The Importance of the Airspeed Indicator for Airshows

Airshows are events where aircraft are exhibited, and aerobatic demonstrations are quite common for entertaining onlookers. As aerobatic demonstrations often include various tricks, maneuvers, dives, and other complex techniques, they require pilots with high skill to successfully and safely carry out shows. While a pilot will need to have ample ability to expertly maneuver their aircraft, they also rely on various instruments that provide them with the necessary information to do so. One of the most important instruments that airshow pilots consistently monitor is the airspeed indicator, allowing them to conduct various tricks and maneuvers without facing a stall.

Airspeed indicators are found on aircraft of all types, serving to measure the forward velocity of the vehicle. With airspeed values, pilots can determine the safest way to undertake banks and turns. For airshow pilots, having speed values is most important for avoiding stalling and maintaining spatial awareness. When an airspeed indicator conducts measurements, it determines what is known as the indicated airspeed. Indicated airspeed values are based on the relationship of the aircraft and the air surrounding it, and measurements are typically provided in knots or kilometers per hour.

An easy way to understand how airspeed is determined is to realize that it is a measurement of air pressure that is pushing up against the aircraft as it traverses the atmosphere. Airspeed indicators work through the utilization of the pitot-static system, which consists of pitot tubes and static ports that are situated across the fuselage. The pitot tube is placed in an area of the fuselage where it comes into contact with the flow of air, allowing it to measure what is known as dynamic pressure. Meanwhile, the static port is situated in a relatively undisturbed area where it can garner measurements on static pressure. These two pressures are then measured against one another with the use of a pressure diaphragm, causing a needle to move across a gauge for conveying speed measurements. While glass cockpit assemblies lack steam gauges, the process of conducting measurements is pretty much the same.

The airspeed indicator will most often be situated in the flight deck where it is easily viewable. For a traditional flight deck, the airspeed indicator will be part of the “six pack” alongside the attitude indicator, altimeter, turn coordinator, heading indicator, and vertical speed indicator. When piloting an aircraft, it is important to familiarize yourself with the various colored arcs on the airspeed indicator, those of which identify ranges of speed which vary from acceptable speeds to never exceed speeds that may cause damage to the airframe.

As an airshow pilot, one must operate their aircraft within the limits posed by the rules of physics, and airspeed indicators are an easy way to maintain safety while conducting daring stunts. As airshow piloting is different from standard flight, an airshow pilot must also be familiar with standard airspeed value deviations and unusual indications that actually spell a hazard. With practice and ample knowledge on how to use instruments, an airshow pilot can entertain with ease.

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