Instruments in an aircraft have two purposes: to display current flight conditions (such as airspeed and altitude) and to notify of unsatisfactory or dangerous conditions. Standardized colors are used to differentiate between visual messages, with green as a satisfactory condition, yellow for caution or a serious condition that needs monitoring, and red as a color for unsatisfactory or dangerous conditions.
Most aircraft use annunciator lights that turn on when something demanding the crew’s attention happens. These use the aforementioned colors in a variety of presentations. Individual lights near the associated cockpit instrument or a collective display of lights for various systems in a central location are common, with words labeling each light to help identify problems quickly and plainly.
On complex aircraft, numerous systems and components must be monitored and maintained. Centralized warning systems can announce critical messages about these systems and components in a simple and organized manner on a central annunciator panel in the cockpit. These analog aircraft warning systems may look different in various aircraft, and their design depends on the manufacturer’s preference and the systems installed on the aircraft itself.
Master caution lights are used to draw the crew’s attention to a critical situation, and to the annunciator panel that will describe the problem. These master caution lights are centrally wired and illuminate whenever any participating systems or components that require attention. Once notified, a pilot can cancel the master caution, but a dedicated annunciator light stays illuminated until the situation causing the warning is fixed. Cancelling the alert resets the master caution light to warn of a subsequent fault even before the initial fault is corrected.
Accompanying the visual warning systems, aural warning systems work to audibly inform pilots of developing situations. Various tones and phrases sound in the cockpit to alert the crew of certain conditions. For example, a bell will sound if the throttle is reduced and the landing gear is not in a down and locked position.
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