The 6 Most Important Flight Instruments

Known as the “six-pack” because of the three-on-three placement, most aircraft have 6 main flight instruments that help pilots fly. There are two categories of flight instruments, the static or pitot-static, and the gyroscopic. Pitot-static instruments include the airspeed indicator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator. Gyroscopic instruments include the attitude indicator, heading indicator, and turn coordinator.

Airspeed indicators give the indicated airspeed by comparing ram air pressure from the pitot tube to static air pressure from one or more static ports. They’re color-coded into ranges of normal operating, flap operating, and caution ranges, and indicate minimum and maximum speeds.

Altimeters indicate the aircraft’s vertical distance from the mean sea level, corrected for outside air pressure. As the plane climbs and descends, air pressure decreases and increases respectively. This changing air pressure is then compared to the static pressure inside a sealed vacuum, and then translated into the altitude.

Vertical speed indicators express the rate of climb or descent of the aircraft. During climbs and descents, the capsule compresses and expands respectively. The indicator measures and compares the static pressure inside of an expandable capsule to the metered static pressure outside of the capsule. The difference is measured and translated into the vertical speed.

Attitude indicators are gyroscopic instruments that indicate the changes to pitch, attitude, and bank; they tell the pilot if the aircraft is climbing, ascending, turning, or straight and level in one glance. They have a miniature plane and an artificial horizon background that senses movement from the gyroscope and adjusts accordingly to represent the aircraft’s relative position and movement.

Heading indicators are gyroscopic instruments that provide directional information like a compass would. Not north-seeking on its own, aligned to a magnetic compass, the heading indicator can turn and depict an accurate heading between 0 and 359 degrees as the aircraft turns.

Turn coordinators are gyroscopic instruments that illustrate the aircraft’s rate of turn or roll. When the aircraft rolls into a turn, a miniature plane shows the corresponding roll. Turn coordinators also have inclinometers, a ball suspended in fluid that acts like a pendulum during flight to depict a coordinated or uncoordinated turn.

At Jet Parts 360, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we are one of the largest suppliers of aviation parts. From airspeed indicators to turn coordinators, we have every cockpit part and component. For a quick quote or more information, visit our website at or call us at +1-714-705-4780.


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