The Cockpit: Why So Many Buttons

How Complicated it is to Be a Pilot

By: Thomas Ahern, Journalist

A cockpit is the room on an airplane where the pilot flies the plane. If you have ever seen a cockpit, or even just a picture of one, then you probably think that it is incredibly complicated. Don’t get me wrong, it is complicated, but fortunately, it is also something that can be taught. For starters, we have the steering wheel, which is called the yoke. This can be turned to go in the direction you want. However, unlike a car’s steering wheel, the yoke can also be pulled back to take off, or pushed in to land.

Next up, we have a lever called the throttle. It is simply a lever that works similarly to a gas pedal in a car. To speed up, you need to push the throttle forward. To slow down, you simply need to pull the throttle backwards. With a more recent plane, you should see a fairly large screen. This is your primary flight display, and it should show your airspeed indicator, which shows how fast you are going, and your altitude indicator, which shows how high you are above the ground. It will most likely also have an attitude indicator, which helps you know the orientation of your aircraft by using the horizon, but it is not a requirement to have one of these. It is now time to get to the most confusing part of the cockpit; the buttons on the top.

Different planes will have a different orientations, but in modern day commercial airplanes, there will be buttons to control the air conditioning for each part of the plane, fuel, wing heaters for any sort of ice, engine starters, and external lights. They should all be grouped together so you aren’t hunting for each button you need. You should now know what the purpose of the buttons in the cockpit are for.

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