Inside the cockpit of an Airbus A220

Ever wondered what all those switches, dials and levers do in the cockpit of an airplane?We did too, ...

Posted: Sep 21, 2018 5:31 PM
Updated: Sep 21, 2018 5:31 PM

Ever wondered what all those switches, dials and levers do in the cockpit of an airplane?

We did too, so we asked a pilot.

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Gerhard Ramcke, of Latvian airline airBaltic, gave CNN Travel a tour of the flight deck of a brand spanking new Airbus A220-300 as the aircraft was making its debut earlier this year.

The controls of the super-modern aircraft bear little resemblance to the clunky mechanisms found in older planes though -- the A220-300 is fully digital.

Its state-of-the-art touchscreens more closely resemble something from a spacecraft than an airplane.

"It's a full glass cockpit," says Ramcke, gesturing around the flight deck. "No round dial instruments anymore. All of the data is projected onto these screens."

The A220's Flight Management System is a computer system that automates a wide range of inflight tasks.

It can determine the aircraft's position and, in line with the flight plan, calculate the course the aircraft needs to follow -- a very smart autopilot.

Meanwhile, the Flight Control System connects the side-stick, the throttles and the pedals, which the pilot uses to maneuver the craft.

The overhead panel, says Ramcke, "operates all of the systems."

Change of identity

"If we would go for a takeoff now, we would have made sure that all of the panels are set up accordingly, then we would have set up FMS, then we would have our maps set accordingly," he explains.

"On the takeoff run itself, we would put the power into a certain position, check that the engine values are stable, and then the autothrottle system would be taking over from there."

After using the side-stick to rotate the aircraft to the correct pitch value, Ramcke would continue the takeoff.

"And at some point," he adds, "although I'd love to do the entire flight manually, I would switch the autopilot on."

While the A220-300 officially debuted at the Farnborough Airshow 2018 in July, it actually entered service several years earlier, under a different brand name.

The A220 series was originally created and sold by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier and was known as the CSeries. The First A220-300s were sold as Bombardier CS300s to Swiss International Air Lines in 2016.

Airbus bought a majority stake in the CSeries in October 2017, leading to the aircraft's identity switch.

Delta Air Lines, the first US carrier to order the Cseries, has recently been showing off the new paint job of its first A220-100, due to enter service in early 2019.

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