"The Glass Revolution." (Part Two) An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, April 26, 2012

"The Glass Revolution." (Part Two)

By Owen Zupp.

CLICK HERE for Part One.

 

..........Perhaps, dual sequences will be flown devoid of the support of all of the myriad of EFIS functions in the same manner that instrument training falls back to ‘limited panel’. For a time there will be aircraft equipped with both analogue and glass, allowing a ready interchange between the two options. However, in time, proven reliability will lead to this arrangement just as it has on airliners where even the limited standby instruments are EFIS in nature. The evolution of the 737 was a classic case in point of this transition.

Human nature will also dictate that we make do with what we have. If a speed tape is our only source of airspeed information from day one, student pilots will adapt accordingly. With the correct emphasis in training, the fascination with the wonderful big screens will also pass as they become familiar and part of the pilot’s armoury rather than seemingly the sole weapon. The EFIS will be incorporated into a scan as opposed to transfixing it.

These various hurdles are all a part of the revolution of glass cockpits and are indicative of cultural change. Issues with technology are being countered with every new improvement and the stream of feedback from those tasked to fly the aircraft. The technology is ever-improving with each new range superseding its predecessor in terms of function and relative cost.

The philosophical change is a by-product of the transition rather than being indicative of a shortfall of the new technology. The enhanced situational awareness and available information more than offset the pain of a new generation. One must wonder if these same issues and arguments were raised when flight instruments were first fitted to frail biplanes, or man decided to fly in cloud or at night, solely by reference to instruments. Ultimately we will all adapt, however, in the short term some areas of flight training needs to catch up with equal fervour.

 

 

 

                    

 

Getting to Know the Glass.


New aircraft are appearing on flight lines with all manner of new avionics and instrumentation and while a number of institutions offer training courses, it is nowhere near an industry standard. Training should result in the crew not only utilising the equipment to its fullest capability, but respecting its limitations. Currently, the initiative of ‘glass training’ too often rests with the pilot to download user guides and quick reference notes and undertake a course of self-education. Realistically, the initiative should not end there. Ideally a formal ground course should be available, while some dual flight time with an instructor will also reap substantial benefits. On the ground, having the facility to provide external power allows valuable ‘hands on’ time in the aircraft, to become familiar with various functions of the system without flattening the aircraft’s battery.

In the air, dual flight sequences offer not only a level of education, but a level of safety. Training on new equipment inside the cockpit will inherently drag the focus from outside the aircraft and the maintenance of aircraft and airspace separation. As well as a set of eyes, the instructor can provide limited panel training to segment the assimilation of the available information. The ability to isolating the Speed Tape or the Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI) facilitates specific training and allows the pilot to begin to correlate control inputs with the instrument format and indications in front of them.

Specific training syllabi need to be at hand to both indoctrinate the new student and convert the established pilot. Without this, a haphazard range of self-education will continue to exist that will compromise the successful integration of the new technology and prolong the process of change. Furthermore, with such a vast array of functions and no formal training, many of the glass cockpits will never be used to the fullest level of their capability.

Without doubt, the introduction of glass cockpits calls for new solutions to be brought forward by the flight training community, right across the board. As the numbers of EFIS cockpits grow, this training will inherently drift from an initiative to a necessity. The speed of that cultural change will be dictated by the quality of the associated flight training.

All Glass.


The revolution is here. All kinds of motivators from cost and maintenance to situational awareness and ‘wow factor’, will ensure the eventual domination of glass cockpits. They will become industry standard, just as they have in the airline world. As an industry, we need to manage this rather than be solely steered by the advent of new technology.

Aviation has a proud history of innovation and new frontiers and this is just another to add to the list. The true success of glass cockpits will not be measured by their growing presence, as this will occur regardless. It will be measured by the competence of pilots at all levels to utilise the equipment to its fullest and integrate it as one component in the overall process of safe and efficient flight.  In the meantime, the challenges of the 'Glass Revolution’ remain.

