5 Glass Cockpit Flying Tips

Garmin G1000

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.

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About the author
Pat Flannigan is a professional pilot and aviation blogger. He has been flying for fifteen years and is currently working as an airline pilot in the United States.

6 Replies to 5 Glass Cockpit Flying Tips

  1. Good tips, though I sometimes find it impractical to set up the flight plan before taxiing. The garmin often requires a minute or more before receiving a full signal and gaining all of its nearest functions to aid in entering the plan. At KBZN, we have over a mile to taxi. So, it’s often most efficient to turn on the avionics and start taxiing, then enter the flight plan at run up. Every second counts when the meter is running!

  2. Good point Eric, and I like what you’re doing by taking care of it at run-up. Where people get into trouble is when they try to program en-route or during taxi and lose situational awareness.

    Thanks for dropping a comment, and as an airplane renter myself, I feel your pain on the old Hobbs meter!

  3. I like that GPU idea. I’ve seen it done at pancake fly-ins, and we should do it as part of ground school at least once or twice. Anything pilots can do or learn for free is a valuable opportunity.

  4. Colin F. says:

    Agreed on the map orientation. I fly an SR20 and people often won’t realize that the TCAS only works while in heading up mode.

  5. I agree with Eric. Usually when I fly the SR22 I am with my buddy who is also a pilot. One of us handles the taxi and the other the flight plan entry. Also another system that I really like with glass cockpits is the Traffic Avoidance System they offer in the Cirrus models.

Please, share your thoughts and opinions

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