This is where there are stories all about aircraft instruments and systems
Engine management became a breeze with EGT (Exhaust Gas Temperature) information for each cylinder being graphically displayed so that the pilot can use the automated “lean assist” system to lean back the mixture more accurately. Rate of fuel consumption, fuel remaining and time to fuel starvation all help the pilot manage the aircraft more wisely. The RPM, Oil Temp and Oil pressure gauges are clearly displayed as is the electrical positive/negative charge information. This last one is especially important in an electrically powered glass cockpit!
The flight instrumentation is what’s really great. RPM, VSI, DG, AH and Altimeter are all summarised on one clear screen directly in front of the pilot. The turn and balance took a little more getting used to as I endeavoured to keep the two small triangles matched up in turns (I personally like the simplicity of the ball bearing in a trough slide). What I really enjoyed was the autopilot and the ease in which it is integrated into the main flight display for setting the altitude, VSI and heading bugs. It’s an absolute breeze to link either of the Garmin 430s into the autopilot for directional control.
I ended up flying the Archer from Moorabbin to the Gold Coast and back and loved every minute of it. What I enjoyed the most was that it removed a lot of the pilot workload so that I could concentrate on other things such as enjoying the trip. Trust me when I say that as soon as you start up and the screens come to life you will still get the appropriate mouth-gaping response from your passengers.
Despite all of the technology and the incredible ease of using the glass I still find myself staring at the analogue ASI and Altimeter on the left hand as soon as I enter the circuit. There is just something about those older instruments that seem to engender a sense of confidence and familiarity that is missing from my experiences to date in a pure glass cockpit....
Levelling off at 2500 feet was a little bit of a challenge as the concept of a VSI was thrown in for good measure. “What the heck is a VSI?” I politely asked. You’re always polite to the instructor when you realise that the only way that you’ll survive your first flight is by their good graces. “The VSI is the Vertical Speed Indicator and when you are level it should read zero.” was the patient reply.
I imagine that we’ve all done it. Chasing the VSI is almost like a game the first time you fly. I sometimes wonder whether instructors have a perverse sense of humour watching a rookie chase the VSI up and down for a while prior to telling them about holding attitudes etc.
Next came the DG. I jumped in quickly when I heard yet another acronym and was quickly told that the DG is the Directional Gyro or in other words, “where you are going”. I’m glad that I wasn’t told at this stage about caging, aligning the DG with the magnetic compass etc.
So by this time, I’ve forgotten about the ASI and concentrated on the DG, VSI and Altimeter and it wasn’t long before all of them got out of kilter and the instructor gently set the controls right again. Flying lopsided isn’t a really pleasant experience so the Artificial Horizon (AH) and Turn and Balance were brought into play and I felt my brain expand in another order of magnitude. I momentarily thought about the level of expansion will be in direct proportion to the headache later that night....
Discussing avionics with pilots is like talking about which religion they belong to. There are a number of camps that most pilots fall into starting with “glass versus analogue” and finishing with one brand versus another. When I reflect upon my recent aviation journey I find that there is a lot more to the selection of avionics than first meets the eye.
Flying for me started with movies like “The Battle of Britain” where Spitfires soared across the sky chasing down German bombers at the height of the Blitz. What really entranced me about the movie were the shots from the cockpit where the instruments were clearly in view. For example, a spinning altimeter told the pilot that it was a time for a quick exit.
In the 80’s I graduated from the Battle of Britain to the infamous Tom Cruise classic “Top Gun”. I was once again thrust into the exciting world of aviation while watching Viper and Maverick battle it out for supremacy. Goose’s exit courtesy of a flat spin and avionics going crazy was a particular highlight.
So what do these two movies have in common? Dials, lots of dials. There’s nothing quite like seeing the face of a passenger climbing aboard as they survey the mass of dials, buttons, levers and knobs before them.
Let’s face it if you ever want impress a friend, family member or dare I say member of the opposite sex do your pre-flight briefing like this. “No drinking, touching controls etc”, followed by, “and yes I actually know what all of these instruments do.” I can bet that you’ll get a nervous laugh followed by comment that can be summarised as, “I’m glad that you do!”...