Embracing Head-Down Time

Take advantage of all the helpful technology at your fingertips.

Flying Tip Cockpit

Flying Tip Cockpit

The trend among aviation educators to ingrain in students the importance of keeping their eyes looking outside the cockpit is excellent counsel in an increasingly digital world. But an equally important piece of the safety puzzle is to use everything in our arsenal, from our eyes to our ears to the avionics in the panel, to minimize risks.

To help avoid the kind of complacency that can get us into trouble, we should strive to pull together all the information at our disposal on every flight to break any potential link in the proverbial accident chain. That means possibly changing how we think about the oft-maligned concepts of head-down time and cockpit automation.

Is there an NDB marker on your RNAV GPS approach path? Tune it in. Can you use VOR crossing radials to confirm your position presented on the moving map display? Use them. Can you turn to your iPad to confirm that the airport lights you see in the distance really are your intended destination or that you'll really clear the terrain you can't see ahead in the darkness? Do it.

Any time you have a spare moment, you can ask yourself which tools you aren't using to your maximum benefit and then go ahead and rectify the situation. It's true that the FAA warns that an increasing reliance on automation is degrading hand-fying skills, but that doesn't mean we should stop using these tools. By all means, keep your eyes looking outside too, just don't ignore all the helpful technology at our fingertips that can tell us, just maybe, we aren't seeing the whole picture.

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