Operation of Aircraft Systems


  • All aircraft have the requirement for essential interconnected and integrated systems, the performance of which is critical to safe operations
  • Several basic aircraft systems are universal, but even the most simple aircraft will contain complex systems
  • These systems are reliant on some power source, meaning they rely upon a powerplant not just to move the airplane, but run the systems
  • Finally, there are a variety of support systems which for comfort, regulatory, or human physiological reasons, exist to support flight operations, especially those considered high-performance
  • Understanding the aircraft systems is critical to its safe operation and proper maintenance

Fundamental Aircraft Systems:

  • Aircraft Systems for Pilots
    Amazon, Aircraft Systems for Pilots
  • Most aircraft have a standardized set of systems which diverge depending on their designed purpose [Figure 1]
  • Generally speaking, this starts with Pitot-static systems, the manipulation of air pressure which enable avionic and instrument function
  • The aircraft's induction system is responsible for the vacuum system, which powers typically gyroscopic systems
  • Individual aircraft systems will vary between vacuum, gyroscopic, or electrically driven(discussed below); however, a combination of the previously mentioned systems are necessary to power many primary flight instruments, including the Airspeed Indicator, Altimeter, and Vertical Speed Indicator
  • Pilots must physically manipulate an aircraft's state to meet the needs of a given phase of flight
  • Rudimentary control of the aircraft requires flight control systems
  • Aircraft Systems for Pilots
    Amazon, Aircraft Systems for Pilots

Complex Systems:

  • Certain aircraft operations demand increasingly complex aircraft, and therefore systems
  • Hydraulics & pneumatics help power landing gear, brakes, and even control surfaces when cabling is not enough
  • Demanding operations call for complex aircraft requiring powerplants with enough power to deliver the desired performance
  • While general aviation aircraft typically incorporate a fixed-pitch propeller, complex aircraft employ constant-speed propellers
  • Turbo-charging or super-charging systems provide that boost of power

Powerplant Systems:

Support Systems:

  • Some systems are supplemental
  • Systems such as cabin heating and cooling systems condition air for the pilot and passengers
  • Pressurization systems allow for high-performance aircraft to operate at high altitudes, taking advantage of atmospheric conditions that enhance aircraft performance
  • Supplemental oxygen systems become necessary to meet regulatory and human performance requirements associated with operating at higher altitudes
  • Weather poses a threat to the aircraft, warranting icing mitigation systems to penetrate freezing layers found at higher altitudes and especially during winter months

AOPA A&P Podcasts: