The various flight instruments present in an aircraft are paramount for its safe and efficient operation, allowing for pilots to monitor various flight conditions. From the altitude of the aircraft to its airspeed, there are many numerous data types that the primary flight instruments record and display for the pilot on various gauges or screens situated within the cockpit flight deck. In the possible case of a system failure, it is important that there is some sort of backup system to ensure that pilots can continue to operate safely with the information they need for controlling the aircraft. As the primary backup system for flight instruments, many aircraft feature what are known as standby flight instruments.
Standby flight instruments for cockpit systems are those that may be used by the pilot in the case of a system failure that takes down primary flight instrument operations. Generally, the backup instruments are often electromechanical in design, meaning that they are more conventional types that require a pilot’s proficiency to optimally read from them. Nevertheless, some aircraft may utilize electronic standby flight instrument displays instead. In order to provide power and functionality to standby flight instruments, an independent set of power supplies and sensors are installed on the aircraft to ensure continued operations even if the main system has failed.
Standby instruments are composed of a few main types, those of which garner measurements for some of the most crucial data needed for safe flying. The standby attitude indicator is a self-contained moving drum that is capable of retrieving attitude indications. Attitude refers to the orientation of an aircraft in relation to Earth’s horizon, and monitoring such information is important for conducting safe pitch and roll maneuvers.
Standby instruments will also include a turn and slip indicator, and such units are gyro driven. The turn and slip indicator is capable of measuring the rate of turn and the rate of change in the aircraft’s heading. As such, the instrument serves as two flight instruments combined into a single device. As a standby instrument, the turn and slip indicator will include a power warning flag.
Standby airspeed indicator and altimeter devices may be present, and they can be useful for determining the speed of the aircraft and its altitude in relation to sea level. While such information is crucial for safe flight in the instance of a system failure, it is important to understand that such data may not be reliable depending on the fault. If there is a fault in the pitot static system, information may be skewed due to inaccurate measurements. The failure of the main power system can also cause the cessation of the internal vibrator’s functionality within the standby altimeter, meaning that measurements may be lagged.
Alongside such examples, a number of other standby flight instruments for cockpit systems exist, including compasses and clocks which can further flight efficiency and safety. Depending on the aircraft and its take-off weight, application, and other factors, various regulations may require the implementation of standby flight instruments for redundancy. When designing an aircraft or procuring parts, it is important to refer to applicable regulations to ensure that all requirements are satisfied for legality and airworthiness.
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