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Flight Instruments. Which way’s up?. Written for the Notre Dame Pilot Initiative By the Pilots of the University of Notre Dame. Roadmap. Pitot-Static System Vacuum System Magnetic Compass. Flight Instruments. Pitot-Static System and Instruments Airspeed Indicator (ASI)

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flight instruments

Flight Instruments

Which way’s up?

Written for the Notre Dame Pilot Initiative

By the Pilots of the University of Notre Dame

“Teaching the Science, Inspiring the Art, Producing Aviation Candidates!”

  • Pitot-Static System
  • Vacuum System
  • Magnetic Compass
flight instruments3
Flight Instruments
  • Pitot-Static System and Instruments
    • Airspeed Indicator (ASI)
    • Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI)
    • Altimeter
  • Vacuum System and Instruments
    • Attitude Indicator
    • Heading Indicator
    • Turn Coordinator
    • Suction Gage
  • Magnetic
    • Magnetic Compass
pitot static

“Teaching the Science, Inspiring the Art, Producing Aviation Candidates!”

atmospheric conditions
Atmospheric Conditions
  • International Standard Atmosphere (ISA)
    • Pressure = 29.92 inches Hg at sea level
    • Temperature = 15C (59F)
  • Standard Lapse Rates
    • Temperature lapses at 2C per 1,000 feet
    • Pressure lapses at 1.00 inch Hg per 1,000 feet
airspeed indicator asi

VA = maneuvering *

VFE = flap extend

VLE = landing gear extended

VLO = landing gear operating

VNO = max structural cruising speed

VNE = never exceed speed

VR = rotation

VX = best angle *

VY = best rate *

VS = stall clean configuration

VSO = stall landing configuration

not on ASI (contained in POH)



Bottom = VSO

Top = VFE


Bottom = VS

Top = VNO


Bottom = VNO

Top = VNE

Red Line = VNE

Airspeed Indicator (ASI)
types of airspeed
Types of Airspeed
  • Indicated Airspeed (IAS)
    • Speed indicated on ASI
  • Calibrated Airspeed (CAS)
    • IAS corrected for calibration error
  • Equivalent Airspeed (EAS)
    • CAS corrected for compressibility error
  • True Airspeed (TAS)
    • EAS corrected for density error
      • Altitude
      • Nonstandard temperature
  • Groundspeed (GS)
    • Speed over the ground
    • TAS adjusted for wind
At greater altitudes, the same volume of air contains fewer molecules of the gases that make it up. This means that the density of air decreases with increasing altitude.



Kollsman Window


Adjusting Knob

altimeter types of altitude
Altimeter & Types of Altitude
  • Indicated Altitude
    • Altitude indicated on altimeter
  • Pressure Altitude
    • Height above standard datum plane
    • Altitude indicated when set to 29.92 inches Hg
  • Density Altitude
    • Pressure altitude corrected for nonstandard temperature
      • airplane performance decreases with high density altitude
  • True Altitude
    • Actual height above mean sea level (MSL)
  • Absolute Altitude
    • Actual height above ground level (AGL)
altimeter errors
Altimeter Errors
  • Flying from high pressure to low pressure without changing altimeter setting (instrument thinks you’re higher)
    • indicated altitude will be higher than actual altitude
    • one inch change in altimeter setting = 1,000 ft indicated altitude in same direction
  • Temperature Impact on True Altitude
    • Warm days
      • Actual altitude is higher than indicated
    • Cold days
      • Actual altitude is lower than indicated
vertical speed indicator vsi
Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI)
  • Rate Information shows stabilized rate of climb or descent
  • Rate appropriate for student pilots is:
      • 500 feet per minute (FPM) rate of descent or climb
  • Several second lag
blockages in pitot static system
Blocked Pitot System

Affects Airspeed Indicator (ASI) only

clogged pitot tube with clear drain hole shows zero airspeed

clogged pitot tube with clogged drain hole shows airspeed varying with altitude

Blocked Static System

Affects all pitot-static instruments

ASI = inaccurate airspeed indications

VSI = constant zero indication

ALT= frozen at altitude where blockage


Blockages in Pitot-Static System
vacuum system

“Teaching the Science, Inspiring the Art, Producing Aviation Candidates!”

turn coordinator
Turn Coordinator
  • Miniature Airplane
  • Level Index
    • level flight
  • Turn Index
    • standard rate turn (3 deg/sec)
  • Shows roll and yaw of airplane
  • Ball shows whether the angle of bank is coordinated with the rate of turn
attitude indicator ai
Attitude Indicator (AI)
  • Artificial Horizon
    • blue side up
  • Miniature Airplane
  • Pointer
  • Bank Scale
    • 10 bank
    • 20 bank
    • 30 bank
    • 60 bank
  • Adjustment Knob
heading indicator directional gyro
Heading Indicator (Directional Gyro)
  • Typically “free gyros”
    • no built-in north-seeking capabilities
  • Periodically align with compass – error due to gyroscopic precession
  • Use 360 azimuth
    • right-most zero omitted
    • 340 is shown as 34
    • 60 is shown as 6
  • Adjustment Knob
magnetic compass
Magnetic Compass
  • Variation - angular difference between Magnetic North and True North. Shown on sectionals and will be taught in navigation lessons
  • Deviation - compass error due to disturbance from metals and electrical accessories within the airplane. Correction card shows adjustments to magnetic heading
  • Accurate only when flying in smooth air, in straight & level, unaccelerated flight
    • When on easterly or westerly heading, use the mnemonic acronym ANDS, “Accelerate North, Decelerate South”
  • Turning Error
    • Compass lags when turning from north.
    • Compass leads when turning from south.
    • Use acronym, NOSE, “North Opposite, South Exceeds