Glass isn’t the Issue

February 28, 2012 by Bruce Landsberg

When electronic flight instruments were introduced to GA cockpits there was widespread belief that it could make a difference in safety. There were also fears that poorly trained pilots would be slamming into hillsides on IFR approaches. Neither projection happened exactly the way some expected. The AOPA Foundation’s Air Safety Institute has just completed its third review of technologically advanced aircraft (TAA) and here are a few thoughts for your consideration.

  • Glass cockpit aircraft are not falling out of the sky with great regularity in Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)
  • Legacy glass aircraft (Mooney, Piper, Beech, etc.) have a significantly lower fatality rate* than new technology glass aircraft (Cirrus and Cessna Corvalis/Columbia)
  • Cross-country new technology glass aircraft do not fare so well in takeoffs, landings, and go-around scenarios.

You noted the asterisk next to the fatality rate. That is our best estimate relative to exposure. The FAA estimates the GA flight activity but doesn’t do it by make and model. To normalize and be able to compare the data we used the number of aircraft delivered and when they were delivered to estimate usage. The study population only includes aircraft built from 1996 and newer, so many of the immobile old warhorses that grace hangars and tie downs are not part of the study. It’s new airplanes compared to new airplanes.

Diamond is conspicuous by its absence. The DA40, as a new technology aircraft, isn’t comparable in usage patterns to the Cirrus or Corvalis. A much smaller engine and cruise speed/altitude envelope put it into a separate category. That said, it had very few accidents but there was so little exposure data that we felt that the statistics would be badly skewed. So, regrettably, it is not included in this sample.

A couple of things stand out: The vast majority of accidents occurred in day VMC conditions where the advantages of full glass instrumentation over analog may not be so great. The new technology aircraft pilots (Cirrus and Cessna Corvalis) apparently are having difficulty with basic airmanship relative to takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds. A couple of possible explanations come to mind.

These aircraft are relatively short, coupled with high wing loading and high power, which means the need for gentle application of power and solid application of rudder. Cirrus accident investigators noted that in almost every case, the wreck was off the left side of the runway (no political comments please). I’ve flown both aircraft and they are not hard to handle but they are different from legacy aircraft in some respects and pilots need to respect that. So, in summary, we come to the conclusion that it is not the aircraft or the instrumentation that seems to be impacting the safety record but how the equipment is used and by whom. It has always been so. However, there are some areas where the new equipment can make a difference and that will not show up so quickly in statistics. I’ll discuss one of them next week.

It must be remembered, however, this looks at the negative side only – accidents. We haven’t come up with a good way to measure increased utility – i.e., are more trips successfully completed by glass aircraft versus non-glass. We’re looking at ways to try to measure that now.


Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • S. Litz

    Dear Mr Landsberg,
    Usually your material isn’t that accurate or relevant (Here and in the magazine), But I think in this case your title says it all. Full glass panel aircraft are so much better and more intuitive to fly there is no wonder why one can no longer buy even an LSA with steam dials anymore. Your Higher utilization remarks are key also.

  • Jason

    These are great data. The challenge is always drawing the correct conclusion from the data. As the newer generation aircraft are in operation longer, there will be more reliable conclusions which can be made from this and forthcoming data.

    It seems that the evidence ultimately points to the things the pilot “tells the plane to do.” My question is this: Would it not be better for lower time pilots to start training in the TAA they intend to fly, thereby giving them more experience in that make and model (almost like a type-rating) as opposed to learning to fly in a steam-guage 172 then getting an instrument rating in a 182 then purchasing an SR22? In the former scenario, the newly-minted instrument pilot would have maybe 150-200 hours in the SR22 but in the latter scenario, the total hours may be the same but the new Cirrus pilot would only have 25 hours after his mandatory training?

    Just food for thought. I have heard it said that planes only do what pilots tell them to do. If we have more experience in a make/model it seems like that may improve the accident rate.

  • l howard

    bruce, i am surprised that there is not a bigger pool of data. we live in the data age, and all sorts of industries and endeavors have wrung increased safety and efficiency from mining it. much needs to be done on that front. as to the seemingly surprising result of higher accident with newer panels, i would guess that the additional initial training is lacking, and there is a tendency to “look at the pretty panel” rather than outside during these vmc problem moments. thanks for the great blogpost.

