Avionics and flight instruments are paramount to carrying out safe and efficient flight operations by allowing pilots within the aircraft cockpit to be aware of their speed, altitude, orientation, and much more. With the pitot-static system, measurements of outside air pressure are used in order to achieve crucial readings for instruments such as altimeters and airspeed indicators. Due to their method of garnering data, engineers have created air data test sets and precision pressure controllers in order to sufficiently test systems while the aircraft is on the ground. As a result, such testing can ensure that an aircraft is issue free for its pitot-static system and is closer to being ready for its next flight.
On a typical aircraft, the pitot-static system is composed of a pitot tube, a static port, and the various avionics that utilize them. The pitot tube is often placed in the airstream near the wing or front section of the fuselage, allowing it to efficiently measure ram air pressure. As the aircraft speeds up and slows down, the amount of ram air pressure changes in accordance. The static port, on the other hand, is most often featured in a more remote and undisturbed location as to access average air pressure from the airflow. Depending on the aircraft, more than one static port may be implemented and will often be located on opposite sides of the fuselage. With more than one static port, gaining a more reliable average air pressure reading is much easier. In the case of a static port blockage, the cockpit or cabin may have a backup port.
Utilizing the pitot and static tubes, airspeed indicators, altimeters, and mach meters may all gather their readings for the benefit of the pilot. Airspeed indicators are one of the primary avionics for flight operations, and they utilize both the pitot and static tube in order to get their readings. As pressure data is obtained by both the pitot and static ports, the difference in measurements can be used to find what is called “dynamic pressure”. As dynamic pressure increases, the airspeed indicator will show a higher reported speed.
The altimeter is another instrument consistently used by pilots, and its measurements provide information on the altitude that the aircraft is traveling at as compared to sea level. With an internal barometer attached to the static port of the aircraft, pressure increases and decreases will affect the expansion of the barometer and thus give an altitude reading. To ensure that readings are correct, the altimeter should always be calibrated before flight.
While not present on every aircraft type, mach meters can be implemented for aircraft that are specifically designed to travel at either transonic or supersonic speeds. To gain such measurements, the mach meter examines the ratio of true airspeed to the speed of sound. On the instrument itself, Mach numbers are provided in decimal fractions up to the Mach limit of the model.
In many modern aircraft, especially those with electronic flight instruments, an air data computer will be installed within the cockpit in order to calculate various measurements for the benefit of the pilot. By receiving data from the pitot-static system and various sensors, flight-pertinent information can be obtained through the computation of a single device, rather than from each individual instrument. As such, the air data computer can be connected to the cockpit electronic flight instrument system of a modern aircraft for simpler data procurement.
When the aircraft is on the ground, special adaptors or link fixtures may be used to connect testing equipment to the static or pitot tubes. If there is a need for one probe to measure multiple ports, special combining adapters may be used to connect everything. Once the equipment has been secured and locked in place, operators and maintenance workers can then conduct various calibrations and testing to ensure that all parameters are accurate enough to be safe for a flight operation.
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