The technology is an upshot of the avionics Cirrus and Garmin developed for the Vision Jet, an “entry level” business jet introduced in 2016 that’s typically flown by the private owner rather than professional pilots. The Safe Return system, which can also be used in turboprop aircraft, works with Garmin’s G3000 avionics suite, which features integrated control of all airplane systems, including the engine management, landing gear activation, control-surface movement, and the navigation, weather, and traffic-monitoring systems.
When someone hits the button, the system selects the airport that has the best combination of runway length and a clear approach relative to the weather conditions. It then steers the airplane on a descent, alerting local traffic and air traffic control to the emergency via preprogrammed text and spoken-word messages it can voice itself over the radio. It deploys the landing gear, adjusts the flaps to maintain lift as the airspeed slows, and uses precision GPS, along with radar information, to bring it down at the exact right spot.