  • Brian Turrisi

    As someone who currently flies a glass cockpit plane after decades of steam gauges only, this is a well done report.
    The emergence of TAA glass cockpit planes in the GA arena is a great laboratory to dissect the real weak spot in the GA accident rate. The analysis pretty much proves that, as has been shown many times with other data, it is the pilot not the airplane that is the weakest link in the accident causes.
    The TAA aircraft essentially present the data in a different, and in some cases, easier formal to see. But the pilot still has to interpret what he/she is seeing.
    Additionally, TAA by definition means more electronic gadgetry in the plane. That puts the burden of responsibility on the pilot to know the weaknesses as well as the strengths of those gadgets.
    Moreover, it is a big mistake to rely on the gadgets to make up for a lack of proficiency or skill. That seems to be the biggest trap to date.
    Thanks for a great report.

  • Peter Steeger

    I am surprised that you choose to classify the low accident rate of Diamond aircraft as a statistical problem. I seems to be biased opinion. Firstly I think e.g. DA40 are extremely well balanced and mannered airplanes, easy to fly and land, e.g. in a cross wind. Also it is easy to find a DA40 in rental fleets, i.e. training is widely available.. A well researched article would well identify why Diamond aircraft have the best safety record in the industry.

  • Richard Herbst

    Glass vs Steam is generational. You can become intuitive in whichever instrument environment you train and earn your certificates and ratings. And you can make judgment errors regardless of how the envelope is represented to you. Like children who learn to read from paper books with serif type, proficiency harkens back to training days.
    Manufacturers love glass because its MTBF numbers beat analog instruments. Teenagers who whizz through complex computer apps (but can’t spell) don’t understand the debate. Ultimately, it’s academic whether electronics are the backup to steam or the other way around. We can “screw the pootch” either way.

  • Chris Pfaff — ATP

    Regarding the idea of Glass Cockpit KEEPING US FROM flying into a mountain, a co-pilot and myself, both CFI/MEI-IA’s, and separately myself and a Garmin sales rep, on three nights of three legs each, should be glad we were flying the Eastern lowlands, and in visual-enough conditions.
    With a (WAAS-enabled) GNS530W, coupled to an obedient autopilot, here’s what happened on nine out of the nine legs we flew.
    Each time the gadget was programmed correctly with the full IAP, expecting to start at the IAF. Each time, ATC vectored us to intercept INSIDE the IAF (between the IAF & FAF). And, dutifully, the gadget flew us right through the Final Approach Course, NOT intercepting and tracking inbound.
    I understand the G1000 does automatically intercept and track.
    Two points: First, it’s a machine, a computer. It does what it was told. We, none of us, didn’t tell it right, its actions were therefore our fault for not knowing how to work the gadget.
    Second, Unless you thoroughly know how to program any gadget, you may die. Learn ’em thoroughly, or use “steam gauges”.
    I used to fly all over the northeastern USA in IMC & ICE using just a handheld Magellan 315 GPS with steam gauges, single-pilot, at night and into the morning fog. Simpler system, but it never missed. Nor did the “old” (meaning trustworthy) gauges.
    I doubt that safety will improve with glass, but it might improve with ongoing, serious training.

  • Joe F. Starr

    I trained in a DA-40, and purchased a Cessna T182T new in 2008 (G-1000 w/ WAAS and GFC integrated autopilot). I attended a three day training session with Cessna at their factory in Independence, KS which was very good. I had never gotten much utility from my private license (23 years including instrument rating) because many of the rental planes I flew never had autopilot. I enjoy short business trips and feel very safe and comfortable in the cross country portion of my trips with the G-1000. The landing portion of the trip – not so much. After relying on the autopilot for much of the flight, switching to hand-flying with the digital readouts has been challenging. While the digital readouts are no doubt extremely accurate, I think that steam gauges provide better information for landings than the glass panel. I am not an engineer but I would describe the difference as the need for rate of change versus exact readout. I want to know that I am descending at approximately 500 fpm, not -500, -550, -500, -450, etc. I also want to know that I have reduced speed to 80 knots, not 80, 75, 71, 75, 80, etc. I summary, the glass panel readouts provide too much information right at the time I need my head outside the cockpit. With the airspeed moving around as much as it does, I find myself concerned about stall speed when I am perfectly fine. I am not surprised if it proves to be true that there are more accidents on landings for these reasons. I frequently ride right seat in a CitationJet with steam gauges and my thoughts are confirmed, the steam gauges are simply easier to read and interpret in the transition and landing phase of the flight.

