6 Pack vs Glass Cockpit

We could fall into the trap of debating the advantages and disadvantages of a 6 pack versus a glass cockpit instrument panel. It could be interesting, possibly fascinating or at least stimulating; however, it requires a full article that at the end can be summarized as follows: It depends... and there are pros and cons for both. So we decided to be pragmatic.

The way we look at it is based upon the following elements:

  1. What are, or soon will be, the systems and equipment found in the training helicopter?

  2. What helicopter will you be flying or transitioning to after graduation?

1 - Equipment found in the newer training helicopter?

Even if the majority of trainers are still equipped with the standard 6 pack instrumentation, newer design promotes the use of electronic display. The Cabri (the latest trainer produced by the European company Gimbal) and the new Schweizer 300CBi, come from the factory with a full integrated engine monitoring, Primary Flight and navigation system displayed via screen, commonly called EFIS (Electronic Flight and Instrument System) while the R22 and R44 are available in either version. Those systems make use of newer technologies that are more robust and reliable. The vast majority of the helicopters you will be transitioning to in the commercial world are equipped with those. So, the debate about which system is the best for training will very soon become obsolete at least for helicopter training. EFIS system equipped aircraft need to be part of your training solution. So let's move on.

2 - Helicopter you will be flying or transitioning to after completion of your training:

At USATS, we train self-pay students and "contract" students for Oil & Gas companies and military/government customers. Those students, after graduation, will transition directly to more advanced airframes like A109, H130, AW139, etc. Due to their limited flying experience, having been trained and exposed to EFIS system makes a huge difference in their ability and confidence in smoothly transitioning to those aircraft. EFIS system equipped aircraft must be part of your training solution

The self-pay students are usually looking to build up their flight hours before being able to meet the requirements for commercial operation paying jobs. The usual path for them is  to become flight instructors (see A Word with our Chief Flight Instructor). Those students still need to acquire knowledge and understanding of both systems (6 packs and EFIS systems) for 2 main reasons. Firstly, because we are still in a transition period where not all helicopter flight schools offer training in EFIS type aircraft. Secondly and mainly, we want to make sure our graduates have the skills required to access CFI positions at those schools, maximizing their chances in finding a jobs after graduation.