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NTSB Report: Glass cockpits have not led to expected safety improvements

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NTSB Report: Glass cockpits have not led to expected safety improvements

Old 11th Mar 2010, 09:48
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I think I can maybe understand the issue being a low time PPL rating (like 250 hours in 41 years). I have always loved to fly and always struggled to maintain currency. The more complex the contraption and the more demanding the environment the harder it gets. Hence the V-tailed retired dentist killer.

The easiest thing to stay current in that I ever flew was a Slingsby Cadet Mk III in 1969.

The off topic comments about lack of skills in jet pilots are something I understand and worry about because (again) the more complex the kit, the less of it you fully understand and the further behind it you can quickly get.

For me, I always prefer the situational awareness a map a compass and a clock gives me.
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 10:21
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One of the NTSB recommendations in the report, is provision of PC based procedure trainers for glass cockpit systems, to help familiarize pilots with features and failure modes.

I checked the Garmin website, and it turns out they sell PC based trainers for the G1000. They have a trainer available for each aircraft type the G1000 system is currently fitted in. I noticed for example the trainer for the Cessna/Columbia 350/400 even includes the autopilot. The cost of the single user trainers is $24.95 USD, which is a bargain. Multiuser trainers are $99.95 USD, which is still a bargain.

Your PC has to meet minimum requirements, including a graphics accelerator using at least DirectX 9.0c, and a joystick. The MAC is not supported. You can run dxdiag.exe (shows all things DirectX on your PC) to determine if your PC meets the requirements.


Current manuals for each aircraft type are also available for download at the website. Training manuals are also available for download.

Last edited by Flight Safety; 11th Mar 2010 at 10:41. Reason: Added comment about manual downloads.
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 11:52
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That's great, Flight Safety, but I'm guessing the types of people who buy these kinds of aeroplanes probably don't feel the need to train. All the gear, no idea, springs to mind.

Probably best leave it to Darwin.
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 12:49
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In the simulator I once saw an experienced 737 crew roll inverted and go in vertically on an ILS at night in IMC when one of the autothrottle clutch motors failed with that throttle at idle from previous level flight deceleration with flap extension. Neither pilot saw the huge split in the throttles as one went to 80 percent N1 to hold the glide slope with full flap and the other perfectly serviceable engine was at idle. All the crew had to do was simply switch of the autothrottle and use both throttles manually.

But when the captain finally did see one throttle at idle he thought it was an engine failure and called for the engine failure checklist. It was then the autopilot disconnected from the ILS allowing the aircraft to roll upside down with the captain still looking at the FMA display and wondering why the ADI was in a funny position. All the time the first officer was still turning the pages of the QRH looking for Section 7 (Non- Normals Engine and APU). The F/O never saw the crash as he was still flicking the pages as we hit the deck.

Both pilots were blind followers of automation as per their company policy. Scary stuff indeed,
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 13:04
  #45 (permalink)  
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Somehow after rereading my post and your response I think you misinterpreted my post. I am not saying manual airplanes are better than automated ones, just that basic flying skills get you out of situations that bad automation inputs put you into sometimes.

I had no problem transitioning to automation, just saw a lot of pilots try to fix an automation problem with automation and going totally heads down in the cockpit when a simple turn or power or pitch change while looking out the window took care of everything. Now that you are pointed right you can take your time in reengaging the automation. Also reading here I have seen many posts saying their airlines encourage total automation and little or no hand flying. Most of them didn't come from the US. Also I don't hate checkairmen. Some of them have a hard time swallowing their pride when they muck something up and try to salvage a situation while staying in automatic mode. Most line guys don't.
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 16:07
  #46 (permalink)  
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Slickster, p51guy, and PTH. My point about the G1000 is that I've always strongly believed that you should KNOW the systems of your airplane, both mechanical and electronic. Many months ago I tried to create a document for posting on pprune, regarding automation and its proper design and use in aircraft, as I've designed, managed and worked computer automation all my adult life. I decided not to post it because it was far too long and if you can't say it in a few paragraphs, you don't know how to say it. So what follows is my attempt at the short version:

Processes exist in business (including airlines and airplanes) to serve customers. They're repeated over and over, thousands and thousands of times as the business operates. Processes, including those in airlines and airplanes, lend themselves to improvements by automation. But the automation, like all other machine devices incorporated into processes, are subject to failure. Because failures will ALWAYS occur, an operator (including professional operators like pilots) most ALWAYS oversee and manage the process.

When automation is designed into a process (including an airplane) it will ALWAYS possess a limited amount of program logic (some systems more, some less) to cope with normal and abnormal conditions. When a failure occurs and the logic cannot accurately and correctly deal with the failure, the automation MUST clearly notify the operator and then back out of the process, so corrective action can be taken by the operator. If you manufacture toilet seats and the automation fails and you don't notice it, you just throw the bad toilet seats into the recycle bin. However if you're airborne and you don't catch it, well we've been reading about these lately.