"Nancy Bird Walton" Touches Down! An Aviation Image by Andrew McLaughlin.

Owen Zupp - Monday, April 23, 2012

Nancy Bird Walton Touches Down!

I have just received this image of "Nancy Bird" touching down from my friend and aviation journalist Andrew McLaughlin. It was too good not to share.

Thanks Andrew!

Track "Nancy Bird", the QANTAS A380, on her way home. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, April 22, 2012

Click on the link below to follow "Nancy Bird" in real time with 'Flight Aware.

CLICK HERE to track VH-OQA on its way home.

The Departure Time Grows Close for the QANTAS A380 "Nancy Bird Walton" . An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Saturday, April 21, 2012

 

For the QANTAS A380 "Nancy Bird Walton" the departure time grows close.

By Owen Zupp.

 

I have been overwhelmed by the interest in my blog over the past 24 hours. Thank you!

As the hours count down to VH-OQA's departure from Singapore, here is a look inside the A380 simulator. Shortly I'll be posting a story on what it's like to fly and an update on the return of "Nancy Bird", so for the latest on the A380, keep checking back here at www.owenzupp.com.

Thanks again for your tremendous support of this aviation blog.

Safe Flying,

Owen

"Safe Travels Nancy Bird." The QANTAS A380 VH-OQA is Set to Head Home. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, April 20, 2012

Safe Travels “Nancy Bird.”

By Owen Zupp

 

It’s curious how things work out sometimes.

 

In the same week that marked a hundred years since the sinking of the Titanic, a gargantuan of the twenty-first century is set to rise from the ashes. Like the Titanic, the Airbus A380 is a marvel of technology in its time, boasting dimensions that still leave us in amazement as it rumbles down the runway. And yet, when the QANTAS A380’s ‘iceberg’ loomed ahead, its crew were able to limp the crippled machine home amidst a maze of systems failures and warning flags. Unfortunately, the Titanic did not possess the same level of automation, redundancies and support as it floundered on the Atlantic that icy night and its fate is now cemented in history.

 

So often the sinking of the Titanic is referred to as a prime example of nature reminding man of his arrogance and faith in technology. To me that is all a little too cliché. Since we emerged from the caves, carved flint and invented the wheel, humankind has strived to venture beyond the horizon by the most impressive means available. Sure, the Industrial Revolution saw an extremely accelerated rate of development but the spirit that drove it was as old as time itself. Only the tooling and resources had really changed.

 

In all fields where man steps beyond the safety of his familiar borders there is risk and danger. In retrospect, the failure to provide adequate emergency equipment aboard the Titanic proved a tragic mistake and in the wake of the accident the rules were changed. Such is the history of all forms of transport where lessons are unfortunately often learned from unspeakable losses. Aviation is no different and the last century of flight is filled with accidents that have led to change. In the wake of QF32’s mid-air emergency over Singapore, there was fortunately no loss of life a good many lessons were still learned.

 

As aviators, QANTAS Flight 32 offers a number of reminders that regardless of the scale of the aircraft, the prime task at hand is to fly the aeroplane. When the engine exploded and systems dropped off-line, there was less and less of the remarkable technology available to the crew. In fact, some fairly core flight systems had ceased to operate as well. As such the crew called upon their experience to prioritise and assess the issues as they arose, but throughout I would suspect that controlling the aircraft, remaining clear of terrain and monitoring their fuel stocks would have been premium. This is pertinent whether you are at the helm of an Airbus, Boeing or a Beechcraft.

 

 

                       

 

 

Even when the aircraft found the relative safety of the earth once more, one engine could not be shut down and the safety implications for an evacuation were obvious. Consequently, both the flight and cabin crew were managing this emergency right up until the last passenger was safe and the aircraft was secure. As an old aviator told me very early on in my training, “The flight isn’t over until the aeroplane is tied down, or in the hangar.”

