Posted by: Orlando Web Services | August 22, 2011

Technologically Advanced Aircraft (TAA)

The arrival of new technology to general aviation aircraft has generated noticeable changes in three areas: information, automation, and options.

Pilots now have an unprecedented amount of information available at their fingertips. Electronic flight instruments use innovative techniques to determine aircraft attitude, speed, and altitude, presenting a wealth of information in one or more integrated presentations. A suite of cockpit information systems provides pilots with data about aircraft position, planned route, engine health and performance, as well as surrounding weather, traffic, and terrain.

Unless you started training with a Technologically Advanced Aircraft, these modern avionics systems may present three important learning challenges as you develop proficiency:

  • How to operate advanced avionics systems
  • Which advanced avionics systems to use and when
  • How advanced avionics systems affect the pilot and the way the pilot flies

If you are starting your transition training to a Technologically Advanced Aircraft, then you should consider checking out several FREE publications on this topic:

AOPA – Technologically Advanced Aircraft: Safety and Training
http://www.aopa.org/asf/publications/topics/TAA2007.pdf

FAA – Advanced Avionics Handbook
http://www.faa.gov/library/manuals/aviation/media/FAA-H-8083-6.pdf

Assuming Risk

Glass cockpits don’t make us invincible, however they seem to allow us to assume more risk than either the plane or our experience is ready for when it comes to weather. Seeing weather on a display is not a license to fly closer than 20 NM to it or a reason to consider flying a sucker hole between two storms. Remember, we are flying single engine GA aircraft, not a Boeing or an Airbus with much more power and performance. Yes, modern avionics can allow you to fly closer, thread the needle and some GA pilots may consider that common practice. Is it safe? That depends on the conditions, the aircraft in use and the pilot’s experience, and one other thing called luck.

Weather showed the largest negative difference when comparing a TAA like a Cirrus to the overall GA fleet, with nearly one-third (31 percent) of all Cirrus accidents involving weather, compared to 4.7 percent for GA overall. Weather proved to be uncommonly deadly in the Cirrus, accounting for nearly two-thirds (61.5 percent) of fatal accidents. In the overall GA fleet, weather was identified as the cause in 16.4 percent of fatal accidents.

I’m not picking on Cirrus. And we are pretty sure that storms don’t seek out and attack Cirrus aircraft. Could it be that a radar screen doesn’t do justice to the actual flight conditions near a storm? Could it be that a TAA like the Cirrus is more likely to fly a business flight fully loaded with get-there-itis? Could it be that all this technology gives us a false sense of security? My guess is…all of the above…and few we didn’t mention. Is this bad? Yes, if we ignore how we can be lulled into a false sense of security and leave it up to the plane to use its discretion instead of our own to fly the plane.

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