How Aircraft Instrument Systems are Classified

For pilots to properly operate aircraft throughout a flight, they rely on a number of instruments that assist in conducting various procedures safely and efficiently. Within an aircraft, flight instruments, engine instruments, and navigation instruments all serve as the primary types of systems available to the pilot, and they can provide assistance ranging from altitude measurement to displaying the amount of remaining fuel for the operation. As each instrument family contains various systems that are critical to flying an aircraft, understanding their functionalities can be highly beneficial for any pilot or those aspiring to become one.

With flight instruments, pilots can be made aware of various aspects of the aircraft’s flight attitude. With basic instruments such as the altimeter, airspeed indicator, and magnetic direction indicator, the pilot can have a better understanding of the current heading and positioning of their aircraft in regards to its height and orientation. With artificial horizon, turn coordinator, and vertical speed indicators also being fairly common instruments on an aircraft, pilots are provided further resources for speed, direction, and orientation for conducting safe operations.

As flight instruments have continued to be developed alongside the aircraft they are implemented in, variations of flight instruments may be found in different models. Generally, older aircraft utilize analog devices for measurement, while newer models have since adopted the modern glass cockpit. With analog flight instruments, measurements are obtained through the use of air pressure and gyroscopes. As such, analog flight instruments can continue to operate even without power, making them quite reliable despite their age. With both types, the most common configuration is having the instruments located in front of the pilot for their ease of monitoring, and many glass cockpits will combine much of the needed information on a single screen to make reviewing information easier.

With engine instruments, pilots can oversee the health and operating parameters of powerplants. With instruments such as pressure gauges, temperature gauges, tachometers, and more, pilots are provided with information on the quantity, pressure, and temperature of oil, fuel, and relevant systems. Depending on the type of engine and aircraft, the engine instruments may vary to provide information that is relevant for that particular model and assembly. Alongside flight instruments, engine instrumentation may also be found in front of the pilot within the cockpit, and positioning may slightly vary if the aircraft is operated by co-pilot as well.

For ensuring that the aircraft follows an efficient flight path from start to finish, navigation instruments may be present. Depending on the aircraft and its configuration, flight instruments may utilize radio signals, clocks, magnetic compasses, and measurements from other instruments to assist the pilot in landing, flight heading, and more. In more modern aircraft with glass cockpit instruments, GPS technology may be used in order to chart the aircraft through geometric triangulation. Additionally, some may even provide the pilot with meteorological measurements, allowing them to be aware of future weather conditions for recharting navigation routes or adjusting flight characteristics.

Altogether, the various common aircraft instruments function to provide a more efficient and safe flight operation for pilots with their information and measurements. When you are in need of aircraft instruments such as tachometers, magnetic compass parts, airspeed indicator components, and more, look no further than NSN Unlimited. As a leading online parts distributor for the aviation industry, we provide our customers with rapid lead-times and competitive pricing on over 2 billion new, used, and obsolete items that we offer. Explore our robust part and manufacturer catalogues at your leisure, and you may begin the purchasing process for the items that you are interested in at any time by filling out and submitting an Instant RFQ form as provided through our website.


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February 15, 2021

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