May 2010 Issue

Dissecting The NTSB’s Glass-Panel Study

The NTSB’s recent study indicating glass panels may be less safe than steam gauges raised a lot of eyebrows. It also should raise awareness of the need for training.

In March, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a brief statement stating the results of a study it conducted into the relative safety of general aviation airplanes equipped with glass-panel technologies. As we reported in our April issue, the NTSB concluded the last decade’s glass-cockpit revolution has not resulted in enhanced safety for the period and aircraft it studied. It came to such a conclusion, in part, because it found single-engine airplanes manufactured between 2002 and 2006 and equipped with glass cockpits had a higher fatal accident rate than similar aircraft with conventional instruments. At that time, very little else was known about the study, including the specific aircraft models involved, its methodology and other metrics, raising many questions. Since our April issue was finalized, the NTSB has released the full 91-page study results, including a separate seven-page letter detailing a series of recommendations to the FAA. These documents may be retrieved from the NTSB Web site using links published in the box in the upper right corner of the opposite page.

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