A study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed glass cockpit technology has not significantly improved the safety of small airplanes, according to avweb.com.
The advent of glass cockpits occurred in the 90s when LCD panels were favored over traditional panels with manual instruments and controls due to apparent increases in efficiency, reliability, and legibility. Currently, the glass cockpit has become standard equipment in airliners, jets, planes, and was even used NASA’s Space Shuttle orbiters Atlantis, Columbia, Discovery, and Endeavour.
NTSB recommended changes including alterations in training and maintenance reporting. The specific recommendations include:
- Revise pilot knowledge tests and include general knowledge about glass panels
- Include information in aircraft manuals about abnormal and failure modes of the panels
- Introduce training elements to improve pilot knowledge of glass-panel system functionality
The primary motivation for the alterations is due to the fact that there was a higher loss of life for airplanes equipped with glass panels. Airplanes equipped with traditional panels suffered 141 total plane accidents with 23 lives lost. Glass-equipped planes suffered 125 total accidents, but 39 lives were lost. Yes, there were fewer total airplane accidents for the planes with the glass panels, but the priority needs to be on keeping the pilots alive, not just simply reducing the aggregate total of plane accidents.
As a licensed pilot, I appreciate the NTSB’s study and hope that once these changes are made, we’ll see a decrease in the number of small airplane accident deaths.