As aircraft continue to advance, more technology has come about to make the process of flight much easier for pilots and operators. With the primary flight display, pilots can have all the flight information they need on a single set of screens, and they no longer have to rely on mechanical gauges in order to utilize the altimeter, vertical navigation system, or other flight instruments. In this blog, we will provide an overview of the primary flight display, allowing you to become more familiar with the various aircraft instruments that are a part of it.
Replacing the traditional “six-pack” of older aircraft flight decks, the primary flight display allows for the pilot to monitor the attitude indicator, airspeed indicator, turn indicator, horizontal situation indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, and much more. While the positioning of such instruments may vary by manufacturer, most generally provide similar information that is displayed on a screen as graphical representations of conventional mechanical gauges. If the aircraft has an autopilot system or instrument landing system capabilities, such information and control is also provided to the pilot through the primary flight display.
Primary flight displays first came about during the early 1980s when the Boeing 767 was fitted with a computerized cockpit display. Quickly becoming known as a “glass cockpit”, the primary flight display proved very popular and began to be implemented within more aircraft to replace traditional gauges. While the primary flight display allowed for pilots to have all their needed information in one area, they also brought color and movement to instruments that helped increase the efficiency of presented information. Typically, primary flight displays have CRT screens, which are a type of screen that is similar to an LCD. As the technology continues to advance and be improved upon, more instruments and information have been added for the benefit of the pilot, such as navigation and weather information.
Despite the fact that many gauges have now been made digital, the aircraft still utilizes the pitot-static system in order to measure vertical speed, altitude, airspeed, and other such flight factors. With the use of an air data computer, the recorded data can be analyzed before being provided to the pilot through the screen. While the digital format proves extremely useful for flight awareness and ease of information digestion, many aircraft will still have mechanical gauges present in the flight deck in order to act as backups for emergencies and redundancy.
As primary flight displays may vary by aircraft, it can sometimes make learning the layout more difficult for pilots as they may have to study specific aircraft models in advance to be fully knowledgeable of how data is presented. Furthermore, information may also be presented in different formats on various flight displays, and thus pilots need to be aware of what everything means for the specific aircraft that they will be operating.
Nevertheless, primary flight displays have radically changed how pilots operate aircraft, allowing them to have a plethora of digital information in real time in one area. In addition, flight displays allow for pilots to have their data presented vertically, allowing for trends to be tracked much easier. With newer models from various manufacturers, pilots may even be provided with optimal climb rates, angles, and other such information to further their flight efficiency.
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