An aircraft flight deck, also known as the cockpit, houses the aircraft's control systems. On a commercial airliner, flight decks may also be called a glass cockpit; they feature electronic flight instrument displays rather than the traditional analog dials and gauge display. Airline pilots are required to obtain their Airline Transport Pilot certification. In addition to this certificate, they receive type ratings that allow them to fly specific aircraft. Type rating is required for certain aircraft that have complex systems.
Although it’s difficult to fully grasp an understanding of the entire flight deck without training in it, we can learn about the basic systems. Airliners include a mode control panel (MCP), the primary flight display (PFD), a navigation display (ND), a GPS navigation systems, an engine indication and crew alerting system or electronic centralized aircraft monitor (EICAS or ECAM), a flight management system (FMS), and backup instruments. These systems often interact with each other.
The MCP allows the pilot to control the autopilot system and its related functions— but the autopilot system is independent of this instrument panel. PFDs display a digitized version of all of the basic flight instruments: the airspeed indicator, turn coordinator, attitude indicator, heading indicator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator. The EICAS or ECAM allows the pilot to monitor values for N1, N2, and N3, along with fuel temperature, fuel flow, the electrical system, interior temperatures, control surfaces, etc. The FMS allows the pilot to enter or check information pertaining to the flight plan, speed control, navigation control, etc. The backup system includes a battery-powered integrated standby instrument system and a magnetic compass; these show vital information like speed, altitude, attitude, and heading.
With all of this information in mind, we can see how it can be important to obtain a type rating and specialize in flying that aircraft. Although most cockpits have similarities, they vary in design, functions, and complexity. It is important to understand the differences to avoid becoming complacent and reduce the likelihood of human error.
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