Operating Technically Advanced Aircraft
Keith Mueller, GLSFIA President As an active flight instructor it is our duty to make every attempt to maintain our proficiency and stay current on regulatory and industry changes. As a professional, we owe this to our students and to the pilots we provide training. One of the many challenges in the General Aviation Industry today is keeping up to date with the technological changes in aircraft, especially advances in avionics. For more than a decade we have seen major changes in the avionics systems incorporated on production and updated aircraft. Few aircraft today are manufactured without incorporating the glass cockpit concept. One of the stumbling blocks of this technology is the fact that each manufacturer has their own design of how their system operates along with the challenges found when learning to program and fully understand the avionics installed in the aircraft.
Due to the complexity, students as well as instructors need to understand and comply with the amount of training that is needed to become fully capable of programming and operating the avionics system installed in the aircraft they fly. Browsing the internet you can find advertisements that offer Garmin G-1000 or Avidyne checkout training for as little as two hours ground and two hours in the aircraft. Although this may give many pilots a better understanding of the system, they have little or no in-depth knowledge of the functions, components, line replaceable units (LRU’s) and limitations of the system when components fail. In short, a flight at this level of training in anything beyond good VFR should never occur.
Training and proficiency is the key to safety, frequently we read about an accident and in the first few sentences of the article we can see where things started to wrong from the start and in many cases before the aircraft every entered into a flight mode. Having been involved in airline maintenance operations for more than 37 years; my background will always drive my focus towards proper training. As I frequently say, “aviation is all about doing everything right the first time”, frequently the second opportunity never becomes available.
Getting back to training, I still want to stress the technologically advanced aircraft training. For those not feeling comfortable with their level of glass cockpit competency, I would strongly suggest some additional training. Simulators have come a long way in this area and can help reduce time in the aircraft while providing quality training. Personally I feel that an in-depth training course over the components installed in the aircraft plus a minimum of 8 or more hours of simulator and flight training is needed to make most pilots competent with the avionics. This might seem like overkill to some, but in the interest of safety a little extra training is welcome when failures with displays or black boxes rudely invade our level of comfort. Fly safe!