Attitude and heading indicators function on the principle of rigidity, but rate instruments such as the turn-andslip indicator operate on precession. Precession is the characteristic of a gyroscope that causes an applied force to produce a movement, not at the point of application, but at a point 90° from the point of application in the direction of rotation. [Figure 5-32]
The first gyroscopic aircraft instrument was the turn indicator in the needle and ball, or turn-and-bank indicator, which has more recently been called a turn-and-slip indicator. [Figure 5-33]
The inclinometer in the instrument is a black glass ball sealed inside a curved glass tube that is partially filled with a liquid for damping. This ball measures the relative strength of the force of gravity and the force of inertia caused by a turn. When the aircraft is flying straight-and-level, there is no inertia acting on the ball, and it remains in the center of the tube between two wires. In a turn made with a bank angle that is too steep, the force of gravity is greater than the inertia and the ball rolls down to the inside of the turn. If the turn is made with too shallow a bank angle, the inertia is greater than gravity and the ball rolls upward to the outside of the turn.
The inclinometer does not indicate the amount of bank, nor does it indicate slip; it only indicates the relationship between the angle of bank and the rate of yaw.
The turn indicator is a small gyro spun either by air or by an electric motor. The gyro is mounted in a single gimbal with its spin axis parallel to the lateral axis of the aircraft and the axis of the gimbal parallel with the longitudinal axis. [Figure 5-34] When the aircraft yaws, or rotates about its vertical axis, it produces a force in the horizontal plane that, due to precession, causes the gyro and its gimbal to rotate about the gimbal’s axis. It is restrained in this rotation plane by a calibration spring; it rolls over just enough to cause the pointer to deflect until it aligns with one of the doghouse-shaped marks on the dial, when the aircraft is making a standard rate turn.
The dial of these instruments is marked “2 MIN TURN.” Some turn-and-slip indicators used in faster aircraft are marked “4 MIN TURN.” In either instrument, a standard rate turn is being made whenever the needle aligns with a doghouse. A standard rate turn is 3° per second. In a 2 minute instrument, if the needle is one needle width either side of the center alignment mark, the turn is 3° per second and the turn takes 2 minutes to execute a 360° turn. In a 4 minute instrument, the same turn takes two widths deflection of the needle to achieve 3° per second.
The major limitation of the older turn-and-slip indicator is that it senses rotation only about the vertical axis of the aircraft. It tells nothing of the rotation around the longitudinal axis, which in normal flight occurs before the aircraft begins to turn. A turn coordinator operates on precession, the same as the turn indicator, but its gimbals frame is angled upward about 30° from the longitudinal axis of the aircraft. [Figure 5-34] This allows it to sense both roll and yaw. Therefore during a turn, the indicator first shows the rate of banking and once stabilized, the turn rate. Some turn coordinator gyros are dual-powered and can be driven by either air or electricity.
Rather than using a needle as an indicator, the gimbal moves a dial that is the rear view of a symbolic aircraft. The bezel of the instrument is marked to show wings-level flight and bank angles for a standard rate turn. [Figure 5-35]
The inclinometer, similar to the one in a turn-and-slip indicator, is called a coordination ball, which shows the relationship between the bank angle and the rate of yaw. The turn is coordinated when the ball is in the center, between the marks. The aircraft is skidding when the ball rolls toward the outside of the turn and is slipping when it moves toward the inside of the turn. A turn coordinator does not sense pitch. This is indicated on some instruments by placing the words “NO PITCH INFORMATION” on the dial.