1 of 2

Aircraft Instrument Panel

The Power of the Panel

While as a Private Pilot you will be training to fly VFR only and constantly look outside the cockpit, it is still important to have a basis of knowledge of how all the instruments work (along with being able to fly by reference to instruments in an absolute pinch).  In this TOPIC we’ll go over every instrument in the Panel of a Piper Warrior and Cessna 152.  You should know:

  • How they work
  • What powers them
  • What are the failure modes of each instrument or piece of equipment
  • How to use the features of each instrument or piece of equipment (i.e. how to use a GPS mounted in the cockpit)

Regardless of what airplane you are training in, be sure to take the time with your instructor to sit in the cockpit and familiarize yourself with each and every instrument and piece of equipment in your airplane.

  • Clock: Shows time. Powered by DC and remains on when the master is switched off. Minimal battery drain.
  • Airspeed Indicator: Works off of Pitot tube and static port to indicate airspeed by differentiating between ram air pressure and atmospheric pressure.
  • Attitude Indicator: An “artificial horizon” powered by the aircraft’s vacuum pump.
  • Altimeter: Indicates altitude. Based off of static port (ambient air pressure)
  • VORs: Navigation instrumentation connected to the NAV radios.
  • Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI): Purely off of static port (calculates rate of change)
  • Direction Gyro (DG): Shows current heading (if set properly using the compass… we’ll go into more detail on this later). If the engine-driven vacuum pump fails, this instrument will fail.
  • Engine Analyzer: Shows Cylinder Head and Exhaust Gas Temperatures
  • Turn Coordinator: An electric gyro instrument, powered by the battery, that can serve as a backup when the attitude indicator fails.
  • ELT: Emergency Locator Transmitter – Transmits a distress signal when the aircraft crashes (or… has a really hard landing… it’s always good to check to ensure the ELT is not transmitting at the end of your flight… especially if you’re practicing your first few landings!)
  • Electric Trim: Allows the pilot to control aircraft trim through a control on the yoke.
  • Tachometer: Engine revolutions in rotations per minute (RPM).
  • Fuel Guages: Use electric sensors in tank to indicate current fuel level.
  • Pressure Guages: Have tubing running directly into the gauge to indicate respective pressure (fuel or oil).
  • Primer: Squirts fuel directly into intake to assist in engine starting.
  • Pitot Heat Switch: Allows heating of the pitot tube in freezing conditions to prevent ice buildup from impacting airspeed indications.
  • Fuel Pump Switch: Actuates an electric fuel pump, serving as a backup to the engine-driven fuel-pump in critical phases of flight.
  • Hobbs Meter: Supplied by electrical powered and triggered by oil pressure switch.
  • Suction Guage: Indicate how much suction is being put out by the engine-driven vacuum pump.