June 2017 Issue

The Magnetic Compass

The simplest instrument in the panel also has simple requirements, but it can be the most difficult to use.

It’s rather quaint these days that aircraft still carry a magnetic compass. The cellphone in the pilot’s pocket probably has a more stable and less error-prone electronic sensor to know which way it’s pointed. When turned or accelerated, that solid-state device remains accurate in situations where a conventional “whiskey” compass will twist and turn like a bobble-head toy on a student pilot’s first solo. With all that technology going on, the magnetic compass remains a staple of most cockpits around the world.

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