Evolution of the Glass Flight Deck

The Australian Aviation had changed significantly since the late 1990s (Kain & Webb, 2003). One of the major changes includes the introduction of the glass flight deck in Commercial Aviation. It has influenced the Australian Commercial Aviation significantly. This paper will analyse the transition from the standard flight instruments to the Glass Flight Deck. It will proactively discuss: The preliminary cockpits; the transition to the modern Glass Cockpit; and the modern Glass Flight Deck era. Overall, this paper argues that the Glass Flight Deck has brought in a massive change to the aviation industry.

The initial phase of aviation was very undeveloped hence having few basic instruments (analogue) only. Cockpits in the distant past were generally comprised of limited instruments which provided basic information and had elementary controls only (“Cockpit Design”, 2012). There were inadequate controls and limited instruments in the cockpits, consequently increasing a pilot’s fatigue and pressure levels (“Cockpit Design”, 2012). Wiener and Nagel (1988) summarized that “crew system designs and flight station layouts have frequently ignored the limitations and capabilities of the human operator”. The key issue for any flight operations was the interaction of the flight crew with the flight deck (“Analysis of pilot’s monitoring”, 2001). It was difficult to correlate the data as the information provided was insufficient, hence resulted in crashes. Ideally, all the instruments on the panel should be large and visible for the pilots, as well as easy to be operated. Hence, evolving cockpits should be more feasible to use with digital instruments with large screens (“Cockpit Design”, 2012). For example, in lighter aircraft like Cessna, the pilot cannot rely completely on the instruments as it does not provide sufficient information. In addition, in poor weather conditions like rain and thunder storms, the aircraft cannot be flown as it is light weight and the instruments does not show the flight path. These days, the glass airplanes are mostly flown as it is more likely to find Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) on a commercial flight path, hence analogue instrumentation is used less frequently (Ison, 2010). The proficiency of delivering all the information that a pilot might need, had been a challenge during the history of aviation. As the range of desired information has grown, so have the size and complexity of modern aircraft as well, thus expanding even further the need to inform the flight crew without overloading the cockpit (Tomblin, 2014). Therefore, several changes were incorporated into the modern flight decks, making it better comparatively.

The idea of developing basic flight instruments into a modern technology based flight deck has remarkably influenced Commercial Aviation. However, massive increase in the demand for new flight instruments resulted negatively for what the designers expected (Tomblin, 2014). The newly emerging instruments that display the performance of aircraft resulted in high-stress levels for the pilots. For instance, missed signals, misinterpreted information, limited detection of issues and failing to recognise the right instrument (Weiner and Nagel, 1988). The cockpits evolved after World War II when analogue instruments were replaced with “Glass Panel” system (“Cockpit Evolution”, 2015). In short period, the cockpits of lighter aircraft started the transition to automated instrumentation (“Analysis of pilot’s monitoring”, 2001). The newly trained pilots are feeling the automated flight deck easier to learn. The newer technology enables pilots to use innovative modes such as auto pilots, cruise, setting flight paths, collision warning system, weather updates, landing with the help of Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) that analogue instrumentation does not offer (“Impact of Glass Cockpit, 2006). Advances in the new evolving flight deck has proved to have many advantages so that it will be helpful for the pilots, especially to the transportation industry. In addition to it, the safety concerns have been reduced (“Impact of Glass Cockpit, 2006). The use of the analogue instrumentation is easy and simple for the upcoming pilots to use, but there are some issues which need to be resolved. Thus, the modern Glass Flight Deck concept developed and proved to be heading towards its success.

The Glass Flight Deck concept which was recently originated, gives a pilot improved safety when compared to analogue, and are easier to handle as well. They are more automated, more accurate and the integration of the controls are better than in traditional analogue systems (“The Glass Cockpit Advantage”, 2012). Most pilots these days are trained on the new aircraft which has the Glass Flight Deck which makes flying effortless and comfortable to use (Newman, 2014). The Glass Flight Deck provides advanced features like Traffic Collision Awareness System (TCAS) which is a short collision alert system, Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) and updated information about weather (“Glass cockpits in General Aviation”, 2011). For instance, the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is incorporated with the new automated Glass Panel, and has many innovative features that allows a pilot to enjoy their flying experience. In addition, it has proved that the airlines save money while maintaining the competitiveness with the 777 (“Innovative 787 flight deck”, 2012). The newly installed technology helps the pilot feel more comfortable in flying taking advantages of the innovative features installed in the deck (“Innovative 787 flight deck”, 2012). The modern automated instrumentation is not only easier to fly but also consolidates accurate information from many sources. For instance, the glass panel shows the flight path on an easily read map and many more features (Sweet, 2002). Other advantages of Glass Flight Deck are: The accuracy of an automated instrumentation is much higher when compared to the analogue, and are very easy to read (“What are the advantages and disadvantages of analogue and digital instrumentation?”, 2017). The Glass Flight Deck uses colour schemes which can assist in cautioning the crew if there is a threat (“Cockpit Design”, 2012). The core colours used in the cockpit are green (normal), amber (caution) and red (alert or emergency). The Flight Deck has controls which are easy to reach and in a place where it is noticeable. (Cockpit Design”, 2012).

In Conclusion, this paper has methodically evaluated the transition of the flight deck into the modern world. The Aviation industry has evolved with increased trend in technology. It has proactively discussed the evolution into the Glass Flight Deck. It has conveyed the situation prior to the change, the period of change, and the influence of it after the change has occurred. Thus, it has proved that the Glass Flight Deck concept has made a significant change in Commercial Aviation.

Reference List

Analysis of pilot’s monitoring and performance. (2001). Retrieved March 23, 2017, from http://picma.org.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/Background/Boeing%20Academic%202001%20Pilot%20Automation%20monitoring.pdf

Cockpit Design and Human Factors. (2012). Retrieved from March 19, 2017, from http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:cockpit-design-and-human-factors

Cockpit Evolution – from the beginning to present. (2015). Retrieved from march 15, 2017 from: https://firstaerosquadron.com/2015/09/23/cockpit-evolution-from-the-beginning-to-present/

Glass cockpits in General Aviation. (2011). Retrieved March 15, 2017, from http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:glass-cockpits-in-general-aviation

Impact of Glass Cockpit Experience. (2006). Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://commons.erau.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1501&context=jaaer

Innovative 787 flight deck. (2012). Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/articles/2012_q1/3/

Ison, D. (2010). Plane and Pilot. Retrieved from: http://www.planeandpilotmag.com/article/is-glass-safer/#.WNjDOsB942w

Kain, J. & Webb, R. (2003). Turbulent Times: Australian Airline Industry Issues 2003, Australian Parliamentary. Retrieved from: http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp0203/03RP10

Newman, D. (2014). Universities to Probe Glass vs Analogue Cockpits. Retrieved from: http://www.australianflying.com.au/news/universities-to-probe-glass-vs-analogue-cockpits

Retrieved from: https://www.quora.com/Why-arent-there-still-analogue-instruments-in-airliner-cockpits

Sweet, W. The glass cockpit – flight deck automation. IEEE Spectrum, 32(9), 0018-9235. doi:10.1109/6.406460

The Glass Cockpit Advantage. (2012). Retrieved from March 13, 2017 from http://blog.covingtonaircraft.com/2012/11/14/the-glass-cockpit-advantage/

Tomblin, P. (2014). Why aren’t there still analogue instruments in airliner cockpits?

Wiener, E.L., & Nagel, D.C. (1988). Human Factors in Aviation. London, United Kingdom: Academic Press.

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