Instruments can be very confusing at first to learn and little bit intimidating. I’m still learning to master them. I’m still figuring out what exactly they all mean and how I should use them.
Today, I went under hood. Which translates to I had use foggles to instrument training. This training requires you to wear foggles so you can’t see outside the airplane. All you can see are your instruments. It forces you to learn your instruments.
Before I started my instruments training, I’d always been confused why pilots who’d flown in the clouds would talk about disorientation. They’d tell about times when they flown in clouds where they had no visibility and they quickly became confused and disoriented. I didn’t understand how anyone could feel disorientated while in a small plane where you feel every bump. I thought, wouldn’t you be able to tell if you started flying upside down or sideways? Wouldn’t gravity let you know?
Today, I realized for the first time exactly what they’d meant. When I put on the glasses, I couldn’t see my outside world. All I could see was my instrument panel. It was as if I’d flown into a cloud and couldn’t see anything around me. It was a little bit nerve racking. And I quickly realized how one could easily become disorientated.
As I watched my instruments and did a standard turn, my body could feel the plane start turning but I had no idea which way. It’s interesting that your body can feeling the motion of turning but not the direction. I never understood this until now.
Below I’ll go over the instruments and their uses.
An airspeed indicator shows how fast airplane is moving through the air. It calculates this by measuring the difference between total air pressure and static air pressure from the pitot tube.
ALTITUDE INDICATOR / ARTIFICIAL HORIZON
The altitude indicator or artificial horizon shows pilots where the horizon is positioned at. Pilots use the it to help them judge how an airplane is orientated. Are we turning? Are we descending or ascending? The indicator shows the airplane’s wings in relation to the horizon.
The altimeter was once called the Altitude Meter but was shortened to altimeter. It shows the airplane’s height above sea level. It can measuring the height by sensing the change in static air pressure caused by a change in altitude.
When I first started flying, I’d confuse this with the Artificial Horizon. The turn coordinator is different. It doesn’t show you if the plane is level with the horizon. What it does show you is if your ailerons and rudder are coordinated. It also shows the degrees of bank your turning and your rate of turn. It helps pilots through a turn. It uses a gyroscope to show the rate and direction of a turn.
This shows the direction in which the airplane is headed. The heading indicator uses a gyro to indicate the direction. It’s much better to use this than a magnet compass for direction. Magnetic compasses are prone to errors which result from the speed of an aircraft.
VERTICAL SPEED INDICATOR
The vertical speed indicator shows the airplanes rate of climb or descent by measuring how fast static pressure changes as the aircraft climbs or descends.
My advice to anyone flying, learn these instruments well. You’re life may very well depend on them. They’re important!