 

Inevitably the ‘coffee room quarterbacks’ emerged from the shadows and later dissected the crew’s actions from the comfort of their lounge chairs and espoused wonderful solutions with the heroism that is indicative of hindsight. Yet for anyone who has been under the very real pressure of a critical emergency will attest, when the pulse rate elevates even the best simulator replication cannot quite capture the same atmosphere and stress; let alone the coffee room. Amusingly, for all of the armchair critics, no-one is a harsher critic than a pilot undertaking self analysis and undoubtedly the QF32 crew wrestled with aspects of the emergency after the event. But the bottom line is that they returned the aircraft relatively intact with no loss of life and all importantly; THEY WERE THERE not the critics. Well done, I reckon.

 

As the crew readies themselves and VH-OQA awaits at Singapore, the drama of QF32 cannot be escaped. However, as always in fields of human endeavour we must positively learn from the past and not negatively dwell on it. Man will continue to push new frontiers, be they into space or along well worn routes in more modern craft; it is our nature. And before that first step forward there will be a glance behind to check that some tragic aspect of history is not about to be repeated, but once that has been addressed progress will continue. This QANTAS A380 proudly bears the name of Nancy Bird Walton, a pioneering aviatrix who forged her own unique path in aviation history. I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy on a number of occasions and I can’t help but think that she’ll be casting an approving eye down from the heavens as her namesake wends its way home.

 

We shall never forget the lessons from the Titanic and the tragedy suffered as it plunged to the depths, nor shall we mark time. Humanity will continue to challenge itself and pay due respect to the domains of land, sea and air that it seeks to navigate. However, we will never conquer these greater beings, but must be satisfied to merely achieve safe passage through their vast realms. This can only be achieved by bravely going forward while listening to the voices of those who have gone before.

Safe travels “Nancy Bird.”

(Check back here for updates on the A380's flight home.)

QANTAS A380 Airbus VH-OQA "Nancy Bird Walton" Returns to the Skies. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, April 20, 2012

QANTAS A380 Airbus VH-OQA "Nancy Bird Walton" Returns to the Skies.

 

By Owen Zupp

As this blog is being written, QANTAS A380 "Nancy Bird-Walton" is preparing to return home from Singapore for the first time since its mid-air engine failure in November 2010. That emergency involved multiple systems failing in addition to the uncontained turbine failure and attracted worldwide media attention. Check back here for more on the return of VH-OQA.

A Glass Revolution. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Glass Revolution


By Owen Zupp

 

The era of digital avionics and glass cockpits is undoubtedly upon us. From Boeings to Beechcraft, the traditional dials are making way for dominant screens presenting a wealth of data with a tremendous visual impact. But are we mere mortals keeping pace as well?

 

The Decision.

The decision for an aircraft or fleet owner to move into the era of glass cockpits is, in the first instance, a practical one. The costs must be weighed against the benefits and the budget balanced against the available hardware. For pilots without a direct financial interest, the upgrade of equipment and new gadgetry is almost unanimously welcomed.

 

Before taking the plunge, it is worthwhile assessing the aircraft to which the new equipment will be fitted. Whether the new flight panel is to supplement the VFR operation of a private aircraft or form the information hub for an IFR workhorse may well determine the style and cost of instrumentation that is needed. Also, is the airframe or engine on their ‘last gasp’ and would a new flight panel be a classic case of over-capitalisation? Perhaps the desire for a new cockpit is actually a catalyst for a fleet renewal or upgrade. In this case, the ever expanding range of low time aircraft with factory fitted EFIS may be an option.

 

However, if breathing new life into an existing aircraft is the more viable scenario, then those glass units suited to retrofitting should be sought out.  The Aspen ‘Revolution’ range is specifically designed to be slotted into the circular voids vacated by the traditional dials, while Bendix-King’s ‘Apex Edge’ series have dimensions that comfortably fill the space normally consumed by a standard panel.

 

The purchase price of these units are significantly less than some of their larger more fancied competitors, but even so, labour costs must be factored in. Retrofits in these relatively early days can be labour intensive and not without hiccups. It is well worth researching an avionics specialist who has experience with the type of equipment you are seeking to fit. Their experience will reduce the man hours involved and they have probably seen any potential issues previously.

