Soon I want to start training for my PPL (VFR) and I'm currently looking at two flight schools in my area. At one of the two their whole training fleet is equipped with G1000 avionics, while the other also has aircraft with "old school" steam gauges.

My reasoning is that it's better to first learn it the old way, and then upgrade to glass, since it seems much easier than the other way around.

Is this reasoning sound, or does it actually not matter that much when training for PPL? To further clarify: I want to get my PPL for recreational flying, not for commercial use.


3 Answers 3


The answer is going to be along the lines of "it depends" but in all honesty thats not what you should be basing your decision on when it comes to training schools! Meet some of the crew, see who has better facilities, and which you get a better feel for.

In any case, your PPL training will simply teach you to fly an airplane, and all the associated things such as navigation and airmanship - the type of avionics the aircraft has installed is pretty much irrelevant.

When you get your license the commonest small aircraft at most airfields have traditional avionics, so you'll want to be familiar with them - if you do happen to train with a glass cockpit at most you might want an hour or two with an instructor in a typical small airplane.

On a personal note, and maybe im a bit old fashioned, but I think you should understand how a "gadget" works before using it. I like to see a physical VSI, AH and altimeter. I like turning the little Knobs and manipulating proper buttons in an airplane. One thing I can say for sure is the first time I sat in front of a glass cockpit I knew what everything was, what those displays were telling me. Would the same happen if you'd only ever flown a glass cockpit and got into a 1970's C152? Possibly - I don't know.

Good luck with your training.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for your reply. I didn't intent to pick a flying school based on the used avionics alone, so it's good to hear that it doesn't matter that much. However, am I correct that all other things being equal, you would prefer steam gauges over glass when training? Finally: I've also updated my question to make clear that aviation will be a hobby instead of a career for me. $\endgroup$
    – user14240
    Oct 29, 2016 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ @vvanscherpenseel Personally I would not train in a glass cockpit. But they're cool as hell! So much gadgetty goodness. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Oct 29, 2016 at 8:27
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You should, and will, and will be expected to learn how to navigate with nothing more than a compass, airspeed indicator, a map and a pencil. The standby compass and ASI are there for exactly that reason so that when you have a total vacuum failure, or electrical failure or whatever else it is that happens to make you rely on the standby instruments you can aviate, navigate and communicate your way to safety. The type of instrumentation is irrelevant, safe for we assume that the likelihood of total failure is equivalent (a different question). Learn how to fly, not how to read gauges. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Oct 29, 2016 at 11:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This will be a bigger issue when it comes to instrument training.... $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Oct 29, 2016 at 17:23

I'd recommend starting on steam gauges, then upgrade to glass cockpit when you're proficient. Two reasons:

  1. Learn the basics. Don't let the fancy displays get in your way. You start learning on the basics in the same way people start training in a Cessna, not in a Learjet or a Boeing.

    When you're flying cross country, it is handy to have a GPS to help you locate yourself. But don't cheat. The GPS is there as a safety backup in case you truly get lost. Work your navigation with pencils, maps, clocks and mechanical flight computers.

  2. Steam gauges are usually cheaper. Check the aircraft rental rate at the flying school. Some schools offer both, and lessons in the "traditional" planes are usually cheaper and the glass cockpit variants are usually more expensive.

Of course there is nothing wrong for choosing a G1000 for PPL training; it all comes down to your personal preference.


There are lots of pluses and minuses to both approaches and there is no right answer so ill offer some Pros and Cons and you can decide.


  • Glass is becoming more common. As time moves forward technology (and by that I mean digital technology) is quickly becoming common place in the cockpit. G1000 time will be nothing but useful moving forward.
  • The G1000 (and Garmin avionics for that matter) are one of if not the most popular avionics maker these days for GA aircraft. Garmin keeps a lot of commonalities across all their platforms so G1000 time will get you familiar with how their stuff operates.
  • If you plan to eventually get into higher performance modern airplanes many of the better equipped ones have a G1000 or some form of a Garmin flight deck.
  • You may be able to mitigate future insurance rates with the extra G1000 time if you step up into a G1000 plane later on.


  • Generally speaking I have not seen that many trainers (Older 172's, Cherokees etc.) equipped with G1000's which means you are either looking at higher performance aircraft or an added expense you may not need. There are lots of benefits to training in something like a Cherokee or older 172 but I wont go into that here.

  • The G1000 may lead to bad habits that you can only develop in your training. The G1000 can handle and automate a lot of things that you would otherwise need to do manually. Some might argue that you are best safer if things are taken off your plate and you are only left with flying the plane (another debate in and of its self). Take a look at this thread and this one about a guy that trained in an SR20 with glass.

  • The G1000 is a complex system, complex systems take time to learn and you should expect some additional training time and additional things that need to be done which will in turn translate to dollars.

  • It may make your check ride harder. In theory if you fly a G1000 plane you are responsible to know every failure mode, error message and problem it can throw at you. It is completely fair game for an examiner to ask you any question about any of these things on your check ride. Which is just extra work to prepare.

I would not say don't do it, and no matter how many people you ask you will get both answers. What I will say is that many people did their training on steam gauges since glass (in the grand scheme of things) is fairly new so many are partial to the old way as that is what they know. I trained on steam and some of that had to do with the fact it was almost 50$ an hour cheaper to do so and most of the G1000 planes were well above what a student pilot could fly. In the end of the day they all display the same information.


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