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My opinion on the Glass Cockpit…

07 Apr

Now, understand that you are getting this opinion from a computer science and design professional and who flys…take it for what you feel it is worth.

I started on a manual airplane. It reminded me of my Dad’s old MGA car with the gauges, but manual aircraft are fairly straight forward. The most complicated part was more than one engine. It’s almost double the work of single.

Being what I do for a living, I was eventually hired into an aviation firm for a consulting contract.

When I was handed the manuals for the expensive private jets and saw the cockpits and how the plane was put together, it gave me great concern.

By putting all those systems digital, we were now susceptible to the failure rate of computing. The aircraft industry used to have one tried and true mantra, manual switches are safer, avoid digital. Somewhere in the name of sexiness we threw caution to the wind and what I was looking at was less reliable and far more complicated than the manual systems. I was asked to make flight training applications out of these manuals.

The whole time I kept thinking the same thing when I heard Elon Musk and Tesla were making a self driving car…the technology will ultimately kill people.

I work with servers every day. Hardware has failures and we make virtually nothing anymore in the U.S. I lived through backup systems that fail on the second and third tiers. I live in an area where Motorola and Quantum used to own these streets and now there’s not a trace of them in town. It’s all outsourced to cheap Chinese technology.

So when I saw the schematics I knew this is going to kill people sooner or later. Aviation got bored with what was working and now it wanted to play in a dangerous way. Our lust for more information just might get the better of us.

If you want my opinion, I have to be honest.

The race for bigger, better, sexier, has a price and that price comes in complexity and failure rates.

Don’t think I’m trying to sell you on a manual aircraft. Remember, I’ve been on a manual aircraft during a right engine failure, and it’s horrifying how little data you get from looking at the controls. I get what? Six _______ bars to determine if this engine is running!!!! This is insane.

I specifically remembering thinking that.

Unfortunately in Aviation, there seems to be little compromise between those two worlds. It’s not good enough to be the world’s greatest pilot if the technology becomes the devil himself.

There was a point in time where I wanted nothing more in life to redesign the interface to the glass cockpit. But I knew ultimately no matter how good the interface might be, the technology would kill people and then I have to think about how to sleep at night. So maybe this was just a masterpiece that better left in my head.

There’s no perfect world for us.

And that’s my take on it.

———————-

What am I flying on when I fly in Palm Beach? Manual.

For those that don’t fly, I’m not talking about the navigation panel. I’ve never understood why auto manufacturers don’t understand that Garmin does all the Aviation and Marine electronics, why would you think that your lowly auto company could do better navigation? You can’t. Rip that crap out and put in what works.

What I am referring to are when the systems monitoring controls are “glass.” The navigation is far better as “glass.” Trust me you realize that the moment someone hands you some stack of archaic maps and tell you you are the navigator.

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