Flight Instruments: Modern vs. Classic

A common ongoing debate within the aviation community is centered around flight instruments. Specifically, the comparison between the modern glass cockpit and the ‘old school’ six pack. A glass cockpit is an aircraft cockpit that features electronic or digital flight instrument displays, and typically large LCD screens. This differs from the classic six pack, which is composed of the traditional style analog dials and gauges, nicknamed ‘steam gauges.’ The six pack, which comprises the airspeed indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, attitude indicator, heading indicator, and turn coordinator, has been in use for years, and remains a good option. However, glass cockpits represent the future of aviation. This blog will explain the main differences between these modern and classic instrumentation systems.

The Garmin G1000 is a perfect example of the modern glass cockpit. This system uses Avidyne Avionics displayed on two Garmin 430 screens. The left screen is the PFD (primary flight display) where all primary flight instruments are presented. Everything from the six pack is featured on this screen, in addition to the rudder coordination, which is represented by a black and white triangle at the top of the screen. The alignment of the white portion of the triangle with the black part represents the coordination of the rudder.

This system is powered by a separate computer. The aircraft still features a pitot tube and static ports, and the air is sent into the flight management systems which display the information. Two main advantages of the glass cockpit are that they have fewer mechanical parts that can break down or provide inaccurate readings, and the automation systems within glass cockpits offer more precise information. Although glass cockpits seem highly advanced, sophisticated, and complicated, if you can read the old style gauges, you can read this display.

Despite its advanced nature, there are drawbacks to the glass cockpit. For one, when first learning to read instruments, your instrument scan can be adversely affected. In a standard six pack, the readings are clearly displayed where they can all be monitored at once. Additionally, all instruments in a six pack are separate from each other. As such, the pilot has to move their eyes across all of them quickly enough to get a good instrument scan while still flying the aircraft. This helps create a solid base for good flying skills.

In a six pack, each of the instruments has a mechanical linkage behind it which can break, leaving the entire instrument useless. This is the main negative of flying with steam gauges, as you usually have to entirely replace the instrument to fix it. These can also have accuracy deficiencies when incorporating factors like gyroscopic precession in a gyroscope-powered instrument. Furthermore, the altimeter, even if in the proper altimeter setting, can read inaccurately and will eventually need to be fixed. 

No matter if you prefer the traditional six pack, or the new glass cockpit, its importance to the function and performance of your aircraft cannot be overstated. As such, you should be sure you are getting your aircraft parts and components from a trusted source like Veritable Aviation.

Veritable Aviation is a leading online distributor of aircraft parts, airframe structural components, and much more. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all types of unique parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, defense, industrial, and electronics markets. We are the only leading independent distributor with a strict no China sourcing policy, ensuring all parts we sell are fully traceable or come directly from the manufacturer. Our dedicated account managers are standing by and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, 1-503-374-0340 or sales@veritableaviation.com.


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