January 2009 Issue

Glass Cockpit Partial Panel

Sophisticated panels in otherwise simple airplanes have unique failure modes not all pilots are trained to handle. What you should look for in your training.

Most turbine airplanes have three-screen panels, with a PFD for both front seats. In the event the pilotís-side PFD dies he/she is expected to continue using the PFD on the other side of the airplane, although the option of manually selecting PFD information on the center screen always exists as well. Pilots brought up flying traditional round-gauge IFR might not even consider the reversionary mode to be "partial panel" at all. This valuable feature makes partial panel flying easy...if the partial panel results from failure of the PFD hardware. Because it is an important advance in ease of flight in the case of primary flight instrument failure (i.e., those directly in front of the pilot), it gets top billing as a safety advantage of glass cockpit airplanes. Except for a little parallax (viewing the instrument from the side, not head-on) everything is exactly as it normally appears for the partial-panel flyer, and all functions (including the autopilot) remain fully operable. The biggest difference is that large-scale moving map, engine and fuel management, checklists, charts and other functions are relegated to a small window in the corner of the most recent-model MFDs when in reversionary mode, and are not available at all in some earlier installations. Pilots who grow too dependent on these functions, or who eschew paper checklists and navigational charts in favor of electronic versions on the "big screen" will find themselves outside their comfort zones in the event of a PFD hardware failure.

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