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Is it possible to command an autopilot to start a fixed rate descent? For example to avoid weather during the cruise phase? From what I have read the autopilot would maintain constant speed and altitude until interrupted but havent found a fixed rate descent function.

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  • $\begingroup$ The answer greatly depends on the type of autopilot used. Small cessna's and the like generally have less advanced autoflight systems than aircraft made by Airbus or Boeing. $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Mar 30 '15 at 8:43
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Here is what typical autopilot controls look like

Image source: What is a "Flight Director"?

The pilot can set the required altitude, as well as the required vertical speed to get to that altitude. A cruise decent will typically use a shallower descent than an approach descent.

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This answer explains that there is a flight level change mode and a vertical speed mode. The latter will hold vertical speed until a target altitude is reached.

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