More pilots are flying with glass cockpits these days. Be it Avidyne or Garmin, these instrument panels offer a lot for situational awareness, but they do require a little thought to get the most out of it. Here are some flying tips for pilots flying or transitioning to glass.
- Program your flight plan before starting to taxi. This one goes for any GPS unit. Remember IFR flying 101? We used to set radios and navaids for departure before releasing the brakes. GPS is the new navaid, so set that thing up!
- Use those heading and altitude bugs. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a VFR flight at 3,500′ or you’ve been cleared to 9,000 on an IFR flight plan, set that altitude bug. On some panels, the bug will activate chimes to warn you that you’re coming up on (or deviating from) your intended altitude. This also answers the age old question: what was that last clearance?
- Check and set up the MFD before you taxi. I’m not getting into the North-Up vs. Track-Up debate (track up is clearly better), but I suggest you set up the MFD to work the way you want it to before taking off. If you own your own plane, this isn’t a problem, but if you’ve got a rental or flying club plane, there’s no telling how the last guy set that thing up! Better fix it now when the workload is low.
- Look out the window. There’s a lot going on on those glass displays — I know. But the primary means of avoiding collisions is still the old see & avoid technique. Keep your scan up and remember to look out the window 2/3rds of the time when you’re in visual conditions!
- Maintain proficiency. Haven’t messed with the glass in a while? It might be a good idea to spend some time messing around with the system. You can always plug the plane up to a GPU and spend some quality time on the ground pushing buttons (most flight schools won’t even charge for this!). Alternately, you can review manuals, training DVD’s or training apps! Be comfortable with your panel before flying it again.