Industry Leaders Tackle ‘Disruptive Technologies’ at Flying Aviation Expo

Panel discussion at Flying Aviation Expo

Industry leaders took center stage at the inaugural Flying Aviation Expo on Friday morning to discuss the effects of "disruptive technologies" in flying and how they have shaped today's general aviation landscape.

Jim Alpiser, Garmin's director of aftermarket sales, Jerry Gregoire, founder of Redbird Flight Simulations, Tyson Weihs, ForeFlight co-founder and CEO, and Dan Johnson, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association chairman, joined panel moderator and Flying Editor-in-Chief Robert Goyer in the discussion, which spanned everything from the way aviation apps have transformed pilot workload to the effect of new simulator technologies on the cost of learning to fly.

Alpiser kicked off the conversation, touching on the way new avionics have revolutionized the flying experience over the decades. When speaking to the change the Garmin GNS 430 brought to the market, Alpiser said, "It made the overall flying experience a lot easier, a lot more intuitive and a lot safer. We just couldn't make them fast enough." He went on to speak to the strategy Garmin focuses on when developing new products, saying "When we make hardware and devices, we don't just look at what we can do now, we look at what we can do 10 years from now with this same hardware."

Weihs struck a similar tone when discussing the iPad revolution and the birth of ForeFlight, a technology that he says ultimately strives to allow pilots to do many different things easily and efficiently. He said the user-friendly aspect of the app and its quick learning curve opens up its use to a larger number of people, particularly those who may be new to flying.

"The simplicity has allowed other folks to be involved in aviation." Weihs said. "Simplicity really does have a value and that value drives adoption."

Gregoire revealed some of the ways his company's new TRACE technology is making aviation training not only more cost effective and accessible, but also more effective at producing skilled pilots. For example, for pilots struggling with maintaining their altitude, Gregoire said the TRACE technology can identify that deficiency and then intentionally add turbulence into simulation scenarios to force an added focus on that particular skill.

"We've been measuring value in simulation in terms of fidelity," Gregoire said. "TRACE is a way to think about that second dimension of simulation and what else a simulator can teach."

All the panelists discussed the barriers to change and why disruptive technologies sometimes meet with resistance among the flying public.

"We love change, we embrace change. At the same time, sometimes we resist change. When you get pushed out of your comfort zone by new technologies, you have to learn new things," Johnson said.

But ultimately, the panelists agreed that not only are disruptive technologies a positive thing for aviation and here to stay, but that there are many more new technologies and game changers on the horizon.

"There's a considerable amount of potential still. When you are able to put some of this technology together, you can do some incredibly powerful things," said Alpiser.

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