- 1.How does the Instrument Landing System (ILS) work?
- 2.EU Blacklist – Beware of these Airlines!
- 3.Flight Management System (FMS) – The Aircraft’s Brain!
- 4.Freedoms of The Air Explained – Can an Airline Fly Anywhere?
- 5.Winglets and Sharklets – Wingtip Devices Explained!
- 6.V Speeds – Aircraft Velocities Explained!
- 7.World’s Safest Airlines in 2018 Revealed!
- 8.Airbus A320 Cockpit – MUC to CGN Jumpseat Experience!
Hello dear aviators. It is not often that one can experience the Airbus A320 cockpit (or any flight deck) inflight as a non-pilot today, because of the strict security regulations since 9/11. Luckily, I have had the chance to experience a jumpseat ride just recently. On a beautiful autumn afternoon, we flew from Munich (EDDM/MUC) to Cologne/Bonn (EDDK/CGN) and back. So, buckle up and enjoy my view from the best office one can imagine.
Airbus A320 Cockpit View – Boarding the Aircraft!
This awesome day already began promising. I have had a great breakfast along with a tasty large cup of coffee. I had a layover at Munich Airport due to a working project for my employer. Due to the fact that everything went better than expected, I gained some spare time before my trip ended.
That is why I asked a friend of mine, who happens to be an Airbus A320-family captain if I could join him on one of his trips. “Well, of course!”, he answered and continued: “My turnaround will be MUC-CGN-MUC-CGN-MUC Today. If you want to, you can join us for two legs. Or even on all four legs”.
Well, you can guess my answer, can’t you? I said that I’d be happy to join the guys on the Airbus A320 cockpit for all four flights! A few hours later, I met the commander, first officer and the rest of the crew in the airline’s briefing room. We did not expect anything special that day because the weather was calm and the aircraft in a excellent shape. Our ride was a roughly ten-year-old Airbus A320 without winglets and IAE engines.
The IAE engines express the thrust delivered as the “Engine pressure ratio (EPR)” on the ECAM display, in contrast to the CFM engines, that rely on the classic N1 value. Basically, the EPR shows the pressure difference between the front and the back of the engine, while N1 displays the rotation speed. Since this concept is quite confusing, I recommend this article by The Flying Engineer to you. Enough tech talk (for now). Let’s hop into the cockpit!
A Small Overview of the Airbus A320 Cockpit
Before we take off, I would like to give you a quick tour around the flight deck of our Airbus A320. Have fun!
The Airbus A320 Overhead Panel
In the picture below, you can see the so-called “overhead panel“. That panel is a crucial part of the Airbus A320 cockpit. Here, the pilots can find the engine and APU fire control panel, the hydraulic- and fuel control panels, as well as the electrical control panels. Also, the overhead panel contains the aircraft’s light and air conditioning switches. So, if it gets too cold in the cabin next time, complain to the pilots. 😉
Airbus A320 Cockpit: Glareshield and Flight Control Unit (FCU)
The next important area in the Airbus A320 cockpit is the so-called glareshield that contains the flight control unit (FCU). The FCU acts as an interface between the pilots and the Flight Management Guidance Computer (FMGC). By using the FCU, the pilots can turn on- and off the autopilot and autothrust. Also, they can use it to manipuliate all flight parameters like the speed, heading, track, altitude, flight path angle, and the vertical speed.
Airbus A320 Cockpit: The Electronic Flight Instruments (EFIS)
Of course, the pilots have to know where they are somehow. That is where the Electronic Flight Instruments (EFIS) come into effect. The Primary Flight Displays (PFD) and Navigation Displays (ND) provide system information, flight guidance and navigation information in all phases of the flight.
Airbus A320 Cockpit: The Central Pedestal
Numerous switches and levers are located on the pedestal. Among them are, for example:
- The Flap Selector
- The Thrust Levers
- The Engine Starters
- The Speedbrake Lever and the weather radar panel
- The Central Pedestal Cockpit Door Panel to open and close the cockpit door
- The switches for radio communiation
Airbus A320 Cockpit: The Sidestick!
We saw some instruments and systems, fine. But how does an A320 pilot steer the plane? Simple answer: With the sidestick. The sidestick looks a bit like a conventional joystick. It replaced the classical yoke found on other planes.
