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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TIP 4 Let George fly. Use the autopilot when programming. It’s his airplane until you hit disconnect, so don’t try moving the controls while the autopilot is engaged—the results will surprise you. Remember to adjust power when leveling off from a descent or climb, as some autopilots don’t have an airspeed hold mode and will happily stall the airplane when you’re not looking.

TIP 5 Read your mail at the right time. You can ignore some messages or alerts. If you don’t, the system will nag you about irrelevant items. The system, however, also can warn you about important items, such as black-box failures, or bad weather ahead. Any time you’re not expecting a message, you need to read it and find out what’s going on. It could be quite important. Know when to expect which messages and when you can ignore them.

TIP 6 Your typing teacher was wrong. Button presses per minute is not a scored item in the cockpit. Glass-cockpit programming can lead to mode confusion and keystroke errors. Prevent this with slow and deliberate action regarding the electronics, knowing that only the results count. One of the few exceptions is an autopilot that decides to do a rare hard-over failure. The only fast action is to disconnect it and fly the airplane.

TIP 7 Cheat, but cheat well. If you can’t remember a certain procedure, write it down in checklist format. We use checklists to remind ourselves of important tasks while flying, so why not one for avionics? If your mind goes blank while flying, you can grab the checklist, flip through to the appropriate section and remind yourself how to tell the box what you want it to do. Some pilots claim that using an avionics checklist added an average of only 15 seconds to the programming task, but it eliminated all failed attempts to perform the task.

TIP 8 Look out. The glass cockpits look cool inside. But avoid the head-down-and-locked syndrome by taking the time during each flight to look outside and enjoy flying. When your significant other comes aboard for the first glass-cockpit flight, you’ll be able to point out the scenery that he or she will be missing because, with head down and locked, he or she will be staring at the displays, wondering if it’s time to learn how to fly.


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