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FYI Garmin GFC 500 - Control Wheel Steering

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Forums Chief Pilot
Staff member
Oct 31, 1996
Type aircraft owned
Carbon Cub FX-3
Base airport
I have a Garmin G3X experimental with a GFC 500 and roll/pitch servos in my Carbon Cub FX-3. I have the GMC 305 control head but that part is moot.

Did you know...pressing and holding the AP "disconnect" button will actually engage your autopilot? It's called control wheel steering (CWS) and is an option of the CWS config. I learned about this some time ago from a discussion with @craig.roser and it's come up again with another FX-3 owner that had what he thought was an uncommanded autopilot activation. What was happening though was an instructor in the backseat using the button on the rear stick which he thought was push to talk yet CubCrafters by default, on around 2021 and newer use this button as an AP disconnect. But keep in mind this button doubles as a CWS control as well. It may be smarter for the button on the rear stick to be a push to talk and put AP disconnect in the left wing root where push to talk is now. You can option it this way if you ask, no one told me, but I personally think this should be the default config.

Anyways, in helping this new FX-3 owner that this situation happened to I had also been talking to @craig.roser on this feature as he was setting up a new to him RV-14 to use this feature. It's an interesting read in both the G3X pilot's guide and also the installation manual if you search for "control wheel steering." There are other modes I need to explore and learn as well with the FD button but if you're not familiar with CWS and what it's for I suggest reading up on it. From what I understand, take for example you're in ALT and HDG mode and you want to take over control and change heading for example or put it into a 5 degree dive, I believe you can press and hold the AP button and then make your changes as AP will release and then when you release the button it will resume in that attitude. Again, I still need to try this out as I really haven't used it other than verifying what Craig told me long ago that press and hold the AP disconnect will engage your AP. When I flew yesterday I noticed the label at the top of the button and it does show AP/CWS interestingly.

If you're concerned about a back seater engaging AP if they are working radios you can always just turn off the servos (AP) toggle switch above the G3X for fellow cub owners.

So an FYI for some learning an interesting features on the Garmin GFC 500 autopilot system.

Here is a picture from the G3X Configuration side in the Autopilot settings area.


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