‘Now I know what a dog feels like watching TV’

C40 (Military 737) pilot after first check ride in a glass cockpit

The advent of ‘flat screen[1]’ technology allowed the designers to deliver copious amounts of information to the pilot. Simple they are not! The method of delivery is essentially ‘digital’ as any analogue element is purely there to assist rather than provide definitive data. Of course the trainee will learn about the displays in ground school and may feel that he understands them fully even before entering the cockpit for the first time. The first moments interacting with them can be a sobering experience.

The previous generation of dial displays effectively programmed the brain to work in a particular way but these flat screen displays with their digital content require the brain to work in another way. On one occasion I had a Brazilian guy who was briefed to make his very first take off to the southwest, turn to the north when reaching 1000 feet and continue climbing to 2000 feet. After the take off he kept flying on runway heading and kept climbing. After a minute or so I said to him ‘Hey, Ricardo, any time now would be a good time to turn.’

He replied, ‘Geoff, when I have found the altimeter and the ASI I will turn, don’t worry.’ I think this gives you an idea of just how difficult adjusting to the new technology can be for ‘old-school’ pilots brought up on dials and needles.

[1] Flat Screens can be described as the large format LCD displays that followed on from the smaller electronic ‘CRT glass cockpit’ designs. The flat screen format allows vast amounts of information to be displayed.