Technically advanced aircraft (TAA) equipped with multifunction displays and traffic and weather datalinks are quickly becoming a large part of general aviation. Technology that once was used only by airline pilots is now available to primary students.
Whether you are flying a brand-new Cirrus SR22 with glass cockpit technology or have upgraded the instrument panel in your trusty Cessna 182, if it has at least a moving map display, an IFR-approved GPS navigator, and an autopilot, then the FAA classifies it as a TAA. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has produced a special report, Technically Advanced Aircraft Safety and Training, that defines TAA, suggest how training should change to reflect the demands of flying TAA, and takes a preliminary look at assessing the safety record for these aircraft.
According to the new Air Safety Foundation report, flying TAA with airline-style equipment requires a new mindset for general aviation pilots. The report touches upon the history of TAA, how these aircraft could affect the future of GA, and how they are likely to change the way you fly.
The report also takes a look at what new knowledge and practices will be required of pilots transitioning to TAA, the handling characteristics of these aircraft, and TAA hardware and software, including terrain, traffic, and weather equipment, and engine monitoring.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation provides a preliminary assessment of 12 TAA accidents, complete with the history of each flight and safety comments from the foundation to help you understand what might have gone wrong so you can avoid the same scenario. The Air Safety Foundation also studied the differences between pilots who fly TAA and those who don't. As with most aircraft accidents, those involving TAA are mostly pilot related.
"Poor judgment will always be poor judgment, regardless of the aircraft being flown," said Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg.
Many aviation colleges and FBOs are switching to TAA fleets, so the report suggests adaptations that need to be made in flight training and describes the "new breed of pilot." TAA students today may spend more time learning the basics of avionics on the ground using CDs or DVDs, working with a task trainer to learn how to use GPS, and flying a simulator before stepping foot in the actual aircraft.
Edited NTSB accident reports, TAA articles from AOPA Pilot magazine, selected Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) reports, a list of datalink suppliers, and a synopsis of some of the avionics available in TAA are included in the report.
May 6, 2005