Monday, December 17, 2007

The Hard Way

Continuing my review of "enhancements" to the G1000, here's a review of the checklist feature. The checklists are airframe specific and I know of no way to edit their content to add your own items - you get the manufacturer's checklist, period. To access aircraft checklists on the Cessna airframe version of the G1000, press the CHECKLIST softkey on the lower right side of the Multi-Function Display (MFD). Then you'll notice something I found startling - virtually none of the nine unassigned softkeys at the bottom of the display have any function. More on this later.

The first time you press the CHECKLIST softkey on the Multi-Function Display (MFD), the emergency checklists are displayed by default. While this may be a laudable design goal, the first emergency checklist displayed is ENGINE FAILURE DURING TAKEOFF ROLL followed by ENGINE FAILURE IMMEDIATELY AFTER TAKEOFF. Who's going to have time to access these during either of those flight regimes, even with two crew members on board? Maybe the lawyers made them do this, but it's a pretty inconvenient arrangement.

The checklist categories are:


To change to one of the other categories of checklists, you need be sure the unit is in cursor mode, then turn the small FMS knob. There's no indication of that being in cursor mode and turning the small knob are required, you just have to remember that this is how the checklist interface works. So if EMERGENCY PROCEDURES is the default category, why didn't the Garmin designer simply assign a softkey to the remaining five categories? I wish I knew, but the Garmin engineers often seem to favor complex knob twisting sequences to simple key presses. I wonder how many of their designers are pilots and, if so, how often they fly single-pilot with Garmin hardware.

To get out of the emergency checklist, be sure you are in cursor mode (the checklist category is highlighted), then turn the small FMS knob to get a drop-down list of checklist categories, then scroll to the desired category, then press Enter.

Once you have selected the checklist category, you press Enter to check-off each item as you complete it. Note that there are still plenty of softkeys available, but only three are being used.

Once you have reached the end of the checklist and want to go to the next checklist category, near as I have determined, you have to spin the big FMS knob to get back to the top, turn the small FMS knob to get the drop-down list, then select the next category.

While I like the idea of electronic checklists, methinks this particular implementation might be a bit a bit too convoluted. I'll probably continue to play around with it, but a paper checklist is probably a lot easier to use.


Millz said...

I have always been amazed at Garmin's ability to create poor user interfaces. Even their website is tough to use - I want to update the road maps on my GPSMap 296 - what the heck do I have to buy?! :)

While the G1000 is certainly more feature rich than the Avidyne, there is a lot to be said for the latter's simplicity - especially in the clouds. Even if you still have to learn a GPS430 to use it.

In my head I imagine that their UI "designers" all look like 70s geeks with pocket protectors who never leave their florescent-lit cubicles. But something tells me sad the truth is that there ARE NO UI designers there.

-end rant-

Hamish said...

I guess my question is really about the quality and usefulness of the checklists themselves. They're the approved manufacturer's checklist, presumably, but I've been so irritated by the process of actually getting to them on the G1000, I've never actually used them...

J said...

For that matter, isn't one of the items on Engine Failure During T/O and Immediately after T/O to turn off the master, and wouldn't that, in turn, make a G1000 checklist rather useless?

John said...

Cessna has a G1000 standby battery, so as long as it was turned on you'd still have the PFD (reversionary mode) when you turned off the Master switch.

Millz said...

The master switch doesn't turn off the screens? What happens if you have a electrical fire - you have to pop breakers?

John said...

The PFD, GPS1, COM1, NAV1 and some other stuff are connected to the essential bus. If the master is turned off but the standby battery switch is in the ARMED position, the essential bus will continue to be energized by the standby battery. To make everything go dark, you have to turn off the standby battery as well.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you are even using checklists anyway . . . I suppose as an instructor you have to teach these things. In a crew environment with complex systems checklists have their place, but in the uncomplicated machines you mention in your blog a checklist is only an impediment. Or something to refer to in case the list in one's head is not available due to hypoxia or advanced age.

John said...


Some fascinating assertions. Let me take them in order.

The complexity in GA aircraft comes not from the systems themselves, which as you mention, tend to be relatively simple, but from having all the workload being handled by one pilot.

When you fly several days a week, it's easy to remember an engine start flow or a gear extension failure procedure, or a variety of other flows. When you fly twice a month, well that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

Hypoxia and old age are not required to make a pilot overlook steps in a procedure. Stress, as any flight instructor knows (I get the feeling you used to be one) narrows the perceptual field making it easier to forget how to operate even a simple system.

The G1000 check list system holds promise, but the user interface ... sucks.

The Asian Badger said...

Your blog is priceless. Thanks for all your insights. If only all flight instructors had your passion.

A most Prosperous New Year to you and your family.