Sunday, December 10, 2006

Too proud to learn the lessons of the competition?

In regards to the design of the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing did a lot of things right. There are many new innovations that will reduce crew workload and improve the safely and accuracy of the operation.
However, also having worked with Airbus products for many years there are a handful of items that Boeing should have picked up on that they did not. Many believe that Boeing feels because Airbus does it, that's reason enough not to. That would be foolish on Boeing's part, but it still may be true.

50 or more years ago, flight instruments were installed all over the cockpit in seemingly haphazard fashion - perhaps wherever they fit. Often the attitude indicator (called the artificial horizon then) was in the middle of the panel, not directly in front of the pilot (or anyone). The industry (and the FAA) finally came around and a standard arrangement of the six basic flight instruments was established. This remains the standard for "round dial" instruments to this day from Cessnas to 747s.
What we are seeing now with the advent of the "glass cockpit" instruments (instrument indications represented on computer displays - not hardware round-dial instruments) seems to be repeating history. Standardization is lacking - if not diverging. New private pilots must demonstrate an ability to use the equipment on the airplane they take their check rides in, because there is so much diversity among various equipment. Once, their operation was standard and intuitive. Now, it it neither. Has innovation brought confusion?