Thursday, March 4, 2010

Glass cockpits and light airplanes

The National Transportation Safety Board announced today that it will hold a hearing next week on glass cockpits and light airplanes.

According to the news release:

In 2000, almost all new single engine light airplanes were manufactured with conventional analog flight instruments. Today almost all new light planes come equipped with digital flight display avionic systems, also known as "glass cockpits." The enhanced function and information capabilities of these systems represent a significant change and potential improvement in the way general aviation pilots monitor information needed to control their aircraft.

Yeah, so? What's the problem?

The hearing will start at 9:30 on Tues. March 9. You can watch it here.


  1. As a total novice, is it possible for these kinds of electronics to fail? Or that is, more likely with a loss of electricity?

  2. It's possible that instruments will fail, but it also possible the old style will fail -- in fact, possibly more so.

    The potential danger -- and it's really not much of one -- is that since one "glass" unit replaces a dozen other instruments, when you lose the one, you lose them all.

    But a lot of people building their own planes are planning on redundant units and backup systems, especially when they're pilots who fly in instrument conditions.

    I'm not one of those pilots. I have a Dynon D100 for airspeed, altitude etc., but I have an internal backup battery. I also have an old style altimeter and airspeed indicator as backup.

    I'm a firm believer that the best instruments in an airplane are your eyes and ears. You can "hear" how fast you're going by the air rushing by and the sound of an engine, you can see your attitude by looking out the window.

    The danger of glass has always been that some pilots can spend more time with their eyes inside the cockpit instead of outside the airplane.