The Aircraft Instrument Six Pack

The cockpit is the area of an aircraft from which the pilot controls the aircraft. It contains the instrument panel, which features the flight instruments and the controls that allow the pilot to fly the aircraft. Every cockpit features dozens of instruments, but some are more important than others. The most important flight instruments are the airspeed indicator, altitude indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, heading indicator, and turn coordinator. Together, these instruments comprise the ‘six pack’ and represent the most basic instruments found in essentially all aircraft cockpits. The six pack was first established in 1937 by the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, and has since been adopted worldwide. In this blog, we will discuss each of the six pack instruments and their unique functions.

The first of the six pack instruments is the airspeed indicator. The airspeed indicator, or ASI, is essentially an aircraft speedometer. It denotes the speed at which the aircraft is moving through the air. In most setups, the ASI is mounted on the upper left corner of the instrument panel. Next to the ASI is the second member of the six pack, the altitude indicator. Also known as the artificial horizon, the altitude indicator is used to display the orientation of the aircraft. In simplest terms, the altitude indicator allows the pilot to see whether or not they are flying parallel to the earth and, if they are not, the degree to which they are not.

The next six pack instrument is the altimeter. As its name suggests, it is used to measure the aircraft’s altitude. More specifically, the altimeter denotes the aircraft’s height above mean sea level. In most cockpits, the six pack is organized as two rows of three gauges. The altimeter is typically the rightmost gauge on the top row. The next instrument is the vertical speed indicator, or VSI. This is similar to the ASI, but displays the speed at which an aircraft is ascending or descending as opposed to its speed when flying level. It is used so pilots can be sure they are not gaining or losing altitude at unsafe rates.

The fifth instrument of the six pack is a magnetic compass known as the heading indicator. This shows the direction the aircraft is flying. As aircraft are commonly affected by wind, a strong enough gust can quickly alter its trajectory. The heading indicator helps pilots maintain the correct trajectory and ensures the aircraft remains on course. The sixth and final instrument in the six pack is the turn coordinator. Unsurprisingly, the turn coordinator serves to help the pilot turn the aircraft. A turn coordinator consists of two separate parts; one displays the aircraft’s rate of turn, while the other denotes the slip or skid of the aircraft’s turn.

Each part of the instrument six pack plays a vital role in the safe and reliable operation of the aircraft as a whole. As such, if you’re in the market for aircraft flight instruments, ensure you are getting them from a reputable source. For cockpit instrument parts of all types and much more, look no further than Unlimited Purchasing. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all types of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, defense, electronics, industrial, and IT hardware markets. Our account managers are always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at or call us at +1-714-705-4780. Let us show you why we consider ourselves the future of purchasing.


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