Airbus did this in order to facilitate the pilot’s view on the instruments. Also, it allowed the manufacturer to install a handy treytable. Both, the commander and the first officer have an own sidestick to control pitch and roll manually.
The two individual sidesticks are, unlike yokes, not mechanically connected to each other. When both pilots move the stick in opposite directions, the computer adds the signals.
To prevent such a case, a pilot can press a special button to prioritize his sidestick inputs. The other sidestick becomes inactive as a consequence.
Airbus A320 Cockpit Take-Off at Munich Airport
Enough tech-talk. Let’s go flying. After spending some time on all ground preparations and doing the outside check, we received the start-up clearance by the ATC. That means, that our flight plan was approved by the air traffic control. Shortly after this, we also received our pushback and taxi clearance. Off to runway two-six-right.
The commander released the parking brake, it shook a bit, as we started our pushback. “Engine number one start“, said the captain and our bird started to buzz as the right jet engine became alive. Soon, the second engine followed and the flight controls were checked. Everything was fine. Cleared to taxi to the runway!
The traffic at Munich Airport was not dense that day. That is why we reached the holding point of our departure runway 26R relatively fast. Lucky us! We waited for a company aircraft to land on the same runway and then aligned ourselves on the four-kilometres-long strip of concrete.
It is the few seconds of tense silence before take-off I enjoy most when sitting on the jumpseat. You look down the runway, watch the other planes go by and look forward to soaring into the sky. Finally, the ATC called us. “Wind 267 degrees at ten, cleared for take-off, runway two six right”! The commander grabbed the thrust levers, and gently moved them forward first, to let the engines stabilise. After five seconds, he pushed them all the way to the front and we rapidly accelerated, accompanied by a sonorous roaring.
The first officer was the pilot flying on the first leg. Until the aircraft reached 100 knots, he pushed the sidestick forward a bit, to counter the nose-up-moment of the Airbus A320’s nose while accelerating.
Flying Northbound in the A320 Cockpit!
V1, rotate! (Learn more aboutthat with my article on V Speeds!) Positive climb, gear up! We were flying. On the picture below you can see the First Officer’s side of the Airbus A320 cockpit, as well as three little red lights, signaling that the gear of our aircraft retracted. The right screen is the Airbus A320’s PFD, showing an altitude of 200 ft above ground and a nose-up-pitch of 17 degrees.
The clouds were thick and dense. That is why our cruise was not spectacular at all. However, this was a good chance to have a little chat with the two pilots. The captain was very experienced and already flew for three airlines in Europe and the far east. The first officer already flew for roughly one and a half years. Time went by quickly and soon we approached the City of Cologne from the South. Time to descend!
Our runway that day was 32R. The crew set the autobrakes to “low”, because this runway is very long and it was dry. Well before turning onto the final approach path, the flight crew executed a thorough approach briefing. The air traffic control warned about swarms of migrating birds in the area and to take care about that on short final. Some minutes later, we aligned with the Instrument Landing System of runway 32R. No birds on the menu today: Everything worked like a charm. The approach was stable and soon, we smoothly touched down on Cologne’s soil. Time to taxi to the gate and to offload the passengers. And to watch a beautiful UPS Boeing 747 while doing so. 🙂
Airbus A320 Cockpit: A Quick Turnaround and Back to Munich!
The turnaround was very quick. Just enough time to grab a refreshment and something to eat. As the passengers boarded the aircraft, the sun began to set slowly. This resulted in amazingly moody colors and a lovely atmosphere on our way towards our departure back to Munich. Have a look:
Since we were quite light on our way back, we asked for a so-called intersection departure. This was granted by the ATC. There was no traffic at all. That allowed us to perform a “rolling take-off” without having to line-up and wait on the runway. We took off and banked into the dusk.
Airbus A320 Cockpit Flight: Back to Munich
We flew into the night and our first two legs came to an end. Unfortunately, my camera died. That’s why I could not record the final two legs for you guys. However, I hope that you have enjoyed the tour and the quick look into the Airbus A320 cockpit. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Here is a photo of our final approach onto runway 26R at Munich Airport.
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In the meantime, you can always crawl my other articles, of course.
- One Day in the life of a Lufthansa Boeing 747 pilot
- My planespotting-guide
- My aviation knowledge section
Have a great day,