For anyone who has seen the inside of an aircraft cockpit, the multitude of monitors, switches, knobs, dials, and indicators spread throughout the room can make piloting seem like an impossible endeavor. Nevertheless, it is a matter of having pilots train and learn about the various systems and controls available to them, ensuring that they know how to pilot each aircraft model that they enter. While the layout and availability of various components may differ by aircraft, there are some common elements that span across most types. In this blog, we will discuss some of the most common flight deck components and systems that pilots regularly use.
The primary flight display is the system that often provides a majority of flight critical information to the pilot. This information can include instrument readings such as attitude, altitude, airspeed, vertical speed, and yaw. Additionally, the orientation of the aircraft can be monitored, allowing pilots to track how the vehicle is moving through the sky. While more traditional flight decks would provide such information across multiple analog instruments, the primary flight display allows for all readings to be procured in a single place for the ease of the pilot.
Often situated near the flight display is the navigation display, and it is an aircraft monitor that provides the pilot with the current route that the aircraft is taking. By providing waypoints, wind speed, wind direction, and other related information, the pilot can best navigate the aircraft to its destination. As there is often a co-pilot needed for many flight operations, a second aircraft monitor is typically provided so that both pilots can monitor and obtain information at the same time.
While digital instruments have become the widespread standard for flight decks, back-up instruments are still common for use during emergencies. With such instruments, power from the aircraft battery can be used for instrument functionality and a magnetic compass is provided to the pilots. With the backup instruments and equipment, the pilots may still be able to closely monitor their speed, attitude, altitude, and heading as needed during emergency procedures.
For commercial flights, the flight control unit is commonly relied upon for its ability to engage and disengage the autopilot and autothrottle systems. As a unit or mode control panel, the flight control unit allows the pilot to govern and adjust the aircraft’s heading, speed, vertical speed, altitude, vertical navigation, and lateral navigation as needed. In order for the pilot to take advantage of either auto system, they may utilize a provided switch for engagement and disengagement.
In order for the pilots to be well aware of system health regarding engines, fuel systems, and other aircraft sections, the Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor, or ECAM, is used. With the ECAM, pilots can watch over the engine to see its rotational speed, the temperatures of fuel, fuel flow rates, and much more. Additionally, such systems also provide information on other areas of the aircraft such as the temperature and pressure values of the cabin, statuses of control surfaces, and much more.
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