Basic Aircraft Cockpit Instruments Explained

There are six basic aircraft instruments pilots use during each flight in order to control the aircraft: the airspeed indicator, artificial horizon, altimeter, turn coordinator, direction indicator, and vertical speed indicator. The airspeed indicator (ASI) displays how quickly the aircraft is travelling. The majority of ASIs display speed in knots (kn). The colored bands around the display indicate safety information. The green band displays safe operating speeds while the white band specifies safe speeds to deploy wing flaps. The yellow band indicates the aircraft is operating at a higher speed than it is designed for and the red bar should be completely avoided.

The artificial horizon displays a fundamental view of the aircraft and wings as well as the horizon. This is used for when your vision may be compromised during flights. It indicates the direction the aircraft is heading and should be trusted more than all other senses if lost or disoriented.

The altimeter displays the aircraft’s current altitude. The large hand indicates hundreds of feet while the small hand indicates thousands. The pressure setting should be adjusted to the appropriate QNH or QFE for safe operating conditions.

The turn coordinator shows the direction that the wings are tilting. The markings located on the coordinator displays the rate of the turn. The ball located in the white box indicates whether the aircraft is balanced. The direction indicator shows the compass range. External forces do not affect this compass; however, it can be influenced by movement and vibration. The knob underneath the indicator is used to realign the aircraft instrument and must be done regularly. The vertical speed indicator (VSI) is used along with the altimeter to determine whether the aircraft is ascending or descending. This is measured in feet per minute.

ASAP 3Sixty is the premier supplier of airspeed indicator parts, altimeter parts, and direction indicators; whether new, old or hard to find, they can help you locate it. ASAP 3Sixty has a wide selection of parts to choose from and is fully equipped with a friendly staff, so you can always find what you’re looking for, at all hours of the day. If you’re interested in obtaining a quote, contact our sales department at


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