Computer Revolution in the Cockpit | Flight Control Panel The cockpit of a Concorde | Air Instruments
Flight Control Panel The cockpit of a Concorde jet shows the complexity of flight control. Electronic and computerized equipment in the cockpit provides information regarding navigation, speed, altitude, landing, and engine performance.
Airplane pilots rely on a set of instruments in the cockpit to monitor airplane systems, to control the flight of the aircraft, and to navigate. (Computer Revolution in the Cockpit, Flight Control Panel The cockpit of a Concorde, Air Instruments)
Computer Revolution in the Cockpit
How exactly does a technology advance? This excerpt from a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) history document tracks the emergence and acceptance of automated digital technology in the cockpits of commercial airplanes. Although the transition was highly successful, the report points out that it was not always seamless. While the engineers focused on operational efficiency, pilots sought the proper balance between human and electronic responsibilities. “Sometimes both pilots would get engrossed in trying to operate the computer,” the report explains, “leaving nobody looking outside the windows for possible conflicting traffic.”
Systems instruments will tell a pilot about the condition of the airplane’s engines and electrical, hydraulic, and fuel systems. Piston-engine instruments monitor engine and exhaust-gas temperatures, and oil pressures and temperatures. Jet-engine instruments measure the rotational speeds of the rotating blades in the turbines, as well as gas temperatures and fuel flow. (Computer Revolution in the Cockpit, Flight Control Panel The cockpit of a Concorde, Air Instruments)
Flight instruments are those used to tell a pilot the course, speed, altitude, and attitude of the airplane. They may include an airspeed indicator, an artificial horizon, an altimeter, and a compass. These instruments have many variations, depending on the complexity and performance of the airplane. For example, high-speed jet aircraft have airspeed indicators that may indicate speeds both in nautical miles per hour (slightly faster than miles per hour used with ground vehicles) and in Mach number. The artificial horizon indicates whether the airplane is banking, climbing, or diving, in relation to the Earth. An airplane with its nose up may or may not be climbing, depending on its airspeed and momentum. (Computer Revolution in the Cockpit, Flight Control Panel The cockpit of a Concorde, Air Instruments)
General-aviation (private aircraft), military, and commercial airplanes also have instruments that aid in navigation. The compass is the simplest of these, but many airplanes now employ satellite navigation systems and computers to navigate from any point on the globe to another without any help from the ground. The Global Positioning System (GPS), developed for the United States military but now used by many civilian pilots, provides an airplane with its position to within a few meters. Many airplanes still employ radio receivers that tune to a ground-based radio-beacon system in order to navigate cross-country. Specially equipped airplanes can use ultraprecise radio beacons and receivers, known as Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) and Microwave Landing Systems (MLS), combined with special cockpit displays, to land during conditions of poor visibility. (Computer Revolution in the Cockpit, Flight Control Panel The cockpit of a Concorde, Air Instruments)