Archive for January, 2010

The Curse and Blessing of Glass

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Which is better for learning the basics of flight?
Which is better
for learning the
basics of flight?

Over the holidays I had the pleasure of taking several non-pilot friends flying in a glass cockpit aircraft in superb day VFR conditions. I settled into the right side and gave them the left front seat to experience the view as a new student pilot might. We briefly briefed the cockpit, flight controls and flight instruments and I reassured them that we’d talk through everything before doing it.

It became obvious shortly after takeoff that the compulsion of the glowing PFD, that dominated the panel was overwhelming despite my continuous reminders to look outside for attitude, steering reference via landmarks and other aircraft. My friends invariably returned to the tube.

The blessing of the glass was the traffic awareness system. It certainly didn’t catch all the aircraft around us but got most of them. On average, for every one we spotted there was one that remained invisible to three sets of human eyes. There was no question that we were more aware and maneuvered accordingly. At least for me, it encouraged even more outside vigilance.

Two thoughts: For primary training we might consider flying the first few hours without the heavy duty help of glass just to learn the physical side of flight and what the sight pictures are. The next time I’ll cover or dim the PFD and just leave the back up instrumentation for their primary viewing pleasure. All IFR approved glass aircraft come equipped with back up attitude indicator, altimeter, airspeed and even a compass. Imagine!

Secondly, since training aircraft spend a disproportionate time in the most collision prone airspace, flight schools should try to equip their trainers with some sort of collision avoidance system. I’m a big proponent of see and avoid but it has its limits. (We’ll be discussing more about collision avoidance later this year.)

Your thoughts? Agree or no?