Ground School – Flight Instruments (14 May, 2009)

It’s Thursday, so this means I have another ground school. The topic of this one, flight instruments. Very important, easily the most important ground school lesson (just like all the others. You get the idea yet that every single thing you learn in flying is important. As the saying goes “It doesn’t matter, eventually will.”)

So flight instruments, all those dials and gauges that most people are passingly familiar with, even if they don’t know what they do.

  • Airspeed indicator: tells you your airspeed.This speed is relative to the air around you, not your ground speed. You need a GPS or some such for that.
  • Turn and slip indicator: tells you how coordinated your turn is, at what rate you’re turning, and whether you’re slipping to the side or not.
  • Altimeter: Everyone knows this one, it’s how high you are. Except it’s a bit trickier than just telling you that as it comes down to pressures, how you’ve set it and changeable meteorological conditions.  In other words, set it up correctly and it’s mostly accurate, set it wrong and you may suffer an unexpected knock on something.
  • Oil pressure: Easy enough.
  • Fuel gauge: In our case the amount of fuel in each tank (remember, two tanks mounted in the wings.
  • Heading indicator: Which direction you are pointed. Note there is often a difference between direction you’re pointed, and direction you’re going, especially in a small plane in strong winds.
  • Vertical speed indicator: Climbing or descending, and how fast.
  • Attitude indicator: Orientation of the airplane. It’s that little multicoloured ball with the small airplane in the middle (I really need to take some photographs of the interior.)
  • And several others depending on the aircraft such as angle of attack indicator.

Lesson explains the shortcomings of each instrument, how they operation, how to get the best out of each of them. A strange mix of when you have to rely on your instruments, and when you shouldn’t. How to tell when something is wrong, and how to interpret the wrongness.

A good solid lesson full of good solid information. And a lot of food for thought.

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