Watch the instruments dance together – they are never alone
See the individual instruments below for a technical and representative descriptions
The airspeed indicator(ASI) measures the speed of the aircraft though the air usually in knots. The airspeed indicator is basically a differential pressure gauge. It is worth noting that the aircraft’s ground speed could be more or less than this speed according to the air mass direction it is travelling through. For the pilot, this is the most important instrument of all and especially during landing. Generally without the correct indicated airspeed the aircraft would stall and fall to the ground. For a given aircraft there are limits to the airspeed in terms of the lower(stall) speed and the upper(do not exceed) speed.
Think of this instrument as measuring your pace through life.
You can do it fast and not know anything or slow and enjoy the journey.
Sometimes you will want and need to vary speeds according to your current situation.
As with most speeds there is a time for the initial acceleration and there will be a maximum speed for you.
The green arc represents your most comfortable pace and is what’s recommended in the “handbook”.
The maximum and minimum limits of your speed are initially set in childhood but you may need to adjust them from time to time.
The attitude indicator (AI) shows the airplane’s orientation relative to the horizon at a glance. This instrument is also known as the artificial horizon and provides a means constant cross-referencing that pilots must perform to control their aircraft without external visual references. Keep the blue side up! Smaller aircraft e.g. microlights will not have this instrument as they are expected to fly in good weather and not attain any weird attitudes. The outside horizon line is their reference.
Think of this instrument as measuring your balance through life.
How do you see things? are they straight and level or angled most of the time?
Sometimes you may want to steer clear of things carefully and honestly as the true you.
After a coordinated turn you will want to get on the straight and level before your head starts spinning.
When moving about violently, you could be having a turbulent, sickly time and may fall from the sky.
A change of balance will involve getting support from knowledge, your family and friends and online support groups.
The altimeter (ALTI) is an instrument that measures altitude – an aircraft’s distance above sea level. Most altimeters measure altitude by calculating the air pressure outside the aircraft. To do this, they compare the pressure of outside static air to the standard pressure. Air pressure decreases as altitude increases. The faster the altimeter dials move the quicker the vertical speed of the aircraft. Any aircraft will also have a given maximum altitude.
Think of this instrument as measuring your emotional level throughout your life.
What was the highest level? when were you the truly happiest? this is a clue to your best level.
Also what were the lowest “altitudes” you can reach and why – this will be an indicator to change.
Perhaps you haven’t explored either limit yet and are outside the range of “unknown unknowns”.
Its usually the best case to try for a consistent level once you have detected it, this will be a sweet spot between high and low readings.
As you set you “height” goal, remember that long term happiness may always be better than short term pleasure.
The Turn Coordinator(T/C) displays the rate of turn and roll and the coordination of the turn of the aircraft. The display is that of a miniature airplane as seen from behind and a ball that moves left and right. The wings show the direction of turn and rate. The ball measures the force of inertia caused by a turn and hence the slip. The ball should be in the centre during a coordinated turn. Following a turn, everything should be level and the ball still in the centre.
Think of this instrument as measuring your adaptation and change throughout life.
When you make a decision and follow it through, ensure it is a balanced approach.
Work out what is the best and most optimum rate for changing your path, say for changing a habit.
You may not have to change direction much, but a little to start with makes a huge difference later down the road.
After the change, allow things to settle down, wings level, ball in the middle, then make further adjustments as needed.
Long term directional stability changes bring more general happiness than jagged changes of movement.
The Heading Indicator(HI) displays current heading of the aircraft on a gyro compass. It is not the same as a magnetic compass and knows nothing about north, south etc. A magnetic compass on the other hand often oscillates or leads or lags in a turn and it is especially hard to read in turbulence or during most turns. You would use this to set a navigation point and then follow the needle to get there. A card marked with headings maintains its orientation as the airplane turns. By using a map and locating way-points you can continually make adjustments to where you think you should be heading next.
Think of this instrument as measuring your goals throughout life.
You are trying to keep on a desired heading but maybe you are being deflected.
Maybe you have to steer round things?
After going around temporary things, you should get back on track and adjust the path to get there.
After the change, keep progressing towards the target and check with your potentially new goals.
Perhaps your goals have changed? if so steer a new direction and repeat until happy.
The Vertical Speed Indicator(VSI) displays the vertical speed, both up and down of the aircraft. The display shows a dial with an upward or downward hand pointing towards some numbers. For level flight and balanced level turns you should keep the pointer on zero. During level flight the dial may show up or down due to the air mass around the aircraft (thermals). When this is happening, you can get some free(unpowered) lift!. The VSI is important when taking off and landing and when you are requested to achieve a certain height at a certain time.
Think of this instrument as measuring your rate of change of feelings and +/- thoughts throughout life.
As you live and breath, some things will make you happier or sadder, wiser or cynical, knowledgeable or dumb.
You can speed things up by lifestyle choices, slow it down similarly or change things on a new venture.
Read the zero mark as “stable” and in general we may want to aim for this as there will be no surprises.
Perhaps you want to achieve something but your subconscious is sabotaging it, the gauge will show a downwards reading.
Your aim therefore would be to know when it is correct to show positive and negative readings – you should have the right support.