How Advanced Avionics Systems Affect the Pilot

The third challenge is learning how advanced avionics systems affect the pilot. The additional information provided by advanced avionics systems can affect the way you make decisions, and the ability to automate pilot tasks can place you in the role of system supervisor or manager. These ideas are presented throughout the handbook using a series of sidebars illustrating some of the issues that arise when pilots work with advanced avionics systems. This series is not a complete list; rather, its purpose is to convey an attitude and a manner of thinking that will help you continue to learn.


The Learning series provides tips that can help expedite mastery of advanced avionics. You will learn why taking the time to understand how advanced systems work is a better learning strategy than simply memorizing the button-pushing procedures required to use each system. The importance of committing to an ongoing learning process will be explained. Because of the limits of human understanding, together with the quirks present in computerized electronic systems of any kind, you will learn to expect, and be prepared to cope with, surprises in advanced systems. Avionics equipment frequently receives software and database updates, so you must continually learn system functions, capabilities, and limitations.

The Awareness series presents examples of how advanced avionics systems can enhance pilot awareness of the aircraft systems, position, and surroundings. You will also learn how (and why) the same systems can sometimes decrease awareness. Many studies have demonstrated a natural tendency for pilots to sometimes drift out of the loop when placed in the passive role of supervising an FMS/RNAV and autopilot. You will learn that one way to avoid this pitfall is to make smart choices about when to use an automated system, and when to assume manual control of the flight; how cockpit information systems can be used to keep you in touch with the progress of the flight when automated systems are used; and how some advanced cockpit systems can be set to operate in different modes, with each mode exhibiting a different behavior. Keeping track of which modes are currently in use and predicting the future behavior of the systems is another awareness skill that you must develop to operate these aircraft safely.

The Risk series provides insights on how advanced avionics systems can help you manage the risk faced in everyday flight situations. Information systems offer the immediate advantage of providing a more complete picture of any situation, allowing you to make better informed decisions about potential hazards, such as terrain and weather. Studies have shown that these same systems can sometimes have a negative effect on pilot risk-taking behavior. You will learn about situations in which having more information can tempt you to take more risk than you might be willing to accept without the information. This series will help you use advanced information systems to increase safety, not risk. As much as advanced information systems have improved the information stream to the cockpit, the inherent limitations of the information sources and timeliness are still present; the systems are not infallible.

When advanced avionics systems were first introduced, it was hoped that those new systems would eliminate pilot error. Experience has shown that while advanced avionics systems do help reduce many types of errors, they have also created new kinds of errors. This handbook takes a practical approach to pilot error by providing two kinds of assistance in the form of two series: Common Errors and Catching Errors. The Common Errors series describes errors commonly made by pilots using advanced avionics systems. These errors have been identified in research studies in which pilots and flight instructors participated. The Catching Errors series illustrates how you can use the automation and information resources available in the advanced cockpit to catch and correct errors when you make them.

The Maintaining Proficiency series focuses on pilot skills that are used less often in advanced avionics. It offers reminders for getting regular practice with all of the skills you need to maintain in your piloting repertoire.

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