Basic Attitude Instrument Flight


  • Attitude instrument flying is defined as control of an aircraft's spatial position by using instruments rather than ground reference

All procedures are GENERALIZED.
Fly the maneuver in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)
and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Primary and Supporting Method:

  • Specific principal instruments indicate pitch, bank, and power control requirements during maneuvers
    • These are your primary instruments while those that back up these indications will be supporting
  • Pitch Instruments:

    • Attitude indicator
    • Altimeter
    • Airspeed Indicator
    • Vertical Speed Indicator
  • Bank Instruments:

    • Attitude Indicator
    • Heading Indicator
    • Magnetic Compass
    • Turn Coordinator
  • Power Instruments:

    • Airspeed Indicator
    • Engine Instruments
      • Manifold Pressure
      • Tachometer
      • Engine Pressure Ratio (EPR)

Basic Attitude Instrument Flying Skills:

  • Cross-Checking:

    • Human error, instrument error, and atmospheric changes make it impossible to establish an attitude and keep performance constant
    • Cross-checking is the continuous scanning of flight instruments to the maintain desired attitude and performance
      • Selected Radial Cross-Check:

        • 80-90% of scan is focused on the attitude indicator
        • The scan begins with attitude and branches out to various other instruments, but the scan always return to attitude before checking the next instrument branches will depend on maneuver
      • Rectangular Cross-Check:

        • Scan moves in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction around the basic six-pack, thus creating a rectangular pattern
        • Gives equal weight to each instrument
        • Can lengthen the time between checking instruments critical for maneuver being performed
      • Common Cross-Check:

        • Common cross-check for a beginner is rapidly looking at different instruments without knowing why or what they are looking for
        • With experience the common cross-check becomes a habit, you look at the instruments needed for the given situation, you know what to look for and how long to look
  • Instrument Interpretation:

    • Understanding the information provided by cross-checking
    • Requires thorough study and analysis
    • An understanding of both construction and operating principles is necessary
    • The more a pilot knows about the instruments in his or her plane the better they will be able to understand the information being given to them
      • By knowing trends and limitations of instruments a pilot will know what other instruments to cross-check to get the complete picture
    • Such things as knowing what pitch attitudes to use for a given rate of climb or what power settings will give an approximate airspeed will reduce pilots workload
  • Aircraft Control:

    • Taking the instrument information that has been interpreted and making physical adjustments to flight controls in response
    • When using instruments instead of outside references the control inputs are the same, but must be smooth and precise
    • There are four components to aircraft control:
      • Pitch Control:

        • Controlling the rotation of the aircraft around the lateral axis by movement of the elevators in response to instrument interpretation
      • Bank Control:

        • Controlling angle made by the wing and the horizon, after interpreting appropriate instruments movement of the ailerons to roll the aircraft about its longitudinal axis
      • Power Control:

        • Interpretation indicates a need for adjustment in thrust
      • Trim Control:

        • Trim removes control pressure once desired attitude is attained
        • Improper trim will cause a need for constant force need on the controls, this adds distraction and leads to abrupt and unintentional attitude changes

Common Errors:

  • Fixation:

    • The tendency to stare at one instrument and negate the rest
      • If off altitude, you may stare at altimeter until the desired altitude is regained
      • While a change in the bank is occurring tendency will be to stare at heading indicator until reaching the desired heading, this will negate all power and pitch instruments
  • Omission:

    • Leaving a particular instrument out of scan
      • In a climb, you may reference altitude, airspeed, and vertical speed but inadvertently omit altimeter
  • Emphasis:

    • Checking one or a few instruments more readily than the rest
    • Generally the case with less experienced pilots because they may not understand an instrument fully, and tendency is to rely on what you know
    • Students may be able to hold altitude well by use of altimeter but can not do so with only using the attitude indicator
  • With low time pilots, there is a tendency to either not believe instruments because they do not agree with what they "feel" is right or the pilot will omit instrument errors
  • With more experienced pilots, a standard interpretation error is the tendency to carry over knowledge from one plane to the next
    • Example: flying a low-performance plane like a high-performance one

Airman Certification Standards:


  • Consider practicing maneuvers on a flight simulator to introduce yourself to maneuvers or knock-off rust
  • Still looking for something? Continue searching: