Part 2 - My First Experience With Aircraft Instruments

Part 2 - My First Experience With Aircraft Instruments

This continues on from Part 1

Levelling off at 2500 feet was a little bit of a challenge as the concept of a VSI was thrown in for good measure. “What the heck is a VSI?” I politely asked. You’re always polite to the instructor when you realise that the only way that you’ll survive your first flight is by their good graces. “The VSI is the Vertical Speed Indicator and when you are level it should read zero.” was the patient reply.

I imagine that we’ve all done it. Chasing the VSI is almost like a game the first time you fly. I sometimes wonder whether instructors have a perverse sense of humour watching a rookie chase the VSI up and down for a while prior to telling them about holding attitudes etc.

Next came the DG. I jumped in quickly when I heard yet another acronym and was quickly told that the DG is the Directional Gyro or in other words, “where you are going”. I’m glad that I wasn’t told at this stage about caging, aligning the DG with the magnetic compass etc.

So by this time, I’ve forgotten about the ASI and concentrated on the DG, VSI and Altimeter and it wasn’t long before all of them got out of kilter and the instructor gently set the controls right again. Flying lopsided isn’t a really pleasant experience so the Artificial Horizon (AH) and Turn and Balance were brought into play and I felt my brain expand in another order of magnitude. I momentarily thought about the level of expansion will be in direct proportion to the headache later that night.

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Part 1 - My First Experience With Aircraft Instruments

Part 1 - My First Experience With Aircraft Instruments

Discussing avionics with pilots is like talking about which religion they belong to. There are a number of camps that most pilots fall into starting with “glass versus analogue” and finishing with one brand versus another. When I reflect upon my recent aviation journey I find that there is a lot more to the selection of avionics than first meets the eye.

Flying for me started with movies like “The Battle of Britain” where Spitfires soared across the sky chasing down German bombers at the height of the Blitz. What really entranced me about the movie were the shots from the cockpit where the instruments were clearly in view. For example, a spinning altimeter told the pilot that it was a time for a quick exit.

In the 80’s I graduated from the Battle of Britain to the infamous Tom Cruise classic “Top Gun”. I was once again thrust into the exciting world of aviation while watching Viper and Maverick battle it out for supremacy. Goose’s exit courtesy of a flat spin and avionics going crazy was a particular highlight.

So what do these two movies have in common? Dials, lots of dials. There’s nothing quite like seeing the face of a passenger climbing aboard as they survey the mass of dials, buttons, levers and knobs before them.

Let’s face it if you ever want impress a friend, family member or dare I say member of the opposite sex do your pre-flight briefing like this. “No drinking, touching controls etc”, followed by, “and yes I actually know what all of these instruments do.” I can bet that you’ll get a nervous laugh followed by comment that can be summarised as, “I’m glad that you do!”

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