Learning to fly in general aviation in the west since the mid 2000s I'm used to the common attitude indicators like this one.

attitude indicator

I've also seen older ones that are black and white as well as many varieties of attitude indicator display arrangements in glass panels.

My question deals with other ways of displaying this information. I've heard pilots talk about how some eastern airplanes have very different ways of presenting pilots with attitude information. What approaches are out there? What do they look like and where are they found?


2 Answers 2


Russian-made aircraft have attitude indicators that work exactly opposite of western ones.

attitude indicators source

with the western style, on the left, the virtual airplane figure is fixed so it's always upright to the pilot and the horizon moves. On the Russian style AI the horizon is fixed so it is level from the pilots POV and the aircraft symbol moves.

Just two ways of looking at it, but if you're used to one the other can be confusing.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan Took me a minute too. It helps if you top your head to the right so the ia's look level to you. Then you can see the horizon is flat and the plane icon is tilted. Can you imagine somebody who flies both?! $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Feb 4, 2016 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ Weird. It seems like the Russian one shown here completely defeats the purpose of using an artificial horizon. I thought the whole point of having an artificial horizon was that it mimics what you would see from the actual horizon if you were looking out the window at it. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Feb 5, 2016 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ If you have a Russian plane and you want to use the Western indicator, can you just remove one and plug in another? Or are they not interchangeable? $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2016 at 7:11
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan That is because the picture depicted the instruments tilted too, which is very confusing. When you are flying the plane you do not perceive that: basically you have to rotate the instruments by 40° to the left and that's what you would see. Both the styles are quite understandable, but if you confuse them, you crash the plane (see for instance en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroflot_Flight_821). $\endgroup$
    – DarioP
    Feb 5, 2016 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ I see things a step further than it just being "two ways of looking at it." When I use a western attitude indicator I actually visualize the horizon on the AI extending out in all directions. I use this as a mental process for augmenting my situational awareness. This isn't possible on the Russian AI. $\endgroup$
    – ryan1618
    Feb 10, 2016 at 18:16

There's also the 3D attitude indicator from old fighter planes.enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ So this is a compass, pitch and bank indicator? I can see that getting confusing when you're in a 90 degree bank trying to avoid the mean end of a Messerschmitt! $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Feb 5, 2016 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, just call it a navball! $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    May 5, 2019 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ No Messerschmitt would be chasing you if you were looking at this attitude indicator, but maybe a MiG $\endgroup$ May 5, 2019 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ Does this behave like "Western attitude indicator" nowadays? It looks like the plane symbol is always static and the background moves behind it. $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2021 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ @MikkoRantalainen, yes, the ball moves. The white W wings are fixed. The yellow bars move up/down and left/right to guide pilot, they can be controlled by a variety of navigation or targeting inputs. There is a glide slope needle on the left side. The knob adjusts the pitch angle. This instrument is showing the nose is high, wings fairly level, and heading 028.. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Jensen
    Jul 7, 2021 at 22:09

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