Automation does not require a dumber operator, it requires a smarter operator who understands both the mechanical and the automation systems of the process he/she is overseeing. One reason this is required is because some automation does NOT always give good quaility failure feedback to the operator, and sometimes it will not back out of the process when it should (both are automation design issues). Thus you must intimately know the system to recognize the failure that is not well indicated or not well responded to. The recent trends of some airlines towards pilots of lower standards because of automation, are moving exactly in the wrong direction. Automation requires even more skill, not less. In the case of the pilot, good basic airmanship as well as good system management skills are absolutely required for safe operation.

There, that only took three paragraphs.

Last edited by Flight Safety; 11th Mar 2010 at 17:22. Reason: Typos
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 17:05
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The study, which looked at the accident rates of over 8,000 small piston-powered airplanes manufactured between 2002 and 2006, found that those equipped with glass cockpits had a higher fatal accident rate then similar aircraft with conventional instruments.
Were these 8000 accidents or accidents in a sample size of 8000 aircrafts? How many fatal accidents? Does any one have link to the study?
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 17:39
  #48 (permalink)  
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From the report:

Glass Cockpit:
(1)Fewer hours per aircraft
(3)Higher percentage of hours flown for personal/business
Lower percentage of hours for instructional flights
(2)Higher percentage of hours flown in IMC

Summary of Results
Lower total accident rates for glass cockpit cohort
Higher fatal rate for glass cockpit cohort
Accidents reflect differences in aircraft use that might explain differences in accident severity
(4) Pattern of results does not show a safety benefit for glass cockpit group during the studied period
So Im not sure if Id agree with a lot of posts in this thread. All I see there is that glass cockpits cant be counted on as a substitute for experience (4) for low time[in the Airplane] (1), solo pilots (3) flying in bad weather (2).

Hardly a surprise.
In fact, my personal experience is that the transition from early romian empire radio stacks to highly sophisticated eqipment absorbs a lot of brainpower until you adopt to the workflow pattern you need in this enviroment. Change from one airplane with Universal FMS to one of the same type with, say, a GNS-XLS. It simply takes time to learn. During that time, one should have knowledgable company. Thats why in the commercial world there is supervision time required.
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 18:03
  #49 (permalink)  
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There is another side to this glass cockpit problem.
Some time ago we upgraded one piper training pa 28 (at our FTO ) with a garmin 430 box 1 and KX155 box 2. The FTO computor was loaded with the garmin simulator and the instructors were all willing to give instruction on the simulator for free.
The aircraft was very popular with PPL's ,but what was very evident, was that, when you got in the aircraft after a PPL had flown it, Box 2 was selected on the panel as the primary radio. They could not be bothered to learn how to use the garmin.
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 18:21
  #50 (permalink)  
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Agreed, too much shiny stuff is distracting for private pilots, especially ones who don't really know what they are looking at in the first place.
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Old 11th Mar 2010, 18:32
  #51 (permalink)  
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people complain that those who prefer steam gauges are old fashioned...

My Seneca IV has steam gauges plus a simple moving map (IIIc), and I think I have the best of both worlds.
To me it was striking to read some of the excess fatalities may come from failures of glass components and the pilots not knowing what to do.....

Glass panels are far too complex to allow the first Mr PPL loose on them without formal training. Glass cockpits should be like a separate rating similar to a night rating perhaps
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Old 12th Mar 2010, 05:41
  #52 (permalink)  
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we don't need no stinkin' glass cockpit...

A glass cockpit will not increase safety in and of itself.

In some respects, "we" were safer with steam gauges which took more training.

Modern displays and electronics are highly beneficial - when used as a replacement for older technology.

Unfortunately, some operations assume that more automation / better instrumentation = greater safety/lower cost.

Such is not the case. They don't realize they are trading "today" against "tomorrow," or if they do, they just don't care.

A successful and safe operation will still rely mainly upon the "meat" up front - the skilled pilots - to conduct business in the safest and most cost-effective way possible.

Sad is this.

Automation and enhanced cockpit paraphernalia has been mistaken to be a replacement for skill, instead of an augmentation of skill.

There are a few operations which have made a decent balance in this regard, but I won't mention them.

Of course, the "glass cockpit" hasn't proven to be significantly safer than the previous needle and fluid systems- the village idiot could have predicted the same outcome.

I'm sure this comment will get a good flaming, and I sincerely don't intend to offend those who have started careers after the rush to automation and "fool-proof" displays began.

Many of you are pilots who keep to the tradition of F/N/A.

