Attitude instrument flying is defined as the control of an aircraft’s spatial position by using instruments rather than outside visual references. The improvements in avionics coupled with the introduction of EFDs to general aviation aircraft offer today’s pilot an unprecedented array of accurate instrumentation to use in the support of instrument flying.
Until recently, most general aviation aircraft were equipped with individual instruments utilized collectively to safely maneuver the aircraft by instrument reference alone. With the release of the EFD system, the conventional instruments have been replaced by multiple liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. The first screen is installed in front of the left seat pilot position and is referred to as the primary flight display (PFD). [Figure 6-21] The second screen is positioned in approximately the center of the instrument panel and is referred to as the multifunction display (MFD). [Figure 6-22] The pilot can use the MFD to display navigation information (moving maps), aircraft systems information (engine monitoring), or should the need arise, a PFD. [Figure 6-23] With just these two screens, aircraft designers have been able to declutter instrument panels while increasing safety. This has been accomplished through the utilization of solid-state instruments that have a failure rate far lower than those of conventional analog instrumentation.
However, in the event of electrical failure, the pilot still has emergency instruments as a backup. These instruments either do not require electrical power, or as in the case of many attitude indicators, they are battery equipped. [Figure 6-24]
Pilots flying under visual flight rules (VFR) maneuver their aircraft by reference to the natural horizon, utilizing specific reference points on the aircraft. In order to operate the aircraft in other than VFR weather, with no visual reference to the natural horizon, pilots need to develop additional skills. These skills come from the ability to maneuver the aircraft by reference to flight instruments alone. These flight instruments replicate all the same key elements that a VFR pilot utilizes during a normal flight. The natural horizon is replicated on the attitude indicator by the artificial horizon.
Understanding how each flight instrument operates and what role it plays in controlling the attitude of the aircraft is fundamental in learning attitude instrument flying. When the pilot understands how all the instruments are used in establishing and maintaining a desired aircraft attitude, the pilot is better prepared to control the aircraft should one or more key instruments fail or if the pilot should enter instrument flight conditions.