 

Ultimately, EFIS will become the dominant format in cockpits of all levels. As the numbers in glass grow and those aircraft with clocks and dials shrink, the balance of costs will reverse to the point where ongoing maintenance of traditional instruments will far outweigh the costs involved with the ‘new generation’. The point at budgetary requirements and operational tasking dictate the change-over to a glass cockpit will rest with the individual owner and operator.

 

 

                    

 

A Brave New World.

The rapid emergence of glass cockpits at all levels of aviation is partly about technology and partly about philosophy. Humans have a tremendous capacity to advance technology, sometimes without considering why and frequently before implementation is adequately planned. The modernisation of cockpits can be seen as such a case.

The rapid emergence of glass cockpits at all levels of aviation is partly about technology and partly about philosophy. Humans have a tremendous capacity to advance technology, sometimes without considering why and frequently before implementation is adequately planned. The modernisation of cockpits can be seen as such a case.

 

A core philosophical argument that commonly arises relates to the training of students on glass from their very first lesson and whether they are losing their ability to truly fly the aeroplane. There is little doubt that when placed in a pilot’s seat and confronted by general aviation’s equivalent to a big-screen TV, the effect can be distracting, if not absolutely hypnotic. Beyond basic flight information, there is a world of moving maps, traffic awareness symbology and synthetic vision technology; all presented in impressive full colour format!

 

In a skill set that has traditionally called for ‘eyes outside’, an appreciation of the real horizon and phrases like ‘seat of the pants’, the new technology doesn’t quite gel. It is offering far more data, but is it dragging the attention away from the real world and losing critical information in the background hash of ‘bells and whistles’? The short answer is yes and no.

 

The wealth of information becoming available through the new systems can only serve to enhance the overall situational awareness of the crew and this is a very good thing. The shortfalls lay more in the interface with the human operator. Varying formats and switching, small displays and low background lighting are all issues that surface from time to time and model to model. The ‘standard six’ have made up traditional instrument panels for decades and cockpit cycles, instrument scans and checklists have all been based on this format. Now, in a period of rapid development, pilots are being asked to modify the previous skill set that has been ingrained from lesson number one. It is not merely a training exercise, it is a cultural shift.

 

It can be successfully achieved however, as evidenced by the implementation of glass and Airbus philosophies at airline level and the Metric system in everyday life. The generation caught in between will always have the greatest challenge, whilst the new minds will adjust their personal base line to the new standard and run with the technology. Whether this new “base line” compromises fundamental pilot skills is a moot point in some regards as the change will happen regardless of any protestations. What needs to occur is a training philosophy that seeks achieve the correct balance of basic flying skill retention while managing all of the resources that are now available.......

Check back soon for the conclusion to "A Glass Revolution."

Thanks! An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, April 19, 2012

 

To all of the supporters of this blog, I'd like to extend a sincere thank you.

Now in its fourth month, this aviation blog has far exceeded my expectations with 10,000 visitors dropping by each month and viewing the various stories that are written here. And the numbers keep on growing!

I appreciate the great positive feedback from you all and the ideas for new stories too. Growing straight out of that feedback are more flight training stories, "Five Tips" and a look at buying and owning aeroplanes.

Please keep using the website subscriber facility and contact forms to forward your ideas and thoughts; it reminds me that I'm not broadcasting into an empty void known as the internet, but speaking with like-minded people. Also, follow me on Facebook and tell your friends about the website and blog.

Thanks again and stay in touch.

Safe flying,

Owen

"Hawk Taking Flight." An Aviation Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Hawk Taking Flight."

A Royal Australian Air Force BAE Hawk 127 takes to the air at Broome, Western Australia.

"You Are Never Too Old." An Aviation Image.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Aviation Image from aviationhumor.net.

"You Are Never Too Old"

This image was just too good not to share.

 

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