June 2011 Issue

Your Altimeter Lies

But its falsehoods are known and predictable, and regular inspections and maintenance can uncover them. Just pay close attention in cold weather.

The instruments in our so-called "steam-gauge" panels are marvels of ingenuity. A collection of springs, tubing, gears, bellows, shafts and dials, their basic design predates most of the pilots staring at them. While they have, for the most part, been rendered obsolete by the latest microelectronics and air-data computers, they still work as advertised. Well, pretty much. The fact is our faithful mechanical instruments are regularly susceptible to certain errors. Too, they can fall victim to not-so-regular problems, mostly brought about through neglect or damage. The good news is many of these errors are predictable, if we take the time to understand how the instruments work and how the errors may manifest themselves.

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