Those interested primarily in safety by brand will want to read the full report carefully.
What I found especially interesting resides between the lines. Essentially, the Diamond DA40 is so safe (was involved in so few accidents total and so few serious or fatal accidents) that they excluded it from the analysis; otherwise, it would have "made" glass panels look safer than traditional cockpits. The justification for excluding the Diamonds is as follows:
"None of these (accident) patterns describe the record of Diamond Aircraft. In the decade from 2001 through 2010 (inclusive), there were only 13 accidents in single-engine DA-40s and one in a DA-42 twin. Three of the DA-40 accidents were fatal. Because the precision of the estimate depends on the number of events observed, accident rates estimated from these numbers cannot be considered reliable, but taken at face value they would be about two-thirds lower than those in other fixed-gear singles of 180 hp or less, and half those in the more powerful new composite designs. Since almost 80% of Diamond’s fleet exposure is in glass-cockpit airplanes, combining Diamond with any other category biases the comparison in favor of glass . . . their accident record is too sparse to analyze them as a separate category. For these reasons, Diamond aircraft were excluded from the remainder of the analysis."
As a research scientist, methodologist, and statistician, I find the logic especially weak since more TAA Diamonds are being sold and flown than most of the aircraft that were included in most of the comparison bases (more than Hawker, Mooney, Piper, & Columbia). Moreover, there are statistical techniques for handling low sample sizes.
A cynical view is that including Diamonds in the tables would have made Cirrus and Cessna/Columbia look especially bad, which is probably deserved and, in part, may reflect Cirrus' reprehensible marketing strategy of targeting zero time pilots. Another category mistake in the presuppositions is that the majority of the Diamond DA40’s flying are DA40-XLS which are putting out more than 200 hp because of the tuned exhaust system engineered specifically for that engine and prop.
This is not a call for Cirrus owners to jump in to defend their aircraft. Cirrus are excellent aircraft. It is a call for the analysts to examine their own biases in framing the analysis and report. It is scientifically and to some extent logically indefensible.
Robert, you say that glass panels and steam gauges have no difference in safety while Pia Bergstrom's article disagrees. Quote from hers: "In fact, newer glass cockpit airplanes had 'demonstrably higher rates of accidents during takeoffs, landings and go-arounds,' according to the study." Uhh, okay then, who's right?
In my house, the biggest, most-prominant clocks are analog. Not because I'm against digital, modern progress but because they're the easiest and most intuitive to use.
I've always been against the vertical tape presentation of altitude, airspeed and vertical speed in glass cockpit displays. These gauges NEED to be displayed in analog format (along with heading, obviously). We know this. A fast-moving vertical airspeed tape is confusing to read at a glance, unlike a conventional airspeed indicator which *immediately* tells you what your speed is, which way it's going (if it's changing) and how close the speed is to a critical one. As the kids write: Needs. No. Interpretation. Same with altitude. But this is neither breaking news nor rocket science. All these people who say vertical tapes are "better" are, in my not-so-humble-opinion, just plain wrong. Or they fly jets with autothrottles and always-on autopilots.
Give me reliable, digital gauges okay, but can we PLEASE put them back in the old, easily understandable format? Then...maybe...glass cockpits would show a measurable increase in "betterness" over steam gauges.
Although, it's sometimes worth trawling the data for patterns, even if you know the data is more than a little imperfect. Kudos to those who try, but a look through the result shows the data is too imperfect to draw much of any conclusions.
A very well written and to the point article. You're forgetting an important aspect though, that of a lack of training. Modern avionics are relatively complex, integrated systems you need to be extremely proficient with, more so than with the steam gauges. If the approach you have loaded doesn't fit with the clearance you were given, or a last minute change of runway comes about, you better know how to change that around very quickly, otherwise things will get confusing. It's a well known behavioural problem for most people to focus on a relatively irrelevant problem and fall victim to the aviate-navigate-communicate trap.
It also is about time someone started to make a case for doing away with false and misleading statistics. To name another analogy, take speed limits on the road. For some that's still too fast while for others its so slow they start doing all sorts of things behind the wheel they shouldn't be doing. Plus, speeding in the built environment is a very different story from a risk perspective than it is in the country. Yet that data is not even on record, so how are insurance companies possibly making a real risk assessment when they calculate your premium? The fact of the matter is, they don't. They just guesstimate and we are the ones on the short end of the stick. By that logic, every male citizen in his late teens should have to spend 6 months in jail, just because there's about a 2% chance that at some point they'll be put there to pay their debt to society.
It all comes down to us as individuals vs. us as a population. We perhaps simply need to start addressing these things with a finer granularity of data rather than throwing everyone in the same bucket.
Technologically advanced aircraft are definitely ahead of technically advanced statistics...
I have experienced all of these new Garmin and Avidyne PFD's and MFD's and I think they are really revolutionary, giving much improvement in this rather staionary aviation world. And I love them.
Of course there is no safety difference between steam gauges and the new
electronic gadgets, quite to the contrary, as you pointed out.
But in comparison to the old "six-pack" there is big difference in another point of view:
It's a new way to "think" speed, attitude and altitude, if you see bars instead of round dials and if there are so many new knobs and buttons and functions getting used to.
And pilots, who since decades are used to a familiar imagery might get confused in stressing situations, where quick decisions are needed.
I think it's a question of practice. And nobody can't deny that these marvelous
new instruments are helping very much making flying saver - once we are used to them.
Everything boils down always to the same thing, TRAINING, if you are going to try to figure the flat panels in flight, by yourself or any other way rather than safely on the ground, or relay that the technology is going to allow you to do things that you wouldn't do with the old panels, chances are that is going to end well. Common sense, just common sense.
As a male, I claim no exception to having the "gadget gene" that makes me all giddy to have and to play with technologically advanced gizmos. In practice however, (speaking only for myself) I find it much easier and faster to read and understand analog gauges. At the same time, I find the addition of a moving map display to be invaluable. Unfortunately, with most panels, it's an "either / or" situation where you either get the benefit of a moving map while having to deal with scrolling numbers or you get dials without a moving map.
I do not claim that one instrument system is universally superior over another, but I do see a likelihood that individuals would perform better with a system that makes them feel more comfortable. Just because an instrument display is new and technologically advanced, it isn't necessarily "better" for everyone under all circumstances.