Flight instruments

Flight instruments


Today we will see what the cockpit and flight instruments of a traditional helicopter and modern units look like. What information the pilot needs for a safe flight. And ofcourse I will introduce you to the new concept of experimental cockpit setup for our “One Man Helicopter” project. In the future, we will come back to this topic to give functionality to our devices.

Flight instruments
Experimental setup for our project

Flight instruments

When the first aircraft came into existence, the main goal was to launch the aircraft and keep it airborne as long as possible. At first, it was not possible to keep the aircraft in the air for longer than a few minutes. However, as engines and aircraft structures were improved, the aircraft was able to remain aloft for a longer time. Along with these improvements came the need for instruments. The first aircraft instruments were fuel and oil pressure instruments. These instruments warned the pilot of engine trouble so the aircraft could be landed before the engine failed. Later, when the aircraft could fly over considerable distances, weather became a problem. This led to the development of instruments that helped pilots fly through snowstorms, thunderstorms, and other bad weather conditions. The flight instruments are placed in the cockpit and provide the pilot with information about the flight situation.

Measurements that are common on all aircraft are position, direction, speed, altitude, engine condition, fuel on board, and fuel consumption. In addition, they improve safety by allowing the pilot to fly in a horizontal flight and make dizziness without reference outside the aircraft, such as the horizon. Flight instruments are used in low visibility conditions when the pilot loses visual reference outside the airplane.

Examples of flight instruments from our previous creations.

Six pack

The six pack it’s not a well toned muscled belly and it’s not a half-dozen beers, instead, the 6-pak refers to the six primary flight instruments:

  • Airspeed indicator – Pitot Static
  • Attitude indicator – Gyro
  • Altimeter – Pitot Static
  • Turn coordinator – Gyro
  • Heading indicator – Gyro
  • Vertical speed indicator – Pitot Static

Airspeed Indicator

The airspeed indicator (ASI) or airspeed gauge is a flight instrument indicating the airspeed of an aircraft in miles per hour MPH, knots, or both.

Attitude Indicator

The attitude indicator (AI), known as the gyro horizon or artificial horizon. Is a flight instrument that informs the pilot of the aircraft orientation relative to Earth’s horizon, and gives an immediate indication of the smallest orientation change. The miniature aircraft and horizon bar mimic the relationship of the aircraft relative to the actual horizon.


An altimeter or an altitude meter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level. The measurement of altitude is called altimetry, which is related to the term bathymetry, the measurement of depth under water. Conventional aircraft altimeters work by measuring the atmospheric pressure at the airplane’s flight altitude and comparing it to a preset pressure value. Air pressure decreases by about one-inch mercury for each 1,000-foot altitude increase.

Turn coordinator

The turn coordinator TC variant are essentially two aircraft flight instruments in one device. One indicates the rate of turn, or the rate of change in the aircraft’s heading. The other part indicates whether the aircraft is in coordinated flight, showing the slip or skid of the turn.

Heading indicator

The heading indicator also is known as the directional gyro, or DG displays the aircraft’s heading with respect to magnetic north when set with a compass.

Vertical speed indicator

The vertical speed indicator VSI senses changing air pressure, and displays that information to the pilot as a rate of climb or descent in feet per minute, meters per second or knots. Also known as a rate of climb and Descent Indicator (RCDI).

Micro Air Data Computer (μADC) with pitot static air data probe.

pitot-static system is a system of pressure-sensitive instruments. The pitot-static system of an aircraft is not the most complex, but it is one of the most important systems on an aircraft related to navigation. By comparing the ram air pressure generated by aircraft forward movement to relative atmospheric pressure. As lift increases, flight is achieved and height is measured by sensing the air pressure of the atmosphere. At higher altitudes, there is less air pressing down, resulting in a lower air pressure. 

A gyroscopic Instruments is a rotor or spinning wheel, rotating at a high speed inside each of the gyro devices. This wheel spins quite rapidly, typically 10,000 to 15,000 rpm. Usually, this is powered by the Vacuum System Pump. Gyroscopic Inertia is the tendency of a rotating body to maintain its plane of rotation, known as Rigidity in Space. Gyroscopic Precession is the tendency of a rotating body to consistently react to a force being applied by turning in the direction of its rotation exactly 90 degrees to its axis. These principles of physics are used to make very precise Flight Instruments.

Advanced Avionics Aircraft

Glass Cockpit or A glass cockpit is an aircraft cockpit with an electronic flight display (EFD). While a traditional cockpit relies on numerous mechanical gauges to display information, a glass cockpit utilizes several computer displays that can be adjusted to display flight information as needed. This simplifies aircraft operation and navigation and allows a pilot to focus only on the most pertinent information.

Experimental and ultralight aircrafts EFIS

This solution of electronics are coming with pressure sensors for airspeed, altitude, vertical speed indicator. Compass , ground speed, and GPS altitude is provided by the smartphone or tablet sensors. Artificial horizon is using the tablet’s own gyroscope sensor.

This electronics handles the followings:
Engine parameters: Flight parameters:
– Cylinder Head Temperature– Airspeed
– Exhaust Gas Temperature– Altitude
– Oil Temperature– Vertical speed indicator
– Coolant Temperature– Compass
– Oil Pressure– Ground speed
– Manifold Pressure– GPS altitude is provided by the phone or tablet sensors
– Engine RPM
– Rotor RPM (For gyroplanes)
– Fuel level
– Fuel Flow
– Battery voltage
– Total engine time


I will try again to adopt some of the modern solutions for our experimental ultra-light machine. I suggest the glass cockpit equipped with multi-functional displays (MFD). Divided into the upper and the lower section:

The upper section will contain the dual primary flight displays (PFD). With access to all functions by a tiny knob placed on the cyclic joystick head. The unit is modeled on Nesis III, which is the complete navigation, flight and engine system for the ultralight airplanes, autogyros and helicopters. The Nesis family of avionics is a self-contained state-of-the-art (EFIS) instrument optimized for ultralight aircrafts. Lightweight and slim. Single device Nesis weighs 1130 g.

The lower section will be equipped with the electronic flight information system (EFIS) as a backup system. Based on SkyLabolatory solution for tablets and smartphones. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 with mass of 565 g. will be used as a display for our needs.

We will return to this topic at the level of creating functionality for these devices. I would like to provide other solutions over time, maybe similar to other manufacturers, for the needs of customization and personalization of our one-man flying unit.

If you have any questions or suggestions, I invite you to visit the topic dedicated to “One Man Helicopter – Know Issues & Errors” on our forum.


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FAA-H-8083-6, Advanced Avionics Handbook – Full – PDF.


Electronic Flight Instruments – CHAPTER 2 – PDF.

– Attitude Instrument Flying – CHAPTER 12 – PDF.