With the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator, more and more people are getting into aviation—and that’s awesome! It also means that many people, new to aviation, are faced with the daunting task of using modern avionics and glass cockpits.

And that begs the question, do these avionics actually have a good user interface? Or rather, do they simply replicate patterns that pilots are used to.

Look to military aviation, for example, and you’ll see a convergence into heads-up displays. Rather than having advanced avionics that end up distracting the pilot and forcing her to look down at the instrument panel, HUDs allow the pilot to continue keeping her eyes at the sky. The goal is to distill the information into its most useful form for decision making, to provide situational awareness, and to reduce pilot workload and let her focus on more important tasks.

Bringing this ideology into the general aviation space might have a profound impact on the way pilots train and fly.

During my flight training, I purposefully learned and used “old-school” technology to the extent that I could: standard steam gauges, paper sectionals, VOR navigation, and no iPad running ForeFlight.

Certainly there is a safety component that warrants being trained in old-school methods and techniques—and I’m all for it. Ultimately, avionics shouldn’t become a distraction from actually flying.


MIT Ground School, by Philip Greenspun, January 6, 2020. http://philip.greenspun.com/teaching/ground-school/