Glider Flight Instruments

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Flight instruments in the glider cockpit provide information regarding the glider’s direction, altitude, airspeed, and performance. The categories include pitot-static, magnetic, gyroscopic, electrical, electronic, and self-contained. This categorization includes instruments that are sensitive to gravity (G-loading) and centrifugal forces. Instruments can be a basic set used typically in training aircraft or a more advanced set used in the high-performance sailplane for cross-country and competition flying. To obtain basic introductory information about common aircraft instruments, please refer to the Aeronautical Knowledge Section.


Instruments displaying airspeed, altitude, and vertical speed are part of the pitot-static system. Heading instruments display magnetic direction by sensing the earth’s magnetic field. Performance instruments, using gyroscopic principles, display the aircraft attitude, heading, and rates of turn. Unique to the glider cockpit is the variometer, which is part of the pitot-static system. Electronic instruments using computer and global positioning system (GPS) technology provide pilots with moving map displays, electronic airspeed and altitude, air mass conditions, and other functions relative to flight management. Examples of self-contained instruments and indicators that are useful to the pilot include the yaw string, inclinometer, and outside air temperature gauge (OAT).

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