NTSB study: Glass cockpits do not make planes safer

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) unveiled a study that concluded that single-engine airplanes equipped with glass cockpits do not have any better overall safety record than airplanes with conventional instrumentation. According to the study, which had looked at the accident rates of more than 8,000 small piston-powered airplanes that were manufactured between 2002 and 2006, airplanes that had glass cockpits actually had a HIGHER fatal accident rate then similar aircraft with conventional instruments.

The conclusion: Glass cockpits are complex and vary from aircraft to aircraft and while they can increase safety when used properly, pilots are not always provided with all of the information that they need in order to understand all of the instruments they are dealing with. No real surprise here.

According to the NTSB Chairman:

“Training is clearly one of the key components to reducing the accident rate of light planes equipped with glass cockpits, and this study clearly demonstrates the life and death importance of appropriate training on these complex systems. We know that while many pilots have thousands of hours of experience with conventional flight instruments, that alone is just not enough to prepare them to safely operate airplanes equipped with these glass cockpit features.”

Meanwhile and in a detailed post about the study results on his blog, Max Trescott commented that “at the same time we’re trying to attract more people to aviation, the learning curve for becoming proficient with glass cockpits is getting steeper.” Max concluded that if you are going to fly an aircraft with a glass cockpits, you must invest both the time and money to get the best possible training available. After all, flying an aircraft in the real world is NOT like flying an aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator!

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