least 10,000 just to fly it. It's a whole other story for the beech guys..hehe..

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It depends on the type flying you do as well as the plane, basicly its your choice, there is no right or wrong time, just depends on the situation and what you want to do.When I was flying GA planes, I engaged it at cruise alt, some airlines require you to hand fly below 10,000ft, others want it engaged ASAP.

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When transitioning through longer streches Class B airspace in a GA it's great. Holds altitude and heading, while you look for other aircraft, etc.In the experimental/kitbuilt/homebuilt world of aviation, we have some new high tech solid state GPS driven auto-pilots that do a fantastic job! I really didn't care for some of the older units you'd see in "aged" Cessna & Piper rentals.L.Adamson

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Hi,I didn't take time to read all the other replies, so sorry if I repeat / slightly miss the mark ;-)Personally, I found the downloadable freeware checklists for the default aircraft a great help. (AVSIM library - FSX - Miscellanious Files - Default Learjet45 Checklist and so on). I'm not sure how true to real life they are, they're at least much better than the kneeboard! These checklist will tend to include AUTOPILOT - SET and OFF in the 'Before Taxi Checklist, and AUTOPILOT - CHECK and SET in the 'Climb-Out Checklist'. This helped me alot. ;-)Aleks

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Personally, I like the AP, even though a lot of people frown on its use. I think that once you've learned how to fly properly and sort of earned your dues going without it for a while, then it's okay. Obviously, the sim world is whatever you want it to be, but you'll sell yourself short if you start from the beginning using the AP. It's more gratifying to know you can manage turns, land, and fly short distances without any extra assistance. This is best accomplished by a plane with a low workload, and this is mostly small GA single-engine props. Fewer gauges to watch, fewer knobs and switches to mess with, and slower speed to give you time to think before each task.Once you move onto turboprops, like King Airs and Cheyennes, as well as scheduled airlines like Boeing 737s, then it's a blessing to have a good AP handling some of the workload. These planes have a lot more procedures during takeoff, climb, approach, and landing. In the sim you're often handling a workload of 2 people, and this can be a PITA when trying actually fly like the pros. You have ATC giving you new headings and altitudes while you're still trying to get cleaned up, switch on prop synch, turning off nose lighting, activating yaw dampers, messing with pressurization, and on and on. The larger jets can actually be a little easier, but you still have a few things to do in them as well than can distract from good hand flying. Last couple nights I've been trying to tackle holds since I've never really cared to before without an FMC. In the Piper Cheyenne (FS9), it called for a climb out to a hold while getting to 12,000 feet before continuing on the flight plan. Luckily, I'm decent enough with the Cheyenne to manage the important stuff and still hand fly the hold, but it's difficult. I engaged AP after my first full circle to finish the tasked needed before cruise.

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One real-world technique that should be done before takeoff (in Jets) is to set the AP autothrottle to 250Kts IAS. This is because (at least here in the US) the maximum permitted speed below 10,000 feet MSL is 250Kts.Once I reach FL 100, I change the AP from IAS to Mach and increase Mach to anywhere from .75 to .81. This is in the Learjet. Other Aircraft may have different settings.

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