Report: No Safety Advantage To Glass Panels

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The safety records of airplanes with glass panels are about the same as airplanes of the same model with analog cockpits, according to a new study by the Air Safety Institute, a division of the AOPA Foundation. However, "glass-panel aircraft may be more susceptible to accidents during takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds," the study found. The available data were insufficient to conclude what caused that difference. Some factors, according to the study, might include transition training, a tendency to fixate on the glass panels instead of external cues, or difficulty in interpreting airspeed and altitude from the glass-panel readouts compared to interpreting analog displays. The complete study, which provides an exhaustive and complex analysis of the data, is available free online (PDF).

"The vast majority of accidents [analyzed in the study] occurred in day VMC conditions, where the advantages of full glass instrumentation over analog may not be so great," said Bruce Landsberg, president of the AOPA Foundation. "The new technology aircraft pilots (Cirrus and Cessna Corvalis) apparently are having difficulty with basic airmanship relative to takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds." One reason might be the design of these airplanes, Landsberg said, which are relatively short, coupled with high wing loading and high power. This design requires "gentle application of power and solid application of rudder," he said. The study said that besides better transition training, another solution might be to provide better instrumentation for angle of attack. The NTSB also looked at glass-cockpit safety data in 2010; click here for their analysis.

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