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Aviation Learning Center Document Glass Cockpit Flying Skills
Author: Susan Parson Date: March 2007
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Risk Management
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The last, but by no means the least, of the three flight management skills needed for mastery of the glass cockpit aircraft is risk management. There is no question that the enhanced situational awareness and automation capabilities offered by a glass cockpit airplane can vastly expand its safety and utility, especially for personal transportation use. At the same time, there is some risk that lighter workloads could lead to the cliché of "fat-dumb-and-happy" complacency. Just remember that any glass cockpit pilot tempted to relax into a passenger-in-command role is likely to find some very sharp corners in all this cutting edge technology. As with any piece of glass, you must always handle it with care.

It is especially important to recognize that there are limits to what the systems in any light general aviation aircraft can do. To help pilots remember this point, some Avidyne equipped aircraft now offer a risk management checklist page that the pilot must acknowledge before continuing to program the system. Whether or not your aircraft is so equipped, just remember that being pilot-in-command always requires sound aeronautical decision-making (ADM), and that it sometimes means saying "no" to a flight you really want to take. Here's a recent personal example, using the PAVE risk identification checklist:

  • Pilot(s): On a recent winter evening, I planned a night cross-country flight with a fellow G1000 instructor. Both of us are night current, instrument current, and fully proficient in use of the G1000 systems.
  • Aircraft: The aircraft was a G1000 equipped, single engine airplane with the full weather datalink package installed.
  • enVironment: Weather at the proposed time of departure was still VFR, but visibly deteriorating to marginal VFR and forecast to be IFR approximately two hours after completion of the trip, which was along a well-known route to a familiar airport. Temperatures aloft for the proposed altitude (which would put us in the clouds) were just above freezing. The intended route of flight included short segments over mountainous terrain.
  • External pressures: We really, really, really wanted to fly!

After watching the ceiling and visibility decline noticeably during the preflight inspection, we quickly lost faith in the forecast. Despite the proficiency of the pilots and the capability of the aircraft systems, the two of us reluctantly concluded that the risk posed by a night flight over mountains in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) with possible icing was well beyond the limitations of a light single-engine airplane -- and we lived to fly another day.

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