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Flight Control Panel

Airplane pilots rely on a set of instruments in the cockpit to monitor airplane systems, to control the flight of the aircraft, and to navigate.

Systems instruments will tell a pilot about the condition of the airplane's engines and electrical, hydraulic, and fuel systems. Piston-engine instruments monitor engine and exhaust-gas temperatures, and oil pressures and temperatures. Jet-engine instruments measure the rotational speeds of the rotating blades in the turbines, as well as gas temperatures and fuel flow.
Flight instruments are those used to tell a pilot the course, speed, and altitude (the position of the airplane's axes in relation to the earth) of the airplane. They may include an airspeed indicator, an artificial horizon, and a compass. These instruments have many variations, depending on the complexity and performance of the airplane. For example, high-speed jet aircraft have airspeed indicators that may indicate speeds both in nautical miles per hour (slightly faster than miles per hour used with ground vehicles) and in Mach number. The artificial horizon will tell the pilot whether the airplane is banking, climbing, or diving, in relation to the earth. It tells the pilot the exact altitude of the aircraft in relation to the earth. An airplane with its nose up may or may not be climbing, depending on its airspeed and momentum.

General-aviation (private aircraft), military, and commercial airplanes have some type of navigational instruments. The compass is the simplest of these, but sophisticated airplanes now employ satellite navigation systems and computers to navigate from any point on the globe to another without any help from the ground. In the United States, the Global Positioning System (GPS), developed for the military but now used by many civilian pilots, provides an airplane with its position to within a few meters. Many airplanes still employ radio receivers that tune to a ground-based radio-beacon system in order to navigate cross-country. Specially equipped airplanes can use ultraprecise radio beacons and receivers, known as Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) and Microwave Landing Systems (MLS), combined with special cockpit displays, to land during conditions of poor visibility (see Navigation).

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