  • Sydney King

    My momma taught me that if you want to be SURE your pants stay up you use both belt AND suspenders! I really enjoy the ease and visual situational awareness that comes with my GNS430. And on a dark night when I am tired and the area has scattered small low clouds, having those little feathers extend out from the runways is a big help. BUT, when I am cross-country and I am on the autopilot, there is a great feeling of added security in keeping track of several VORs along the way. Even when I am flying for business I am flying for fun and keeping my mind in the trip is all the more enjoyable. Use everything you have. It is more fun AND a lot safer!

    Thanks for a good discussion.

  • Joey Ritchie

    The SR22 and Cessna/Corvalis 400 aircraft are higher performance aircraft than they typical C172 and 182’s. How much of these statistics are from pilots poking their beaks into situations that they or the aircraft were not capable of handling? Note the DA40 results, which are very low, but then the DA40 does not have deice equipment or TKS or turbocharging. The DA40’s, C172, C182’s have very forgiving landing characteristics and low stall speeds compared to the higer performance aircraft.

    With proper training, glass or steam, pilot proficiency can be improved. There has been previous anecdotal evidence about the various owners groups and the accident rate of the members of the owners groups is lower than the non-members. Part of that is a general increase in awareness and judgement through training and hangar talk.

  • Todd

    Bruce, this is a great article. The real comparison to make is between relatively new aircraft just before Garmin/Avidyne and the same aircraft models post-glass. But you are right…. we are likely getting more utility out the glass airplanes because we are putting them into and getting them out of riskier situations. But you really don’t have the data to say that one way or the other. There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. So paradoxiacally flying glass may be safer at the same time more fatal accidents show up in the data.

    The absolute most important thing any pilot should know about glass cockpits, especiially during take off and landing….. LOOK OUT THE F*(&**G WINDOW. Don’t blame the glass when you should be looking outside. If your CFI didn’t tell you that, blame your CFI, not Garmin. Before the glass you were looking outside because the little needles didn’t tell you much, you were flying by the seat of your pants… it still works regardless of the TV screens up front.

    AOPA needs to team up with EAA and the insurance companies to collect real data. Don’t wait for the FAA to do it. If you want a chance to win THE raffle (or maybe the new joint EAA/AOPA air safety raffle) you have to enter the number of hours your airplane (or the FBO rental) flew last year: Type, N-Number, Serial Number, Date of Last Annual, Hours Since Last Annual, Home Base, Basic info on relavant equipment G530, G1000, AP etc . I happen to fly glass cockpit Cessnas in the midwest. I can’t fix the safety rate of Piper Cubs in Alaska, RV’s flying in the mountains of California or Cirrus’s in ice in Minnesota. But I can avoid being a central midwest Cessna statistic. The Nall report likes to lump all of us in GA into one basket. From those numbers, I can conclude flying a “GA” in the “United States” is about as safe as riding a motorcycle… but what is the safety rate for instrument rated pilots flying certified glass airplanes flying in the summer time mostly in VFR conditions in the central midwest ? I’ll take my chances in the air vs. the interstate on any summer day.

    Maybe AOPA Air Safety can make us all safer by emphasizing all of the dumb things we do as pilots regardless of what we fly… VFR into IMC, running out of gas, CFIT, or maybe not… maybe the people to crash don’t read artciles like this. If we really want to move the needles, we each have to improve what we can improve. In other words only Cirrus pilots can make Cirrus’s safer, Van’s Air Force members can make RV’s safer, EAA members can make the rest of the experimental fleet safer, GAMA can make certified airplanes safer, NBAA can make business jets safer, the Alaska Pilots Associate can make Alaska pilots safer. All any one pilot can do is not become a statistic in what they fly, where they fly, and how they fly.

    Bruce…. Don’t wait for the FAA to do this. YOU are the President of the AOPA Air Foundation / Safety Institute….. Lead, Follow, or get out of the way !

