Aircraft Technology Taking Off

A new crop of consumer-friendly planes are entering the market--the light sport aircrafts. They're affordable, lightweight and simple to operate thanks to the cutting edge technology inside.

The cockpit is a complicated place but becoming more manageable with a computer assisted gauge system onboard.

"There's a lot that can happen all at once," said Craig Schulze, experienced pilot of 30 years. "The more that you could present the information in a clear and concise way, the easier it makes to fly safer."

Schulze is part of an older class of pilots trained with analog gauges doing much of the calculations themselves.

"Back when I learned how to fly, we had to navigate by time and distance and direction and by centering needles," Schulze said reminiscent of his training.

But now, for personal aircrafts, all of that is changing because of a system called the Electronic Flight Information System or EFIS. Akin to what's inside a commercial airliner or inside the GPS in a car, EFIS displays terrain, altitude, speed and most importantly, a virtual flight path.

"You can rely on that screen in front of you to tell you exactly where you're going," Schulze said. "...because when you're in a cloud, you can't see five feet in front of you."

Instead of following a line on the street, as it's done today in most smaller planes, the system projects virtual boxes for the pilot to fly through--much more accurate than just winging it.

Schulze has been using the EFIS technology in his plane and speaks highly of the system.

"I literally hit a few buttons, the boxes came up... knew my descent right into make the approach into the airport," Schulze said.

As we see technology once reserved for larger planes trickle down to the consumer-friendly levels, flying will become safer and easier.

EFIS makes it possible to get a sport pilot license in as little as 20 hours, that's half the time.

If you want to check out the EFIS for yourself, click here.