But, frankly, the easier one makes flying a commercial transport, the lower the baseline of pilot skill is required.

Most (not all) carriers take full advantage of this.

Again, be gentle with your comments.

And consider this - as automation grows, the concept of pilotless flights become more realistic to the bean-counter types who have so far reduced the business to a common, base experience for all involved.

I'm not insulting anyone with this post. Carriers now see long-time experienced pilots as a liability instead of an asset.

I'm merely making an observation: As framers automate, so the need for skilled pilots goes down.

In any statistical process, there will be a datum point where the projected and the reality meet.

IMO we're about to see this. In the foreseeable future, we will witness a situation where even the LCC cannot maintain a profit, due to discounting to stay competitive along with increasing fuel costs.

Speaking to the commercial, fewer highly qualified pilots are going to work.

Part of this is due to experienced pilots successfully "landing" themselves in a corporate situation.

I know a few retired mil folks who have decided to apply their discipline and skill to other industry. Two have become charter coach drivers, another has taken a job dispatching cabs, and has brought to the table his knowledge of ATC operations.

In large, the competition is fierce when seeking a position with a carrier. There are more potential pilots than there are potential seats.

Quality universally has suffered in "employer" markets versus "employee" markets. For the most part, the desperate and the unemployable do better than those with notable resumes and experience. They are cheaper and more willing to work extravagant hours.

In some cases, I think those who interview better may be getting the jobs, as opposed to those who might have more skill but lack the bluster and BS needed to successfully complete the interview process.

(The USAF actually had guidelines for this at one time; they understood that good pilots were not necessarily good candidates based on a non-technical interview.)

I am not saying anything against low-time pilots, other than this - you don't have the same resources available to you that the previous two generations had. You are expected to do far more with far less.

Most of you do incredibly well, given what you have to work with, and given what you have to put up with.

Someone - on another site, blue, with lots of pretty photos - made the remark that being a commercial pilot has devolved into being a bus driver.

I disagree, because by and large the traveling public tends to thank bus drivers.

The flying public these days couldn't care less, and those few (myself included) who would wish to thank a flight crew for a safe flight now have such a hard time doing so. Connecting flights are tighter than ever, and airports are now less charming and less comfortable.

And, sadly, many flight crew just cannot be bothered these days. Apparently the love of flight doesn't exist within them, as they are not apt to entertain any complimentary conversation.

Frankly, the "$49 anywhere" fare structure can't end soon enough for me.

I wish my SLF peers would finally recognize that you get "almost" what you pay for.

WN is doing a good job right now, basically because they haven't changed their modus operendi much - they still operate as an LCC with reasonably friendly faces.

The legacy carriers are hard-put to keep up.

In a perfect world, cockpit enhancements would cause crews to work less, instead of being an excuse to work longer hours.

In a perfect world, increased frame efficiency would offset the cost of running flights with the panache they deserve.

In a perfect world, this thread would never exist.

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Old 12th Mar 2010, 06:45
  #53 (permalink)  
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"Give me a lamp and a toggle switch with a tell tale warning light on the fail safe items thank you."

One problem with glass/lcd is along with the "relative" simplicity and consolidation came less tactile and moving needle feedback and more digital assumptive electrickery.
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Old 12th Mar 2010, 08:24
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Has anyone read the study?

Is it available online.
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Old 12th Mar 2010, 08:26
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It doesn't matter from where one receives the information one needs, glass or steam driven, so long as one keeps a clear picture of what it is one wants and is looking for, if I need to know my height I can look at an Altimeter or a moving height 'tape' - so long as I remember what I want and why I want it - and where to find it.

Even before glass cockpits, technology was confusing some, I recall a student F/o giving me a new heading to fly after an ATC change of instruction shortly after departure. I ignored him, and subsequently advised that I wasn't cross with him because he had incorrectly handled the new INS gadget we had recently received, but because we were leaving Singapore for Australia and he wanted me to steer 310 deg ! ( think about it )

An old navigation instructor told me to stop trying to do a maths exam in a rattling steel cabinet, and to imagine that I was sat on the top of the tail steering the aircraft over a map of the World. Great advice, keep the big picture going - in your head.
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Old 12th Mar 2010, 08:51
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Indeed, having read and agreed with many of the prior comments, non-glass cockpit has also caused a degree of problems in representation of data, however i do wonder if and perhaps that maybe a point to consider is that glass cockpits were originally a manner in which to simplify the presentation of data.

Conversely, by way of perhaps 'function creep' the simplified manner of presenting data has become 'layered' with degrees of complexity, display presentation and modes.

Maybe the suggestion by a previous poster of an inverted pyramid is perhaps apt.

