The attitude indicator is one of the six basic flight instruments in every cockpit. It serves to provide the pilot with the orientation of the aircraft relative to the Earth’s horizon and gives an immediate indication of even the most minute orientation changes. The attitude indicator features a miniature aircraft and horizon bar that mimic the relationship of the real aircraft and horizon. While traditional gyroscopes still exist in many aircraft, new types are becoming more and more popular. In this blog, we will discuss the most common types of attitude indicators.
The first type of attitude indicator is the traditional attitude indicator. Many general aviation aircraft fly with vacuum- or air-powered gyroscopic attitude indicators. A vacuum is pulled, or air blown to spin the gyroscope within the instrument case. Vacuum gyroscopes are susceptible to contamination and leaks, both of which can lead to inaccurate readings. Depending on the age of the instrument, it may have limitations on the degrees of bank and pitch that it can display without tumbling. This problem is not experienced by newer units. The second type of attitude indicators, electric attitude indicators, use an electrically driven gyroscope rather than a vacuum. They are commonly used as a backup instrument in the event of a failure of the vacuum indicator.
The third type of attitude indicator is digital. New FAA policies allow for the replacement of vacuum-driven instruments with electronic versions, even for primary use. This means aircraft can have digital attitude indicators as part of their glass cockpit installation, changing the way pilots scan the instrument panel by combining many instruments into one unit. Solid-state electronics also mean the digital versions do not have pitch and bank restrictions. Finally, many aircraft, even small general aviation aircraft, can feature a glass cockpit with an all-in-one attitude indicator. These displays incorporate the attitude indicator in addition to aircraft heading, altitude, airspeed, and vertical speed indicators. Digital panels are lighter and require less maintenance, helping to reduce costs and enhancing the overall flying experience.
When selecting the right attitude indicator for your aircraft, there are five important factors to consider. These are performance, maintenance, weight, budget, and flight experience.
Performance - Look for a system that is compatible with your typical flight envelope. A traditional vacuum or electric system will provide a high level of performance for a wide array of aircraft types.
Maintenance - During the decision-making process, consider the expected cost of maintenance. When compared to vacuum systems, electric attitude indicators have fewer maintenance requirements as well as fewer potential points of failure.
Weight - Electronic systems are frequently lighter than vacuum systems, allowing you to add fuel or payload without sacrificing performance.
Budget - Seek out the most advanced system you can afford without compromising other important areas of aircraft operation. It should also be noted that mechanical indicators often require more repairs, making them more expensive over time.
Flight Experience - Adapting to new instruments will require training, especially when incorporating a fully digital panel. This will also change the way you fly, meaning there may be an adjustment period.
Whatever type of attitude indicator you choose, it is important you get it from a trusted source. For a broad range of attitude indicators and much more, look no further than ASAP Part Services. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all types of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, defense, electronics, industrial, and IT hardware markets. Our account managers are always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-702-919-1616. Let us show you why we consider ourselves the future of purchasing.
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