This week I attended the NTSB’s conference on glass cockpits and whether they improve the safety of GA aircraft.
ASF conducted our own study on Technologically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) several years ago and reached the conclusions that glass, or technology alone, does not a safe aircraft make. It all depends on how it is used!
NTSB’s study confirmed several of ASF’s findings:
1. Cross country aircraft are far more likely to be involved in weather related accidents.
2. Cross country aircraft are more likely to be equipped with glass.
3. Weather related accidents are much more likely to be fatal.
4. That there is a steep learning curve to get to the promised land of greater situational awareness via glass. Training and practice are essential.
Bottom line: Glass per se does not necessarily make an aircraft safer.
NTSB recommended specific training but noted that this is not easy to do with the variability of hardware. I naively offer a humble suggestion that ASF made about 15 years ago when there were five (5) IFR GPS navigator manufacturers all vying for market share. The field has thinned considerably. How about standardizing core IFR functionality?
In that way, any pilot trained on one model could manage basic IFR operation in another. I recall that we came up with 5 areas. Be able to fly from A to B using the flight plan function, modify the plan, execute an approach, missed approach and be able to hold. Everything else would be open to whatever the manufacturers wanted to do. Granted, that is a lot but the industry would help the pilot community tremendously by making it easier. And if you haven’t noticed – the community is getting smaller rapidly. One reason we’ve been told is due to complexity.
As is often the case, we try to bend humans to technology rather than designing it to conform to the human. I grant you that that is a tall obstacle with some people but build for the bottom half of the bell-shaped curve and you might be surprised at well the average person does.
What are your thoughts?