  • David Adams

    Just a thought. I caviate this on I am not an instrument pilot (and never will be one) and have never flown a glass copit. Perhaps Dave Kenny has it backward for why low power with analog gauges has better record close to the runway. Difficult to find and interpret the scattering of gauges, the analog pilot ignors the gauges and puts their attentintion where it belongs, flying the airplane, until forced to make then transition to the gauges. Transiting when more time, and altiude, is available to detect and correct small deviations. The glass pilot, with a plethora of convient, attractively presented data, is distracted to the gauges, and is lured into flying the gauges not the airrplane.

    Having many times taken advasive action to avoid IFR aircraft flying in CAVU VFR at VFR altitudes (including in the pattern), most of whome, their world ending 24 inches in front of their nose, to this day are oblivious to that I was ever in the same airspace with them, this artcle just confirms: It’s not the tecnology. It’s the idiot using it.

  • Cecil

    I would have loved to have a glass cockpit or even a G 430 when I was working on my instrument rating instead of playing ‘battle of the needles’.

    The latter said, I think the biggest challenge for me as an instructor is getting VFR pilots to look outside and fly by visual attitude and LOOK FOR TRAFFIC! The glass cockpits offer lots of visual distractions that draw the attention of the pilot, inwards. It is because of the latter that I generally prefer that my primary students learn on the steam gauges – even with those there is a tendency to look at the instruments but a *little* less so than with the ‘glass’.

    When I am doing BFR’s for pilots who have their own glass-equipped aircraft I have been amazed how much trust they place in their TIS. They seem to have the idea that the presence of ALL aircraft will be made known to them and they really don’t look outside. My favorite thing to do with these pilots is to take them to fields where I know there is a good mix of taildraggers that have NO electrical system and no transponder. Then I sit back and watch the consternation on the face of the ‘glass’ BFR pilot when I point out all the aircraft which are NOT showing up on the TIS. Suprise, surprise, they find ‘religion’ and I have them looking outside again.

    Glass is situational awareness, in some respects, supreme; but its’ visual allure and technology has its’ pitfalls. As pointed out in the article too,,, in the end, you still have to have to be able to fly the plane.

  • Daniel Dugan

    The concern that I have can be summed up in one word – distraction. There is so much information being presented that some pilots probably spend too much time “heads down” gazing at all of the colorful displays. The reason I bring this up is the unexplained crash of the 182 w/glass cockpit into the side of Mt. Potosi – coming out of Las Vegas on a dark, but clear night.Two pilots, with 60,000 hours between them, slammed into that mountain. Why? We may never know, but I would submit that the glass instrument panel might have had something do do with their distraction – bright, full of information. A look outside would have easily shown the highway with the stream of headlights in and out of Las Vegas.

  • G Dyer

    How many AOPA members downloaded the 48 page TAA report and read every page?

    I did and spent most of a morning trying to understand it, then I realized that I had just spent the same amount of time it took me to take an introductory sailplane ride and sign up for lessons to get my glider rating.

    The TAA report simply underscores what most of us should already know; Stick and rudder trumps gizmos, whether they be gauges or glass.

  • Jeff Helmericks

    Great article, I however have some thoughts from my own observations. I fly a combination of aircraft, some with relativity sophisticated avionics packages, and some not, but whatever aircraft I am in the adage of “stick and rudder as required” holds true. Here in lays the problem with the modern TAA in the GA fleet; the over reliance on technology in an attempt to compensate for a fundamental lack of basic airmanship.

    Regrettably this problem has even shown up in the cockpits of large aircraft such as the Air France flight 447 that ended up in the water or the Q400 flight that crashed going into Buffalo, in both cases the aircraft was held in a stalled condition all the way to the point of impact. I think this is a result to the over emphasis on technology during primary training, i.e. the G1000 172, it looks cool and has a lot of wow factor to attract new pilots, but unfortunately I think it shortchanges students thru distraction on tasks other than basic flying skills.

    There still is a place for “basic” aircraft during “basic” training, the brain can only learn new things so fast. The notion that we should be training pilots in TAA aircraft because that is what they will be flying is flawed, if it were true we would teach our kids to read with Shakespeare and Hemingway rather than Dick and Jane.

  • Owen DeLong

    I grew up on round-dials or “steam gauges”. For the last 3 years, I’ve been flying primarily G1000 glass.

