Learn to Fly with Glass?

June 16, 2010 by Bruce Landsberg

blogAs we look at how to address the declining pilot population this note came through from a flight school owner.

“I have been exploring different options for modernization of my flight school fleet and I keep running into the same difficult question. Should I embrace the new simplified technology available by installing Aspen screens or a G500 into my primary fleet or should I only modernize the Nav/Com/GPS systems and maintain a six pack panel for teaching the core concepts before introducing the simplified way to interact with that information. Which serves the student better? Which do the students want when they are searching for schools?”

My unscientific observation is that cost is a big driver and newer aircraft with full glass tend to run 30% higher than a less glossy machine. However, “light glass” retrofits may offer less complexity and cost. I’ve also opined that new pilots need to learn the basics of flying with a bit less button pushing. That can certainly come later but let’s fly first and then develop the system management mentality as needed.

As we’re formulating direction, we’d like your thoughts.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Brian Knoblauch

    That’s a difficult problem. The place I started at offered both types of airplane. They had expected glass demand to surge, so sold a steam gauge airplane in order to add another glass. End result was that some of us steam gauge users ended up going elsewhere due to availability problems, while the new glass airplane was underutilized. Cost was a minimal factor (if it applied at all) in the decision from the people I talked to.

    There are lots of people out there that are put off by “old” steam gauge airplanes and would be more at home in glass. However, there are also a lot of people that really love aviation and want to learn the old way first, before transitioning to glass (if they ever even care if they fly glass).

  • http://www.pinnacleacademy.com Cathe Johnson

    We teach with both Glass and also Analogue gauge aircraft. Our fleet still operates with a majority of Analogue gauge, however we have 2 nice Glass aircraft and the new SkyCatcher on order. In teaching students; I believe, it depends upon what the student is looking for. Our clients who wish to purchase their own new aircraft down the road – I suggest learning in the Glass as that is what they will be flying. For clients who intend to rent aircraft- currently at flying clubs and flight schools across the country the Analog gauge is more prevalent for a rental plane, so for the pilot intending to rent – it often makes more sense to learn to fly in the Analogue gauge aircraft.

    We have had clients prefer to learn in the Glass, and it only takes some transition training to learn to fly the Analogue. Also, the reverse it true – it take about the same transition training to learn to fly the Glass after learning in the Analogue.

    If the Glass Cockpit aircraft is taught correctly, utilizing an AATD to really learn the Glass system with out the distractions of trying to keep the aircraft flying right… mastering the Glass and then also learning to control the aircraft – learning in the Glass is not any more difficult than the Analogue gauge. We have student pilots who choose to learn both ways – they graduate and complete their training in the same time lines with Glass as with Analogue gauge students.

    My suggestion: learn to fly in the type of aircraft you will be utilizing mostly in the future. Glass is just like anything else in aviation… proficiency is the important factor. If you learn to fly the Glass and then you never actually fly Glass… you won’t be proficient when you jump in one.

  • http://www.austinflightcheck.com Ken Lane

    I definitely agree with Cathe’s last paragraph. Proficiency is key for training. This is the reason scenario-based training (SBT) is now being encouraged by the FAA. That does not mean they need to be perfect for the check ride but the we certainly do not settle for merely meeting the PTS.

    With that in mind, if you’re planning to fly glass on a regular basis and certainly if you plan to purchase glass, take your primary training in glass. Suddenly jumping to glass for an instrument rating will be a substantial step backward.

    For four years, I’ve been saying it takes a good fifteen hours to be “reasonably” proficient in VFR on the G-1000. Later, I stated fifty hours in IMC. I’ve done instrument training with that idea in mind. On one pilot board, I was accused of gouging students or trying to rip them off.

    March 9th this year, the NTSB had a meeting that backed me up. Analog panel fatality rates were calculated at .43 fatalities per 100,000 flight hours. In glass panel aircraft, it’s 1.03 fatalities per 100,000 flight hours.

    Were I a school owner with both glass and analog panels taking in a student who wants to start in analog and progress to glass, I would make the issues of safety very clear. They could do so but expect to spend much more time becoming capable in the glass under VFR before I would take them into instrument training. Even then, I would expect them to be capable in operating the glass panel systems before instrument training.

    Obviously, most private pilots intend to advance to an instrument rating. A good many will be doing so in glass. Don’t short-change their safety for the sake of saving money. Proficiency is everything in IMC.

  • Walter W. Leiser

    My personal opinion is that in training you need to try to get the most you can from the resources you have available. I am a Private Pilot and did my whole PP training on steam gauges. Now, I’m getting ready for my Instrument checkride and my whole training was on Glass, even though a few flights were made on steam. I plan to go back to steam while working on my commercial, due to the lower cost of it.

    I believe that in my case, as I am looking at flying as a career, getting proficient in both is helpful, even though Glass might be slightly more expensive. Nowadays I keep flying both whenever I can. Something to consider, from what I have experienced, once you fly on both, you need to fly on both from time to time to remain proficient.

  • Adam Ondrajka

    As a student I have found that follow students find it difficult to go from glass panel to steam gauge where traditional students on steam gauge can transition over to glass a little easier other than first having difficulty learning exactly what you’re seeing on the screen.

  • Ted Templeton

    I learned and was tested (IFR) on steam gages 8 years ago. About 2 years ago I moved to the G1000. In my opinion the G1000 is much safer flying in actual IMC. All information need to keep the plane controlled and on course is right in front of the pilot. No need to scan 6 dials and relate the information when under stress. I believe that Garmin could and should do a better job on the user interface. It seems that the G1000 is three separate systems glued together. Each one has a different way of using the knobs and soft keys. It is one reason why it takes so long to learn the system. Garmen should reengineer the user interface making it logical and consistent ; therefore easy to learn.

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