Monday, February 2, 2009

Cub pilot meets G1000

This morning started out looking like it was going to be a case of deja vu all over again. We were on the schedule to fly 103, because somebody else had already claimed my favorite instrument mount, 50G (affectionately known as "fitty-golf"). We get to the airport, and 103 is nowhere around. Somebody conveniently forgot to call and tell us that it went down for maintenance on Saturday. You can imagine how thrilled I was with the idea of starting another week with a scrubbed flight.

Anyway, Tim suggested that we take the G1000-equipped 172 out and give it a try. I was hesitant, because I'd been of the opinion that a G1000 would make a pretty poor training platform. It was a cool feeling as we started the pre-flight, though, because those two big monitors in the panel make you feel like you're doing the cockpit preflight on an ERJ-145 or something. More about the G1000 issue as the story continues.

Anyway, we started the flight with a 0-0 takeoff (in other words, for you non-pilots, I took off with my "foggles" on using only the instruments to maintain the runway center line and know when to lift off). We went out to the practice area. I could tell on the way out I was having problems holding an altitude. On that G1000, you get indications of really small variations since you have a digital readout. With a regular altimeter, if you're assigned 3000 feet you try to keep the needle relatively near 3000, plus or minus 100 feet for fudge room.

Same with the VSI (vertical speed indicator). You try in general to keep the needle centered (which indicates a "0" climb/descent rate). The VSI tape on the G1000, though, gives you every little deviation. So, where I would just hold what I had on an airplane with steam gauges I found myself chasing numbers on the G1000.

I'm not saying I'm not a precise pilot. But what I am saying is that I think it might do more harm than good to know that I'm at 3080 feet with a 125 feet-per-minute climb. On regular gauges I'd ride that out and let the airplane stablize before I tried to fix deviations that small. Anyway, I digress.

We also did some 45 degree angle bank (steep turns), and started in on unusual attitudes. They're surprisingly fun. Finally, we capped the ride off with the VOR 17 approach into McGregor. The high point of the flight was that my bracketing has gotten better, so my tracking on that outbound radial looked a lot cleaner. My procedure turn also looked really good.

Tomorrow, we start ILS approaches. I'm stoked.

Now, what about the G1000? I spent more time learning the system and chasing needles then I did flying the airplane to my usual standards. Would that change over time? Yes? Would I put any student in that airplane who was pre-private? Probably not.

The situational awareness offered by the G1000 is great, but sometimes excessive information makes it too easy to ignore the old saying, "always fly the airplane." Really cool gee-whiz factor and good for people who want to get advanced ratings or move up, but as a CFI I'll steer primary students to steam gauges.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. That G1000 is nice, huh? Glad to hear that you were able to go up. Keep on keeping on.