Glass Cockpits in General Aviation


There is no doubt that the technology that has powered the airliners for years has now entered the general aviation scene. The glass cockpits have also crept their way into the training school where brand new students begin flying on aircraft fitted with technically enhanced cockpits.
This offers the general aviation with a wide range of new problems that are associated with the introduction of glass cockpits.

(Image embedded from, Retrieved Aug 2011)


The glass cockpits offer the pilot a great deal more information, which can be presented in a way that has be designed to help increase situational awareness. Examples of these are:
TCAS - Traffic and Collision Awareness System
GPWS - Ground Proximity Warning System
Updated Weather - Can receive update weather in some places
GPS - with moving map
Automation - many things can now be automated


There are many different disadvantages to the glass cockpit which are found under “Glass Cockpit”. However, there are some which are associated with General Aviation to.
Less Battery Life - the smaller aircraft will not be able to sustain the glass screen for long if there is a power failure. This means that the pilots have limited time when something goes wrong.
More Fatal Accidents - Though there are less accidents, the ones that are happening are more likely to be fatal. A recent NSTB review found that the pilot were spending more time learning the glass cockpit during training and less on the actual flying skill. This can be fatal if the systems fail.
Over-whelming - When first flying these new systems they can be very over whelming. There is a lot too them and with fully understanding how they work, it is very easy to become unaware with what is going on.
Situational Awareness - Though the systems can provide excellent situational awareness, this can only happen when the pilot knows how to use they without having to think about it. The more time spent trying to select the correct function, the less time and concentration that can be used on ‘flying the aircraft’
Trouble Swapping Between - The analogue cockpits require a lot more cognitive process to understand what is going on. If pilot become use to the new systems or have never used the older systems, it can be very difficult to switch between them.
Incorrect Procedure Response - This is a major concern among instructors. The glass cockpit offer system that helps the general pilot avoid traffic and the ground by giving audible and visual alarms. However, when training these alarms can go off quite regularly because of dense traffic in the training area or certain training exercises such as low flying. These alarms can become distracting when trying to teach. What the student may learn however is to simple ignore the warning signs or to simply turn them off (if available). Therefore, when there is an actual emergency, the pilot may ignore it and may lead to an accident which is likely to be fatal.
Over Reliance - The glass cockpits offer many features that are useful to have during a flight. However, if the pilot become reliant on them and cannot fly without them, this lead to questions about how safe the systems are, especially if they fail.


The current safety record has not seemed to have improved1, so more needs to be done to make sure that the pilots who use glass cockpits understand the systems fully before being allowed to fly off solo. Pilots need to be taught the correct action to warnings and to understand why they are there. The pilots should keep regular eye on their skills and practice failure to ensure their flying skills are up to standard2.

1. Mitchell M, NTSB Glass Cockpits Vs Conventional No Better Safety Record
2. Goldston B, NTSB Makes Safety Recommendations To The FAA On Glass Cockpits
+++ Footnotes +++
3. ###

Want to know more?

Glass Cockpits
Glass Cockpit
Traffic and Collision Awareness System
Hearing & Recommendations
Actual Hearing on Youtube
Pilots discussing their points of view on

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License