The Vision Jet already earned the title of the most delivered business jet of 2018, but its popularity could skyrocket to new heights with its latest feature. Cirrus Aircraft has just introduced a new autonomous function that enables passengers—you read that right, passengers—to land the Vision Jet with the touch of a single button.
Safe Return is billed as a “revolutionary emergency autoland system”. When activated, it assumes control of the aircraft—basically, the Vision Jet is turned into a self-flying plane—and navigates to the nearest suitable airport for landing.
“Our mission is to make personal aviation more accessible by continuing to improve passenger comfort and safety,” said Zean Nielsen, Cirrus Aircraft CEO. “Safe Return delivers the next step towards autonomous flight, bringing a new level of confidence to the overall flying experience by providing the ultimate level of safety and control to passengers.”
So, how does it work? Once the button is pushed, the system analyses all available aircraft data streams—including fuel levels, terrain and weather—to determine the best place to land. Autothrottle—which the G2 Vision Jet was equipped with earlier this year—works with the automatic flight control system to manage the jet’s speed, flight path and altitude. Safe Return then automatically lowers the flaps, switches the landing gear and descends until it has landed itself. Once the jet is safely on the ground, it comes to a complete stop and allows passengers to disembark.
Beyond taking the stress out of everyday landing, the autonomous capability could offer a potential difference-maker in cases of emergency or passenger illness. Once the Safe Return system is activated, the plane initiates communication with air traffic control, transmitting an emergency message with the aircraft’s intended airport landing location. This means on-the-ground emergency services can be notified at the appropriate airport and can be there to assist the passengers and the pilot on arrival, if needed.
Cirrus Aircraft expects to begin delivery of Vision Jets equipped with Safe Return in early 2020. Obviously, autonomous cars may be all the rage these days, but autonomous flight is truly on the horizon.