It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. When Max Trescott, a Master CFI and publisher, couldn’t find any user-friendly materials to help him learn and teach G1000 technology, he decided to create his own.
Trescott is the author of “The G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook” and the “VFR & IFR G1000 CD-ROM Course.”
Based in the San Francisco area, Trescott holds an ATP certificate and has logged 3,400 hours, including 2,500 hours giving instruction. He specializes in teaching advanced avionics and glass cockpit technology.
He began his odyssey through the looking glass of G1000 technology just two years ago. At the time, glass cockpit technology was just breaking into the general aviation market. He had a client who wanted to fly a G1000-equipped plane, so Trescott went to the factory training programs provided by Cessna Aircraft Co. and Columbia Aircraft Co., then realized that factory training was not an option for many pilots.
“When I started, there were no training manuals except the factory manuals,” he recalls. “They tell you what buttons to push, but don’t put it all together in context and explain why you would push this button as opposed to that one. The book was an outgrowth of the notes I took during factory training.”
Trescott also spent a lot of time flying a G1000 computer simulator.
“I have heard people say the computer simulator is not worthwhile,” he says. “I disagree. It is great for just poking around and the best way to learn the system.”
He adds that software for the simulator can be obtained for less than $20, and notes that flying a computer is a lot less expensive than flying an airplane.
THE BENEFITS OF GLASS
At many flight schools the emphasis is on G1000-equipped aircraft. Clients who aspire to careers that involve flying technologically advanced aircraft are often steered toward beginning their training in them rather than learning in older steam gauge airplanes and then transitioning to glass. This approach is often debated among instructor pilots who question the wisdom of putting an inexperienced person into an aircraft that has such a “gee whiz” factor. This is because some student pilots — and even some instructors — treat the G1000 as if it is a video game and “put down the airplane to fly the displays.”
“That can happen,” notes Trescott, “but I see training in a G1000-equipped aircraft as a means to enhance safety and the quality of education. For example, it is a lot easier to notice a system failure, such as a loss of vacuum, when a large red X appears over the instrument. The client also will benefit because there are more safety features, such as traffic and terrain avoidance, built into the system,” he continues. “The CFI can turn off the PFD and teach them to fly with back-up round gauges so there is the best of both worlds. Since there is more in the airplane, we can teach them more. The danger is the problem of fixating on the displays. A lot of that is driven by the fact that they are flying with a CFI who is still trying to learn the system. Both the CFI and student need to develop good habits and learn to look outside of the airplane 90% of the time.”
A challenge for the new pilot is finding a flight instructor who is well versed in G1000 technology and application.
“CFIs need to get to know the system intimately before they teach it,” says Trescott. “It’s not fair to teach people when you can barely do it yourself.”
One of the challenges facing instructors is learning the differences in the application of the technology as it varies from aircraft to aircraft, because there are subtle differences.
“Getting that system competency is very important,” Trescott stresses. “The second thing is not to rely on the automation. CFIs must still teach the basics, such as pilotage and dead reckoning, as they would in a less complicated airplane. Some CFIs neglect to teach the student what to do when the G1000 malfunctions. It’s easy for the CFI to teach when everything works perfectly. The CFI has to have the discipline to turn stuff off and make sure clients can fly it when stuff isn’t working.”
Although some CFIs do not teach students how to use the autopilot, Trescott introduces it early in a student’s training, saying that when the airplane flies itself that frees the pilot up to mentally get ahead of the aircraft, such as briefing the approach into an unfamiliar airport.
“This allows them to focus on the decision-making, such as developing alternate plans, monitoring fuel and checking the weather,” he says.
MAKING THE SWITCH
“The transition from steam gauges to PFD is relatively easy,” says Trescott. “I have never seen anyone who had difficulty with it. Most of the challenges come in the automation side of the GPS and autopilot and the Multi-Function Display. A VFR pilot can make the transition after four to six hours of groundwork. The transition in the air can happen faster.”
Making the visual switch from the so-called six-pack steam gauge aircraft to one equipped with glass usually doesn’t involve much time because instead of looking at several round gauges the information is displayed in a linear format.
One of the major changes is the size of the Attitude Indicator. Instead of a two-inch circle, the AI takes up the center of the PFD. Also different is the slip skid indicator. Instead of the ball and a miniature airplane, there is a magenta triangle with a line beneath it that sits atop the AI. The displacement of the line identifies a slip or skid. A magenta line at the top of the Horizontal Situation Indicator depicts the rate of turn rather than the symbolic airplane. That takes some getting used to and there is a tendency to over-control the aircraft at first.
Instrument flight is where the G1000 really proves its worth, says Trescott. The right-in-front-of-your-face placement of the instruments makes for an easier scan, and an easier scan makes for better instrument flying.
“Pilots can come up to speed really rapidly and I have found that instrument pilots are ready for the check ride long before they have the 40 hours required by the FARs. It is a lot easier for them to fly straight and level when the horizon line is 10 inches long, as it is on the G1000, as opposed to the smaller depiction in a steam gauge. Because the G1000 depiction is so large it is easier to tell if you are a couple of degrees off and instead of using a triangular-shaped scan to look at individual instruments you have lines of information that are easy and quick to read.”
The traffic and terrain avoidance programmed into the G1000 aids in situational awareness, says Trescott, and helps pilots focus on the critical aspect of decision making during the flight. “So you can do things like evaluating the weather and the fuel and thinking about alternate plans because you are not struggling to see if the wings are level,” he says.
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