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Glass cockpit or round dials? It's a decades old argument that won't be solved anytime soon. Here are a few ways that glass cockpits can improve your flying.
The next time you're preflighting an airplane, try to read round dial instruments from the right seat. Due to the changed viewing angle, it's difficult to get accurate readings on round dial instrument from the right seat.
In glass cockpit equipped aircraft, the viewing angle still makes a right-seater's job difficult, but there is no parallax.
Instead of interpreting the altimeter's needles or position of the airspeed indicator, you'll get actual numerical values right on the glass display.
Receiving weather information digitally is undoubtedly one of the most useful aspects for glass cockpits. ADSB and XM weather provides pilots with forecasts, radar reports, satellite imagery, pilot reports, and much more.
Most glass cockpits compute attitude, airspeed, and altitude (among other information) through air data computers (ADC) and attitude and heading reference systems (AHRS). When you have dual ADC and AHRS systems, you have full redundancy if a system fails.
Synthetic vision and terrain overlays play an important role in increasing situational awareness, preventing CFIT accidents. Check out the terrain warnings provided by our airplane as we landed in Aspen:
Remember those old analog radios with physical numbers flipping around as you twisted the dial? In most glass cockpits, you'll still twist to adjust frequencies. But some systems, you can type them into a keyboard.
There's no more searching for that paper checklist, because the checklist is right in front of you.
Because glass cockpits give precise data and numbers, you're able to more quickly interpret your speed, altitude, and position.
Tired of manually entering routes into your navigation equipment? If you made a flight plan before arriving at the airplane, the newest Cirrus Perspective systems allows you to sync your flight plan directly into the aircraft's avionics using ForeFlight.
You won't find many flashing, color coded messages and voice annunciations on round dial aircraft. They're hard to miss, and certainly grab your attention quickly.
If you've marveled at how advanced the Boeing 787 Dreamliner's cockpit is, so do non-pilot passengers. Although it looks like nothing more than spaceship to them, large paneled screens add a sense of confidence and reliability to an ever-growing group of people that put their trust in computers every day.
If you're in an unfamiliar area, it's sometimes hard to judge where airspace boundaries start and end. Glass cockpits show your position compared to most airspace boundaries to assist your situational awareness.
Useful especially in congested airspace, ADSB traffic awareness helps prevent conflicts. Make sure to keep your eyes outside as much as possible however, because not everyone flies with ADS-B! Always maintain visual separation when you can.
Because there are fewer moving parts, digital displays are generally more reliable than standard instruments. There's always a downside though... the biggest complaints from glass cockpit users result from software glitches.
The space shuttle has large displays for a reason. It's far easier for the human eye to read off of large displays during turbulence than it is to interpret multiple small adjoining dials.
Glass cockpits aren't perfect by any means, but they do offer some very real benefits to their users. What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.
Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, commercially licensed pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings, and a commercial aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. Swayne's experience ranges from international flights in a King Air F90 to ferrying a 1943 Grumman Widgeon across the country. You can reach Swayne at email@example.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.