October 2009 Issue

EFIS Evaluated

Glass cockpits are standard these days, but what do pilots like and dislike about them? And are they safer? We asked pilots to rate the systems.

Electronic flight displays—glass cockpits in the modern vernacular—were a novelty just six years ago. Then all at once, it seems, they were everywhere. Every new airplane is delivered equipped with some kind of glass and older airframes are seeing retrofits. Steam gauges are still in the majority, but there’s enough glass out there to pose this question: Is it really better? More important, is glass actually more reliable and safer? Lacking a detailed blind study, a take-it-to-the-bank answer isn’t possible and would, in any case, be subject to debate. So we did the next best thing. We joined with our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, and surveyed more than 300 owners and operators of various types of EFIS displays. Via an online survey published by our news service, www.avweb.com, we asked owners to evaluate the very idea of electronic displays compared to conventional iron gyros and analog pitot-static instruments. Is the glass easier to use? Do owners like the displays? What’s the maintenance like? And above all, do these sophisticated but relatively untried systems inspire the confidence necessary to charge off into the gray innards of hard IMC? Both of our magazines have received e-mails complaining about system failures, and more than one of these has claimed reliability is worse than the industry claims. If this were true, we reasoned, our survey would turn up a substantial number of complaints. It didn’t. While owners did report glass failures and several pilots reported more than one failure, there was no widespread pattern related to poor reliability.

To continue reading this entire article you must be a paid subscriber.

Subscribe to Aviation Safety

The monthly journal of risk management and accident prevention, is packed with useful, timely information on basic and advanced technique, accident analysis and, most important, practical articles on how you can develop the judgment that will keep you in the air and out of the NTSB's files.

Already subscribe but haven't registered for all the benefits of the website? Click here.

Subscriber Log In

Forgot your password? Click Here.