What Is an Airspeed Indicator and How Does It Work?

The airspeed indicator is a crucial instrument found in every aircraft's cockpit, serving to provide vital information to the pilot regarding the speed at which the plane is moving through the air. Understanding the airspeed indicator and its functionality is essential for safe and controlled flight operations. As such, we will explore what an airspeed indicator is, how it works, and why it is so important for pilots to reference in this blog.

The airspeed indicator, often referred to as an ASI, is a pilot instrument that measures the speed at which an aircraft is traveling through the atmosphere. It provides the pilot with information on the aircraft's airspeed, which is the speed relative to the mass of air surrounding the aircraft. This information is crucial for maintaining safe and efficient operations as many aircraft and flight conditions may call for certain speed ranges to be followed to avoid hazards.

Whether data is presented in a digital or mechanical way, all airspeed indicators work on the principle of the pitot-static system, a staple of aircraft design. This system consists of two essential components: the pitot tube and the static port. The pitot tube is typically mounted on the exterior of the aircraft and facing forward, allowing it to capture dynamic pressure created by air as the aircraft moves through it. The static port, on the other hand, is connected to the aircraft's static system, which is an enclosed chamber with openings that face areas below the aircraft where air is fairly undisturbed.

As the aircraft moves through the atmosphere, the pitot tube senses dynamic pressure, while the static port measures the static pressure. The difference between these two pressures is known as the total pressure, and it is the value used to calculate airspeed. The airspeed indicator then takes the final measurement and displays the corresponding airspeed on the instrument panel.

While the total pressure is a useful value for airspeed indication, it does not always account for various factors that may alter the real airspeed value. These include instrument calibration errors, temperature differences, altitude pressure, etc. As such, corrections are always made to account for these factors so that the True Airspeed (TAS) value can be found. 

To compensate for changes in altitude, airspeed indicator assemblies will regularly take advantage of a barometer. As the aircraft climbs or descends, static pressure changes as a result of the change in atmospheric pressure. The barometer in the airspeed indicator compensates for these changes, ensuring accurate airspeed readings regardless of altitude. For other corrections, computer calculations or reference documentation may be used. 

In conclusion, the airspeed indicator is a critical instrument that provides pilots with essential information regarding the aircraft's airspeed. By relying on this instrument, pilots can navigate the skies confidently, adhere to safety regulations, and ensure the well-being of all individuals onboard. If you find yourself in need of parts for your airspeed indicator or any other forms of aviation equipment, we at Purchasing 3Sixty have you covered. 

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