Keeping this to a GA environment, as that is the reference point of the study, the commercial operation has a degree of commonality in the fleet and recurrent checks, whereas in the GA environment the lack of commonality breaks down.

Mixed in with various modes and manners of presentation the workload increases and potential loss of situational awareness increases.

Not a good place to be in.

Food for thought ?
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Old 12th Mar 2010, 10:35
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Seeing my kids move through virtual reality on the internet, I think that one of the dangers of a "neat" display of information is that one is prone to think that the representation IS reality, and that what is not displayed, is not there in the real world.
So I suspect an overreliance on the displayed information without the knowledge and experience to "see through" the information displayed, is a root cause of it not being safer than old gauges to the inexperienced.

I like the analogy of imagining sitting on the tail and steering the aircraft over the big map. To me it is definately about seeing the larger picture and fitting the displayed information into your mental picture, rather than letting the display become your mental picture.
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Old 12th Mar 2010, 11:01
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Has anyone considered the relevance of the TYPE of A/craft fitted with Glass?

I would hazard a guess that the "new tech" is predominantly fitted to airframes of the same ilk, IE, modern, slippery composites, far less forgiving than the stodgy spam-cans of yore.
I would not consider training on anything other than analogue instruments,for the same reason I prefer printed manuals to a CD version.

The book is intuitive,-once you know the layout, it's easy to open in the right area and flip between sections.....cycling around through ~600 pages of PDF's and then not being able to read the whole page without scrolling around,is a real ballache. Steam-gauges are simple,intuitive and stand-alone (agreed, superimposed "glass" instruments do have their place.) IMHO, Glass is the sort of environment best-suited to day-in day-out usage and the familiarity that comes with daily intensive use......the GA pilot in the UK, at least, does not fly enough to develop that intimate knowledge of the glass environment that results in instinctive button-pushing of the correct sequence.

I can play with a computer at home, Cockpit instrumentation should be clear, unambiguous and immediately visible -motor-cars have not adopted digital-panels as mainstream,despite the mass-market and the relatively high-intensity use they get.

I'm not a Luddite,but a lot of the argument for glass seems to be "technology for it's own sake" I'm with the others who think a lot of glass adopters have abilities which don't match their purchasing capacity.
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Old 12th Mar 2010, 11:30
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When I changed from a conventional cockpit to full glass, I resented the same as a lot of batchmates. They called it the five color s#!thouse. I saw no depth and had a hard time to find the individual parameter.
Adapting to a flatscreen and finding depth (3rd dimension) was a matter of getting used to and worked after a certain time. To find the individual values, correctly interpret them was another story and took even more time. Eventually it all worked out and I feel comfortable now.
I am a airline pilot and I HAVE RECEIVED that time and can keep on the routine. Private pilots in their light twins or overpowered singles generally DO NOT take or CANNOT afford that time and therfore do not get the routine. So they are prone to the new traps, therefore the increase in incidents, I presume.

Generally the glass instrument layout is overcrowded. Remember when the auto industry tried new forms of tachymeter and rpm indicators (especially the French)? They all eventually came back to a layout with individual instruments, mostly analogue display and generally very much standardised. Why? Because such a layout works best for the average Joe.
If glass cockpit designers for basic training and basic use aircraft would chose a layout with more distinct and individual/single instrument like presentation, I guess we would not have this effect. The lesser trained human perception functions more sequential than parallel and needs a clearer presentation of what it needs at a specific moment. Too many interwoven layouts and especially too many additional gimmicks lead to distraction.

THAT'S what is fatal in a low trained single pilot cockpit.
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Old 12th Mar 2010, 12:10
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I loved most of what RR had posted, and I didn't understand the rest. I converted to glass in my 50's, and found it hard work. I'd flown JP3's, 5's, Hawk and Hunter followed by a mix of A\C with conventional cockpits, and the emphasis was on Airmanship.
Afler I'd got comfortable on the Boeing 744 glass cockpit I was laid off in the great aviation depression of 2008-9, and had the oportunity to try out on the 767. Well it was not pretty, as not only was the glass very different, but some of the Boeing "standard cockpit" items were different. Immagine my surprise when, during the Sim assesment I went to disconnect the auto-throttle, only to hit the toga switch!
My point is this: there are many differing "glass cockpits" even from the same framer. If it is possible to have a standard design, whereby the information required is in the same place on every PFD or ND, be it C172 or B787, then every pilot will have a "standard" from which he/She will be able to start without learning a completly new cockpit display. This should enable new pilots the chance to develop airmanship in a familliar environment without having to put 95% of their brain power into just feeling comfortable with the display/ cockpit environment.

OK. I just realised the problem. The bean counters would have 18 year-olds takinga PPL course in January, and have them PIC on a 744 by march. Sorry i spoke

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