On modern aircraft, both personal and commercial, there are a variety of systems that work together to provide pilots and passengers safe flight. The pitot static system of an aircraft is an extremely important system for the safety and efficiency of flight from the readings that they provide. From the altitude indicator to the airspeed indicator, many aircraft instruments rely on the pitot system for providing accurate readings so the pilot can always be aware of various aircraft operations and conditions. In this blog, we will discuss the pitot static system functionality, as well as some of the flight instruments that rely on them for functionality.
The functionality of the pitot static system is achieved through the use of a pitot tube and static port. The pitot tube is an opening that is featured either towards the front of the aircraft or the wing where it can be exposed to the wind around the aircraft. With this, the pitot tube measures the ram air pressure that is forced into the tube to obtain total pressure readings. The static port is installed on the fuselage of the aircraft and is placed in an area where it will not be heavily disturbed. The static port measures average pressure, and aircraft may have extra ports installed on the fuselage for backup in case of blockages or other issues.
There are various airplane instruments like navigational instruments & gyro components that rely on the pitot static system to provide the pilot with accurate flight information. The airspeed indicator utilizes both the pitot tube and static port for readings, and this instrument is what measures the speed that the aircraft is travelling. This is measured through finding the difference of the pitot pressure and static pressure, which is referred to as the dynamic pressure. The higher this pressure, the faster the aircraft is going and vice versa. Altimeters are another instrument that register the aircraft’s altitude over sea level. Altimeters rely on the static port of the pitot static system, and as pressure of the instrument case decreases, an internal barometer expands, denoting a change in altitude. The pitot static system also provides readings for other instruments, such as the machmeter and vertical speed indicator, further increasing its importance and use for the pilot.
As with any system, the pitot static system is prone to issues that can decrease or prevent accuracy. Pitot static system blockage is a potential malfunction that can cause risks for flying, as instrument readings can become incorrect, if they can be made at all. When the pitot tube becomes blocked, the airspeed indicator is unable to read correctly, and depending on the situation, will either drop to zero or begin acting like an altimeter. When the static port is blocked, the airspeed indicator will be inaccurate, the altimeter will freeze, and the vertical speed indicator will not read. Because of this, it is very important that systems, ports, and tubes are regularly checked and maintained so that pitot static instruments operate correctly, mitigating any possible risk of instrument misreadings.
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