Measuring Equipment

Flight Instruments Used by Professional Aviators

Airplanes work with the help of an intricate system that we will call flight instruments. These devices, which allow professional aviators to safely sojourn through the clouds, use two main principles: rigidity in space or gyroscopic inertia (which provides stability while traveling on the air) and precession (which refers to the tilting prompted by external forces). 

As in most measuring devices, these flight instruments can be tweaked and customized depending on a particular aircraft’s needs. Here are some of the most common instruments used in the field of aviation. 

Altitude Indicator

This is one of the most common gyroscopic flight instruments. This indicator features a horizon bar representing the horizon and a miniature aircraft symbolizing the air vehicle. A gyroscope (which is a device composed of a wheel and axis) is also attached to the bar and relies on rigidity in space. It is the object in which the miniature aircraft rotates itself around. The position of the miniature aircraft indicates the orientation of the actual vehicle about the actual horizon. Altitude is displayed in meters or feet. Aviation experts regard this as one of the most critical instruments they use. 

Directional Gyro

As its name implies, this instrument is used to indicate direction. In this device, a gyro is aligned with a magnetic compass, allowing it to provide a more stable heading indication. The rotor of the gyro spins in a vertical plane and stays aligned with the direction set by the aviator. Its face also features a small, fixed silhouette of an airplane — the nose of which indicates the direction to which the aircraft is heading. 


In the world of aviation, an inclinometer is a precise measuring device determining the angles of slope and tilt with respect to gravity. It measures the so-called yaw, which refers to an air vehicle nose’s side-by-side movement. An inclinometer for aviation facilities and aircraft is different than an inclinometer used by building contractors. To adjust the position of the incline, a professional aviator needs to step on a rudder pedal. To know which rudder pedal to step on, the aviator must check which side of the tube the indicator ball is located. The pressure on the ruder will prompt the indicator ball to return to the center. 

Turn Coordinators

One of the most fundamental flight instruments used by professional aviators is the turn coordinator, which also features a miniature airplane silhouette. The tips of the symbol’s wings indicate the level flight and the rate that the air vehicle turns. It is often canted at 30 degrees. Movements about the vertical axis signal that the aircraft is departing from a straight-and-level flight. 

Aviation instruments have come a long way from the original models used in the 1950’s and 1960’s, which we consider the early years of air travel. Since these early days, aircraft designers tried many custom designs for alignment tools and instrumentation. One inclinometer manufacturer in Philadelphia was instrumental in developing consoles for the US military and set the standard for what is used today.

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