NTSB report on glass cockpits leaves unanswered questions

April 8, 2010

An NTSB study released March 9 that concluded glass cockpit aircraft were no safer than conventional instrument aircraft and recommended the FAA implement numerous training requirements falls short, according to AOPA.

The study stated that of the 8,000 aircraft analyzed, glass cockpit aircraft had a higher fatal accident rate than conventional aircraft. However, that study did not take into account the type of mission the aircraft were being used for, making it difficult for such a generalization to stand.

The recommendations call for the FAA to enhance pilot knowledge and training requirements, require training on PFDs, support equipment-specific training, require manufacturers to provide pilots with information to better manage system failures, and remind pilots to report equipment malfunctions through the service difficulty reporting system.

Aviation associations, manufacturers, and flight schools already are following practices that fulfill the NTSB’s recommendations. Many manufacturers offer training and checkouts in glass cockpit aircraft, flight schools require ground and flight training before a checkout, and many training organizations have created equipment-specific training materials.

Similarly, the FAA moved forward with training information in the agency’s Instrument Flying Handbook and supporting practical test standards in 2007 that address the use of electronic flight information systems (EFIS), PFDs, and other modern avionics. The FAA also added focus on softer skills, such as single-pilot resource management and automation management in consideration of the change in flight mission that the enhanced avionics would allow pilots to undertake.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation also has taken a close look at glass cockpit aircraft and released a report in 2007, “Technologically Advanced Aircraft—Safety and Training” that recommends practices to enhance safety. The foundation also offers a free online course to all pilots for specific training on the Garmin 430 and 530.

In response to the NTSB’s recommendations, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association released a fact sheet that details all of the steps the industry has taken to ensure pilots’ training and safety in glass cockpit aircraft.