    I love glass most of the time. If you’re flying night, IMC, and/or cross-country, it’s fantastic. In the traffic pattern, it’s a struggle to avoid being distracted by the glass and keep your attention where it needs to be, but, with proper training and discipline, it can be done.

    Some considerations:

    The GA (TakeOff/GoAround) switch operation is complex and not well understood by most glass cockpit fliers. While I doubt this is a major factor in many of the accidents, I think that the 2 biggest issues with glass are distraction and automation surprise. The latter is a common result of the limited understanding of the GA switch on the G1000.

    I’m not actually certain that having a GA switch in an aircraft that lacks auto throttles is a good idea. As I understand it, in an aircraft with auto throttles, the TOGA (Take Off/Go Around) switch does not decouple the autopilot, but, advances the throttles to takeoff power and commands an initial climb pitch attitude. (oversimplified to be sure).

    Conversely, the GA switch in the G1000 has the following effects: 1. Resumes waypoint sequencing (useful if you’re going missed), 2. Commands a 12º nose up attitude in the flight director, 3. Disengages the autopilot, and 4. Switch the HSI to GPS.

    The combination of 2 and 3 can lead to automation surprise at a critical phase in flight. Yes, proper training should, theoretically, overcome that but I have met several pilots whose G1000 training did not include a thorough understanding of what to expect when they push that button. It’s a bad time to be expecting the autopilot to be flying the airplane and suddenly have it hand the controls back to you.

    I’ve seen a couple of pilots trying to use heading mode to fly the pattern on autopilot. It seems some pilots are either being taught or deciding on their own that as soon as they climb through 400′ AGL, it’s time to automate the airplane and they don’t want to hand-fly again until short-final. Flying the pattern on autopilot is a really bad idea for a number of reasons, IMHO.

    First, it keeps you heads-down in the cockpit futzing with the switchology when you should be looking outside. I don’t care how good you are with an autopilot, a turn to a heading or selecting an altitude cannot be done as heads-up as if you are hand-flying.

    Next, it’s actually a higher workload trying to manage the autopilot to perform in an environment that really isn’t what autopilots are designed to do. Pattern ops are the last place in the world where a pilot needs additional distractions and higher workload.

    Finally, flying on autopilot deprives you of several sensory inputs about what is going on with the wind, the airplane, the environment, etc. Having these can be important.

    I firmly believe that glass can be safer overall than round-dials/steam gauges with proper training and discipline. However, I think it can also be a contributing factor to accidents where the pilot is not properly trained and familiar with the technology and/or where the pilot attempts to misuse the technology or becomes complacent and is not prepared for failures or surprises from the automation.

  • Frank Hellwig

    I think it has less to do with any specific technology (or lack thereof) as it does with “time in type.” Safety starts happening when the aircraft you fly is as comfortable as an old shirt. I have about 1,000 hours in my SR20 and the safety I enjoy has absolutely nothing to do with fancy displays or coupled approaches. It’s all about knowing the aircraft, its systems, and having a bond with the equipment where every sound, vibration, and feeling means something and can be translated into a meaningful response. I feel at one with my baby and it has nothing to do with technology, but with frequent trips and experiences into challenging, but measured, situations. Fly often, fly safe, and know your aircraft.

  • Jeff

    A lesson can be learned here from the auto industry. A great deal of work went into engineering antilock brakes. They are reliable and reduce stopping distance on most surfaces. They reduce the chance of control loss as well. Now with over two decades of statistics in, believe it or not, they have not reduced the accident rate. Some contend these results, but it is true. Why? The answer is
    simple. When a driver has antilock brakes on his car, he/she tends to drive faster and follow closer believing the equipment will make up for it. If one wants to fly IMC and is not prepared with a winds aloft adjusted magnetic heading and stopwatch plan then no amount of equipment will make up for it. Solid state
    attitude information is a wonderful thing, but the backup battery lasts 30 min.

  • Cary Alburn

    After reading the entire report in addition to the 2 articles, plus all of the comments here and elsewhere, I have not changed my mind at all about the value (or lack of value) of glass in GA airplanes. For IFR (whether or not in IMC), there’s undoubtedly a benefit, if the pilot has been thoroughly trained in the use of the glass panel. But that’s a big “if”. When I was a low time pilot, there was a certain amount of intrigue associated with complicated appearing “full IFR” panels, whether or not we could use all the bells and whistles. Now we have people who have little use for and insufficient training to use glass panels, but boy are they ever cool!

