New Radalt

I venture to say that nobody here will be surprised at the fact that Chuck doesn’t look at his gauges and probably doesn’t even know what all he has on his dashboard. In his defense though, he does fly a bunch of different makes and models. That does make it tough to stay current in everything throughout the year. I can vouch for that from experience. Luckily, I am currently only flying one make and model.

For those of you less aviation versed wondering what a RadAlt is: it is an altimeter that reads the aircraft height above the terrain mainly by sending out radio waves and timing the return. The “regular” altimeter determines altitude above sea level by means of reading out side air pressure.

I actually rely on the Radar Altimeter quite a bit throughout the summer. We have different long lines with different size water buckets and it is nice to double check your height above the ground here and there in order not to run the 10 ton bucket (when it’s full) into anything during firefighting operations.

Also, I have to admit, I sometimes feel like Chuck when a fixed wing guy tells me all about the latest features in his corporate or airline jet. I have never flown corporate or anything newer than 20 years old, so I have little clue what all fits on the dash of a modern jet. Most things I fly/flew are all from the steam gage era. And of course, all these new fancy electronics have abbreviations as well, so even after the guy tells me what the letters stand for, I still don’t know what he is talking about most of the time, LOL.

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11 comments on “New Radalt
  1. Bernd says:

    I know a bit about EFIS (“electronic flight instrument system”, the opposite of “steam gauges”), but only from analysing accidents. Almost all airliners since the B757/767 (the pioneers) and A320 (going one step further with Fly-by-Wire) have those.

    Personally I have also only flown round dials, even though increasingly even light aircraft come with full EFIS, which also makes them more expensive.

    Curiously, there is an NTSB study that found that in light airplanes, types with “glass cockpit” have fewer accidents overall (probably because they enhance situational awareness), but *more* fatal* accidents (possibly because of over-reliance on the infallibility of or unfamiliarity with the new-fangled electronic toys):, page 22

  2. KenH says:

    Make it off by 200′ and lef this retard die in flames

  3. jan olieslagers says:

    @Bernd: Opponents of “them new-fangled electronic thingies” have been heard to claim they have too hign an entertainment value, keeping aviators’ attention away from where it should be: on the horizon, 90% of the time. It sounds believable to me, but I cannot speak from experience – only steam gauges here, too, though my bird is only seven years old.

  4. Johsua says:

    I’ve instructed in everything from a C-150 with (mostly) original panel to an SR-22 with full glass. Every new pilot transitioning gets suckered by the glass and ignores the real world. A good instructor gets them to cut it out.

    The real truth is that glass vs steam makes no difference to the properly trained. The traffic and weather information that you can get from the glass is nice, but easily supplemented by an ipad and generally distracting.

    Most accidents occur because pilots are not failure with the avionics and spend too much time head down trying to work the confuser. The reason behind the NTSB findings are likely tied to old aircraft being old, so abuse is more likely to cause a bent firewall or such over time while the new aircraft will not. But the confuser installed has been known to be very effective at combating SA. I’ve watched students become fixated on all kinds of EGT, CHT, percent power, altitude, or airspeed to the exclusion of all else.

    The bottom line with glass is that it can cause pilots to fly the panel rather than the airplane. An AoA indicator is great, but real AoA awareness doesn’t need one nor does coordination require a ball. Both instruments can become a crutch that prevents real understanding.

  5. David says:

    I spent over twenty years writing software for flight simulators, and we never called it a “dashboard”. It was always the “instrument panel”. Automobiles have dashboards, aircraft have instrument panels.

  6. Catapult says:


    Could any of this be due to so many people having their first ‘pilot’ experience on various desktop simulators?

  7. Johsua says:


    I doubt it. The bad habits from a sim can be brushed off in a few hours so the overall result of the sim is positive.

    The biggest problem with new avionics is not knowing how to use the tool so it becomes a distraction.

  8. jan olieslagers says:

    @Joshua: The bad habits from a sim can be brushed off in a few hours That must depend on the candidate. Myself took many hours, very many. To the despair of my instructors!

  9. Johsua says:

    @jan It probably depends more on the instructor. The problem is emphasis on instruments and the best cure is to put a towel over the instruments for a few hours. All students benefit, so it is really one of those exercises that everyone should do. Unfortunately many CFIs are not comfortable flying without instruments so it gets neglected.

  10. Dopey says:

    When I was instructing full time the student spent the first 10 hours in the airplane with the panel covered up. When we got EFIS airplanes we turned the backlight down on the Primary Flight Display for the first 10 hours.

    The EFIS was great because we could revert the PFD to the MFD in less than a second if we needed it.

    I did an introductory ride with a flight simmer…even with the panel covered up I couldn’t get him to look out the window–not even once.

  11. eekee says:

    I’m much worse at driving simulators than driving IRL because I can’t feel what the car is doing in a simulator. Then again, it would probably help if I didn’t use a keyboard. 🙂 I was better with the one arcade driving sim I played. It had a force-feedback wheel, but I’m still more comfortable when I can feel G-forces.

    I think this lack of feedback is why I rely on instruments in flight sims. Actually, the only flight sim I’ve played a lot of is Kerbal Space Program, in which I rely on a side view of the plane when taking off. Why? When the tail of your plane ends in big rocket nozzles aligned with the plane’s center of mass, the landing gear is barely of adequate size, and the plane’s takeoff speed is higher than Concorde’s, tail strikes are both expensive and hard to avoid! 😀

    Kerbal landing gear parts are pretty bad. The main gear is kind-of adequate for medium-size planes but there’s no corresponding nose gear; nothing tall and steerable. I’ve started to play Juno: New Origins instead, but the jet engines and wings are different enough that it feels like a whole lot of new stuff to learn and I don’t have the energy and drive for it right now.

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