When the Throttle Moves By Itself

The M600 SLS debuted in 2020 and was the first of it’s kind. A single engine turbine with AutoThrottle and the Halo autoland system. It was a new level of safety, engineering and just plain coolness (yes, coolness is a word).

However, flying the AutoThrottle in the M600 SLS is not a simple hop in a go for the pilot. There are definitely some specific nuances to the AutoThrottle system (AT for short) that can get a pilot in trouble if he isn’t trained by someone who knows what they are talking about.

Being an instructor myself, I have a high level of respect for new technology, especially when that technology revolves around a very high priced PT6 engine. Not to mention, my personality style is geared toward a hands on approach to learning before I feel comfortable teaching something new that I have no knowledge of. I need the knowledge to spread the knowledge.

Fast forward to December 2023. I had not flown the M600 SLS nor trained anyone on the nuances of it yet (or even been in one). I had read the POH and gained some understanding of the inner workings of the system, but I still wanted to get that hands on knowledge.

Enter Tom Rau of ATAC (Aviation Training Acquisition Consulting) in St. Petersberg, FL. Tom and I connected earlier in 2023 when I discovered that not only was he a seasoned PA46 instructor, but he also owned an M600 SLS. Tom is retired military and airlines and has tens of thousands of hours of flight time and thousands more hours of instruction time. After a few conversations on the phone with Tom, I knew this was the guy I needed to learn the AutoThrottle system from.

We arranged a date between Christmas and New Years for me to come to St. Petersberg for 2 days (great time of year to be in Florida, by the way; I just wish I had an extra day for golf!). As soon as we sat down in the FBO for the ground school, I knew I had the right guy. Tom has an excellent homework book dedicated to the AutoThrottle system with tons of detail and pictures, going over both the M600 SLS POH information on the AT as well as the Garmin guide on the system, plus his own tips and tricks from experience.

This system is just downright cool (remember, coolness is a word). In addition to automatically setting power, the AutoThrottle system also provides engine protection. Once the AT is engaged, it won’t allow you to over-torque, over-temp, or over-Ng. It’s not a full FADEC (Fully Automated Digital Engine Control; see the TBM 960), so if the AutoThrottle is not engaged, an exceedance is still a possibility. It’s also tied in to the Electronic Stability Protection (ESP) system in the Garmin GFC 700 Autopilot, so if there is an underspeed or overspeed, the AT adjusts power accordingly while the autopilot pitches up or down to remedy the condition.

There are different modes that have to be selected by the pilot on the ground in the Garmin G3000 for the AutoThrottle as well. There are several different climb, cruise and descent modes that can be selected by the pilot, or the pilot can set a speed he wants to maintain for climb and descent. Then, once that phase of flight is entered, the AutoThrottle sets the proper Torque to maintain that speed. This is all done in AT FMS mode.

There is also an AT Manual mode, which allows the pilot to set a speed, then the AutoThrottle sets the Torque accordingly based on the speed setting as well as the climb or descent rate (if climbing or descending) or, if the airplane is straight and level, the Torque setting to give the corresponding speed desired.

The AutoThrottle can also land the airplane, but only when the Halo system is active. We are not in the age where a single engine turbine can equal a Boeing 777 and autoland on an ILS Cat III approach. At least not yet.

Timing right now is pretty good to get into an M600 SLS. The market is definitely favoring buyers and an M600 SLS is significantly less than a TBM 940 or TBM 960 (the main difference being the M600 SLS is about 40-50 KTAS slower than the TBM, 270-275 KTAS compared to 310-320 KTAS). The range of both airplanes is very similar, the Vmo is similar, the payload is similar. The pilot has a bit more head room in the TBM, but is that worth a half million to a million dollars? Not likely!

Are you looking to move up to a turbine? The Aviator’s Academy’s sister company, Texas Top Aviation, is very knowledgeable in both the Piper line of turbines as well as the TBM aircraft. We have the knowledge to sell your current airplane, then find the best single engine turbine for your mission and budget (both are very important!). Contact Texas Top Aviation today for your sales and acquisition consultation, completely free of charge!

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