The engine of an aircraft is one of the most critical areas, supplying the aircraft with a fuel supply that allows it to achieve propulsion and sustained flight. With the complexity of aircraft engines, ranging from correct fuel flow to optimal oil pressure, being aware of various systems and processes is extremely beneficial to maintain safe flight. Aircraft engine monitoring instruments are a set of instruments that provide various important information regarding the status, performance, and operating ranges of different engine parts. In this article, we will discuss some of the main engine monitoring systems, and how they provide pilots information to maintain safe flying.
The ammeter instrument is what provides the pilot with the current operating ampere level of the engine alternator and circuits. As the aircraft relies on the battery to start up, as well as for powering multiple systems, knowing if there are discharges is very useful in case there is a need for landing due to safety concerns. The vacuum gauge is another engine monitoring system, overseeing the vacuum system which drives gyros that benefit the attitude and direction indicator instruments. Beyond the battery and vacuum gauge, there is also a need to monitor fuel and oil for their operating temperatures, pressures, and more for engine safety and performance.
The cylinder temperature gauge, or CHT, is an instrument that monitors the operating temperature of one of the engine cylinders. Typically, aircraft designs have one cylinder that operates with greater heat than the others, and when this cylinder reaches dangerous temperatures, the gauge dial will indicate it by climbing to a red line. The temperature of exhaust gas and oil is also tracked due to their effects on engine health, performance, and safety. With the exhaust gas temperature gauge, the mixture of fuel and air can be regulated and the pilot can have a better idea of the air/fuel ratio of the internal combustion engine. The oil temperature is also displayed with a gauge, providing warnings on general engine wellbeing and if there is an issue that has arisen that needs to be resolved.
Oil pressure of the engine is monitored to ensure that oil can be supplied throughout the internal combustion engine, protecting components from wear and tear with lubrication. Typically, cold engines will display the pressure as being high, while hot engines will show green operating levels, denoting they are in optimal range. If low pressure is shown, the pilot should then ensure that the oil pump and engine bearings are inspected, as to avoid detrimental problems.
Fuel flow of the engine refers to the movement of gases throughout the system for combustion and propulsion applications. By monitoring the fuel flow, pilots can be made aware of the fuel rate per hour that is being delivered to the engine, as well as power settings. Fuel gauges, on the other hand, display the calculated fuel used, though should never entirely be relied on for their performance and indications.
Lastly, there are combination instruments that may be featured on an aircraft. Combination instruments may come in various designs and combine different engine monitoring systems together to display critical information regarding the engine and components. In general, combination instruments are in place to create as much awareness of engine operation as possible for the safety of pilots and aircraft.
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