June 17, 2006


Yes, Just Another Boring Bay Area Sunset from 7000': the mountains of the Coastal and Diablo Ranges in silhouette or sharp relief against a darkening orange sky, the sun setting into the slight mist over the Pacific, the same mist extending in tendrils along the canyons and valleys between the peaks, the view extending for maybe 100 miles in each direction, NorCal Approach calling 747s and smaller traffic for us we as head up over the Santa Cruz range... but I'm under the bloody Cone Of Stupidity again, so I miss most of this, sitting there ruefully (and not for the first time...) thinking "People pay hundreds — in some cases thousands — of dollars just to see this view, and I'm paying to block all this out?". Hmmmm.

* * *

I've been spoiling myself by flying the club's G1000-equipped 172s almost exclusively lately (VFR as well as IFR), so I thought since I have no life I'd spend Saturday evening flying one of our older 172s under the hood with just the steam gauges (plus a panel GPS) to see if I still have the Right Stuff without all the glass and an autopilot. "It doesn't even have an HSI!" I think in horror as I sit there in the left seat waiting for Hayward (KHWD) Deliverance to give us the usual clearance, wondering what the hell some of those thingies on the front panel are for. Boyan, my usual flight-share partner in the right seat, finds this vaguely amusing, but I'm sitting there thinking that two years ago I'd have found this attitude incomprehensible. No HSI?! I have to twiddle OBS's with a mechanical knob?! (of course where The Aviatrix currently flies, she doesn't even get to twiddle VOR OBSs — there are no VOR's up there (that's another world entirely, one that intrigues me from this distance)). But it's all very familiar after a minute or two (some things you never lose), and after the usual delay waiting next to Hayward's 28L for release, we're off into the evening.

Miraculously the entire flight down to Monterey (KMRY) is utterly routine: no altitude problems, only momentary lapses with heading (usually as I struggle to reprogram the GPS), the radio work goes just fine (you can get away with a lot when you have an Anglo-Australian accent in this part of the world), and if the initial stages of the LOC/DME RWY 28L approach into Monterey are a little, erm, agricultural, I can always blame the bad vector NorCal gives us that blows us straight through the localiser (it wasn't really her fault — she was contending with an extremely gabby VFR flight that kept stepping on both her and me, and she was really apologetic about it afterwards). As I've noted elsewhere, the Monterey LOC/DME 29L approach goes over some rather interesting terrain, and done in the latter stages of sunset, it's apparently breathtaking. Or so Boyan tells me, as he flies us home back up over the Santa Cruz range and across to Hayward.

A really enjoyable IFR flight in near-perfect VFR conditions. Wish I could afford the time and money to do this more often.

* * *

The most interesting thing about the evening for me was that I still actually find it easier to keep a non-G1000 172 level than the G1000 version when hand-flying. Sure that G1000 glass AI is (relatively) huge, but the little turn coordinator in the older 172s is instantaneous, and easy to see out of the corner of your eye as you're looking at the other instruments, and I find myself once again using the TC more than the AI as a basic instrument. Not sure what to make of this really … probably nothing.


Matthew Stibbe, editor of ModernPilot.com said...

Oddly, I find the same thing on the Cirrus. On my instrument rating checkride my examiner said I flew much more accurately using the backup instruments than I did with the glass PFD displays. I have a number of theories:

1) I spent 300 of my 400+ hours on analogue dials, including most of my instrument time.
2) I was busier the rest of my checkride and when you do partial panel, things get more focused.
3) There's a lag to the glass displays that makes it hard to fly super accurately - you can't read the needles in advance so much.

Is this your experience or is it something else?

John said...

Funny you should mention the steam gauge versus glass panel issue. I'm writing some observations about glass panel strategies right now and will put it on my blog in a day or so.

Hamish said...

Matthew: I think for me it's definitely to do with the subtle lag in the glass version, at least with the G1000. The mechanical TC and AI are instantaneous, and while I still seem to have no trouble keeping a plane the right way up and basically on course regardless of whether it's glass or steam, the mechanical versions still have the edge for accuracy for me.

John: I look forward to reading your observations, especially given my status as one of your guinea pigs :-).