    What neither the report nor any of the articles or comments have touched upon, though, is the adverse effect that expensive glass panels may have on the ability to get new students who will become good, safe pilots. If the airplanes have $75,000 panels in them, that cost must be passed on to the students. But is a basic trainer that costs more because it has a $75,000 panel in it any better as a basic trainer than one that has basic VFR-only instrumentation? Considering how unnecessary all those bells and whistles are to learning basic operational skills and basic navigation, I would argue that $75,000 panel unnecessarily raises the cost of instruction, which has to impact whether a student will start or finish, and most importantly, whether that student will become a good, safe pilot.

    As soon as I started instructing, I became painfully aware that the more complicated the panel, the less time the student spent looking outside. My favorite instructing tool became a dish towel, to put over the panel and force the student away from the panel. It was a lot easier to teach basic stick and rudder skills, if the student wasn’t being distracted by unnecessarily referring to the panel.

    The report, articles, and comments seem to bear this out, and I would summarize it this way, as advice to a student: First learn to fly well, without reference to fancy panels, whether steam gauges or glass. Then spend sufficient time to learn the ins and outs of the panel that you’re going to be using. Then learn how to fly using that panel. For most, that means obtaining an instrument rating and then using it to fly within the ATC system. If you’re not going to fly on instruments, you don’t need a panel that allows you do that. But if you’re not interested in flying on instruments, you definitely don’t need a fancy glass panel.

    Glass panels have their place, but in my view, not for students or low time pilots. Whether they are of any real benefit to the occasional IFR pilot has yet to be proven.

  • tom

    We tend to like what we got, but cockpit envy is always there regardless of effectiveness. In reality we should buy what does the mission at the best price. I fly in the mountains and find glass cockpits like the G1000 fragile, stupendously expensive to repair and distracting. For that mission I find that a hand-held Garmin 696 in a steam-gage plane offers the same features at a fraction of the cost.

    I also fly lots of long cross country across multiple time zones and always encounter at least one frontal passage. A G1000 is wonderful for that. So is a Hand-held G-696 and a nav-tracking autopilot. Again, identical features as the G1000 rig except for the six-pack at a fraction of the price.

    I’ve had gremlins disable the transponder in a G1000 plane. It only took a software reset to fix, but it also took a day on the phone finding the guy who could tell us how to do it.

    I originally thought a G1000 would be cheaper to own, but that’s a myth. Instead of a vacuum pump or iron gyros any mechanic can fix, you get a Line replaceable unit that MIGHT fix the problem for $3000 plus an $11,000 core charge. Engine start using an APU making dirty power will do that. Suddenly that vacuum system starts looking pretty good.

  • tom

    When I saw the glass vs steam discussion it reminded me of the A-10 warthog story: The Hog is a low tech machine that gets the job done vs USAF high-tech alternatives noteworthy for dissipating money. A $20k JDAM vs $1.4 mil cruise missiles is another example, but that’s not today’s lesson. But it’s a good one worth googling.

    By law the USAF flies all fixed wing stuff (Ok, the Navy stood up to them, but the Army caved in exchange for permission to fly helos). The Hog is an Army close air support machine, able to kill tank crews with impunity, but by law the USAF flies and maintains it while holding their collective noses because it isn’t fast or sleek or go high or well, you get the picture. No glass either. Not a drop. Maybe there is now because USAF had plans to upgrade it a few years ago, parallel to plans to get rid of it.

    It’s always a toss up which camp is winning. I expect a compromise where they will re-wing, engine and instrument the Hog, then send them to AMARC to wait for the next war or destruction, depending on the salvage value of titanium.

    Too bad congress doesn’t just make an exception and turn the Hog over to the Army where they don’t seem to have a love affair going with high-tech stuff that doesn’t work. Take the F-22 oxygen generator system that causes hypoxia, or the F-35 that is so high-tech nobody can afford it. Ok, to be fair, the USAF denies the F-22 O2 system causes hypoxia. Instead it stops delivering oxygen. (Said with a straight face to those wimpy fighter pilots gasping for air). Similar logic blamed the F-22 pilot for crashing his ride when the system ‘stopped delivering oxygen’ at 48kft. The guy probably woke up just in time to say the fighter pilot’s prayer. Sometimes, technology is a solution in search for a problem. In the case of the F-22 O2 system vs a LOX tank seems exactly that. Could the ‘glass cockpit’ also be such a thing?

