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What Are Turn and Slip Indicators in Aircraft?

There are various instruments in an aircraft that a pilot relies on to safely fly, each of which offers varying readings that are important for basic operations. From airspeed indicators that provide speed readings to altimeters that allow a pilot to know just how high they are in the air, instruments not only ensure safety, but also promote efficiency, high performance, and much more. One instrument that is not always discussed is the turn and slip indicator, which provides combined readings for an aircraft’s rate of turn and orientation in comparison to coordinated flight. As both of these are very important during various flight phases, current or prospective pilots should have a good understanding of how they work and are used.

Turn indicators are a form of gyroscopic instrument that works on the principle of precession to operate with a gyro mounted in a gimbal. For its design, the rotational axis of the gyro is kept in-line with the aircraft’s lateral axis, and the gimbal will be given limited freedom around the longitudinal axis. With this configuration of the gyro and gimbal, any time the aircraft begins to yaw, the gyro will be faced with torque force around its vertical axis. This results in gyroscopic precession across the roll axis, the gyro spinning on an axis that is at a right angle in relation to the direction of the yaw torque force.

As the assembly revolves with limited freedom against a calibrated spring, torque force will eventually achieve equilibrium, causing the angles of the gyro and gimbal to connect with the instrument’s display needle. As such, the display needle situated on the face of the instrument will provide the pilot with a reading that is indicative of the rate of turn. In order for the instrument to capture both yaw and roll changes, the gyro is purposefully canted at a 30 degree angle from the horizontal.

To effectively provide a pilot with readings, the instrument face itself features a number of hash marks that the needle moves across, and the pilot will reference these during a turn. As the needle lines up with a specific hash mark, one will know that their aircraft is performing a standard rate turn, or a turn of three degrees per second. Each indicator is marked based on sensitivity, ensuring that a pilot can carry out their timed turns while conforming to air traffic patterns.

While yaw movements are crucial, so too is having coordinated flight indication. This is achieved with an inclinometer which is a ball sealed within a curved glass tube with liquids as a damping medium. Based on the centripetal acceleration of the aircraft and forces of gravity, the ball will move and cause changes in readings. When an aircraft is traversing in coordinated flight, the ball will be in the middle of the tube. When it is in the inside of the tube, the aircraft is considered slipping. Lastly, skidding is when the ball is on the outside of the turn. As pilots may not always have reliable visuals that they can reference, inclinometers are crucial to ensure that a pilot is aware of their orientation in the atmosphere.

Here at Aerospace Domain, we are fully dedicated to our customers, presenting competitive pricing and rapid lead times on all that we offer. Whether you need gyroscopic instruments like the turn and slip indicator or other various aviation parts, we have you covered with offerings that trace back to top global manufacturers. To ensure that your purchasing process goes as smoothly as possible, we encourage you to take advantage of our online RFQ forms which will allow you to quickly and easily request quotes for your comparisons with ease. Additionally, you may give us a call or email at any time, and we would be more than happy to assist you with anything we can! See why customers choose to rely on Aerospace Domain today when you get in touch with one of our team members!


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