Plane & Pilot
Thursday, December 1, 2005

Switching To Glass

Take the plunge! Here are some remarkable tips for transitioning to the new cockpits.

Switching To Glass It has finally happened. While waiting for you to land one day, your significant other saw the advertisement for the new glass-cockpit rental airplane, looked it over and now wants a flight in it. “It’s so much cleaner than those old airplanes you always fly.” Those words stung. “Why can’t we fly the new one?” That didn’t sting. After some serious negotiating on the flying budget—the new airplane wasn’t your idea—you’re off to your first glass-cockpit transition lesson. Ensuring your significant other was at the airport on the day of the flight school’s glass-cockpit open house was a grand idea. Reading this article before the first lesson is another. These FAQs will make your first glass-cockpit flight go much more smoothly.

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How Do I Learn It?
Glass-cockpit manufacturers do their best to make the glass easy to learn. They’re not expecting you to start studying 15 minutes before your passengers arrive, however. At Gene Hudson Flight Training, for example, pilots understand the use of the PFD almost immediately. The MFD takes a few minutes to explore, but it quickly becomes second nature. Once pilots are exposed to an autopilot that works, that part of the transition is straightforward. The GPS then becomes the most difficult item in the glass cockpit to master, especially for those without any previous GPS experience. Plan to spend some time studying the GPS to make use of its features.

You can make your transition even easier by obtaining and studying the avionics simulators, information manuals and training guides before the first lesson. Garmin has made its GNS 430 simulator available for free download on its Website ( The Garmin GNS 430 is the brains behind the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra system, and if you’re familiar with the GNS 430, the Garmin G1000 GPS functions are similar. Download the Garmin GNS 430 simulator and go play. Reality XP, an avionics simulation company, has made the Garmin GNS 430 simulator work with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 for those who want to practice procedures while maintaining aircraft control. Eaglesoft, another flight simulator company, has released models for the Cirrus SR22 and SR20 for Microsoft Flight Simulator as well. Most pilots give the Eaglesoft simulators high marks for accuracy, detail and authenticity.

Where Is The Airspeed?

Turn on the master switch, and the PFD lights up immediately. It’s designed to withstand the electrical power fluctuations during start and shutdown; no, someone didn’t forget to turn off a switch. You’ll recognize the attitude indicator on the PFD immediately, except now, the sky and ground depiction is drawn across the entire screen, not just two inches. The airspeed, now a “tape” strip, runs on the top left side of the screen, with the current airspeed as the boxed number and trend lines showing increasing or decreasing airspeed. The altimeter is another tape strip on the top right side, with the current altitude as the boxed number, trend lines above or below, and the altimeter setting on the bottom of the tape. The vertical speed has moved from the bottom right to the top right, a tape strip (on the Garmin G1000) or a gentle arc strip (on the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra). The directional gyro, now a horizontal situation indicator (HSI), is bottom center, with your current heading as the boxed number at the top center of the arc or 360-degree view.

The only flight instrument that isn’t immediately obvious is the turn coordinator. Hidden on top of the HSI is the turn portion. The first tick mark is a half-standard-rate turn, and the second tick mark is the full-standard-rate turn of three degrees per second. While a backup attitude instrument might have an inclinometer (ball), the ball is now a trapezoid, hidden under the bottom arrow at the top of the attitude display (See Figure).


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