    In that light I applaud ASF’s approach over that of the USAF.

    I found the below link that compared high tech vs low tech and the A-10. Replace the asterisks with periods to get the link to work.


  • tom

    Jeff’s post about antilock brakes reminds me of my research for aircraft airbags. A vendor offered a discount to install bag/belt combos, so I did some research. The results were far less than conclusive.

    A note by one researcher analyzing NTSB data was that airbags were blamed for causing deaths in cars because they were sold as a substitute for seatbelts, which turned out to be a bad idea.

    Airbags used in conjunction with a three-point harness help prevent neck injuries, but the data is far from conclusive for aircraft. I forget the numbers, but IIRC there was only one of about 30 airbag-equipped aircraft involved in accidents that MIGHT have reduced injury severity compared to a statistical unsurvivable head-on wreck. The rest had side loads, and you need a side airbag to protect against sideloads.

  • Viktor Rothe

    It’s the pilot who gazes at the gauges instead of giving the aircraft the correct input, no matter what the gauges look like. Even the ” highway-in-the-sky” technology won’t help, if you forget to counteract the P-factor during take-off.

  • Herb Ludgewait

    Amen to Tom’s comments about the USAF. Then the FAA gives them a free pass on a civilian CFI rating. The only thing that will keep the accident rate down is AF instructors won’t work hard enough to recommend applicants

  • Cliff Biggs

    We seem to be missing a very big point. It’s not the “glass cockpit” that is the problem with the SR22. It’s basic pilot skills and not being able to “go back to basics”. Too many people, with too much money, with to little experience, think they can fly an SR22 in most any weather (on autopilot). I’m not crucifying the airplane, it’s a great airplane but it a very high performance airplane not to be treated lightly. A 172 is forgiving (due to its stable nature and slower speed) but an SR 22 is commensurate with the MU2. High speed, short coupled, things get out of shape fast and without basic flying skills and motor reflex instincts, tragedies happen. Both airplane are great modes of transportation but both require training AND experience. 200 or 300 hrs and an SR22 is an accident waiting to happen. All the training in the world can’t make up for experience and glass cockpit issues go all the way back to the introduction of the 757. But it’s still and experience issue with the SR22 accident rate. JMO

  • grumpy

    If you’re a lefty, hand flying a Cirrus in heavy turbulance, how do you copy an ammended clearance from ATC?

  • Kent Shook

    There IS a way to figure out usage by type – And interestingly enough, I came up with this during a debate on the relative safety of the SR20 vs. the DA40.

    What I did is to look at the for-sale sites and put together a spreadsheet with the model year and TTAF for each tail number in the for sale listings. While it won’t give a full picture of usage (planes being sold are often not being flown), it will give a very accurate picture of the relative usage of various models. Using GAMA sales data, you can also figure out good numbers for accident exposure over time.

    FWIW, the claim that’s been passed around about Cirri flying twice as much as other airplanes simply doesn’t hold water. When I ran the numbers as above, the SR20’s were flying 132 hours per year to the DA40’s 124 – Pretty comparable for the relatively-small sample size.

  • San Diego Steve

    As a glider pilot with no training or time in powered aircraft, I am always amazed at how so many power pilots allow themselves to be distracted by instruments and spend so little time actually flying the airplane, watching the horizon and scanning for traffic. Yes, the glass panel gadgets are wonderful, but they are no substitute for flying skills and judgment. At the beginning of WWII, Wolfgang Langsweich wrote “Stick and Rudder” which is an understandable description of how an airplane actually flies, what the pilot can do to keep it flying, and, how to avoid a crash. There were no glass panels, synthetic terrain or GPS then and the pilot had to quickly make the correct decisions to avoid disaster. If you want to be a better, safer pilot, save some money and take a few glider lessons. Without engine vibration and noise you will be able to feel and hear the forces that affect the glider and, hopefully, keep it in the air. You will learn to estimate airspeed and attitude and predict stalls without reference even to the minimal steam gauges using sound and the forces operating on your body. Even more, you will learn to anticipate what the glider will do before it does it. The modern instruments can do many things to help the pilot, but they cannot replace flying skills.