Avionics News September 2020 - 33

I

t's a safe bet that if you're flying a business or
general aviation airplane built around the turn
of the 21st century, it's equipped with a King/
BendixKing KFC-series autopilot. Back in the day, the
Crown series was the gold standard for most types of
panel- or remote-mounted avionics.
The company's success was primarily due to its
ability to deliver a full line of quality avionics from
nav/comms to weather radars and to autopilots at
relatively affordable prices.
"The company's founder, Ed King, came from
Collins Radio," explained Roger Dykmann,
BendixKing director of offering management. "That's
where he got his original idea that there needed to be
better avionics values for business and general aviation
pilots other than the super-expensive units from Collins
and Sperry. His dream led to King Radio. One of the first
systems he wanted to bring to market was a new, lowercost autopilot.
"Mr. King was able to buy a design from Collins in the
early 1970s. That unit became the King Flight Control
300 system. From there, the history of King Radio
autopilots is one of the continual integration of system
components into fewer and fewer boxes. Fewer boxes
meant lower manufacturing and installation costs."
In fact, while it's widely believed that avionics systems
integration is a relatively new, 21st century concept, it
may well have been King who got the ball rolling with
his family of autopilots.
Dykmann said that in an effort to save manufacturing
and installation dollars, King and his engineers worked
to integrate the separate flight directors, autopilot
controllers, and computers into fewer boxes. The
advancement of microprocessor technology meant King's
dream would become a reality.
"The breakthrough panel-mounted system was the
King KFC 150," Dykmann said. "That was our first
panel-mounted autopilot, which featured an integrated
control head with smaller computers. It was 6.25 inches
wide and 1.55 inches tall, so it easily slid into the
avionics stack of any light business airplane.
"A few years later, the KFC 140 was introduced. It was

"BECAUSE PILOTS OF ALL
EXPERIENCE LEVELS WILL BE
FLYING WITH THE SYSTEM, WE
WORKED HARD TO ENSURE
THAT THE AEROCRUZE 230 IS
EXTREMELY EASY TO USE."
ROGER DYKMANN,

BendixKing director of offering management

derived from the KFC 150 and was designed specifically
for the owner-flown, piston-engine piston market. It was
introduced right around the same time the 1994 General
Aviation Revitalization Act was passed. That legislation
kick-started new GA aircraft production, and the KFC
140 was the autopilot of choice for that new generation
of airplanes."
The post-GARA era was certainly a heady time for
general and business aviation aircraft and avionics
systems producers. Thousands of new airplanes came
flying out of the Beech, Cessna, Cirrus, Mooney,
and Piper factories. Most of them equipped with a
BendixKing - Bendix Avionics had acquired King Radio
in the mid-1980s - autopilot of one type or another.
New life for old autopilots
The mid-2000s weren't good to panel-mounted
avionics manufacturers. Once Garmin introduced the
G1000, individual avionics units were about as unpopular
as COVID-19. It was an integrated panel or bust.
While BendixKing - which had itself been acquired
by Honeywell - didn't go bust, it did scale back to
concentrate on a few key product lines that it was
extremely good at, and one of those was autopilots. To be
precise, it supported the aforementioned "thousands" of
KFC-series units that are flying all over the world.
"Some of these units are 25 years old," Dykmann
Continued on following page

avionics news

*

september

2020

33



Avionics News September 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Avionics News September 2020

No label
Avionics News September 2020 - Intro
Avionics News September 2020 - No label
Avionics News September 2020 - Cover2
Avionics News September 2020 - 1
Avionics News September 2020 - 2
Avionics News September 2020 - 3
Avionics News September 2020 - 4
Avionics News September 2020 - 5
Avionics News September 2020 - 6
Avionics News September 2020 - 7
Avionics News September 2020 - 8
Avionics News September 2020 - 9
Avionics News September 2020 - 10
Avionics News September 2020 - 11
Avionics News September 2020 - 12
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Avionics News September 2020 - 28
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Avionics News September 2020 - 30
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Avionics News September 2020 - 33
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Avionics News September 2020 - 70
Avionics News September 2020 - 71
Avionics News September 2020 - 72
Avionics News September 2020 - Cover3
Avionics News September 2020 - Cover4
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