Types of Flight Instruments

In this lesson, let us understand about the types of Flight Instruments available in an aircraft. Earlier we had seen the scope of Instrumentation in our Introduction to Flight Instruments.


Cockpit instruments and displays provide the pilot the aircraft’s vital parameters like air speed, altitude, position or attitude. Displays are quite varied depending on the type of aircraft. They could be simple dials in older generation of aircraft or plasma screens in modern airliners.

The design of displays would always be a compromise between range and accuracy of measurement. At times a linear scale is preferred in certain instruments like the Air Speed Indicators while a non-linear scale may be used in instruments like Vertical Speed Indicator.


Ergonomics is also called human engineering at times and plays a vital role in the design of a well designed layout. Essentially the instrument layout should be easy to quickly scan through and understand.

A simple example is the layout of some of the basic instruments in the form of a ‘T’. Instrument displays could be analogue, digital or a combination of both called hybrid dials. Eye reference point is an important consideration during design in order to avoid parallax errors.


Old generation aircraft had simple and light instruments which were located in the cockpit. However, modern aircraft have complex and heavy instruments which have to be placed in remote locations away from the cockpit. Electronic instruments are generally located in the avionics bay or called as electrics and electronics which is also called as E and E bay. An aircraft equipped with fully electronic displays in flight deck is called a Glass Cockpit.


Standard colour coding is used in most of the aircraft for easy identification. Green indicates normal range, Yellow or Amber indicates cautionary range while Red signifies a warning or unsafe range. Blue colour is used to indicate a temporary situation and White to show the present status.

In this lesson we had looked into the various types of Flight Instruments available in aircrafts. In the next lesson, we shall learn about measurement of Outside Air Temperature.