What instruments made up a typical panel of a WWI airplane?

Did any country regulate the required cockpit instruments prior to the United States "Air Commerce Act" of 1926?

  • $\begingroup$ Not really an answer, but I've seen some WW-I/pre-war aircraft that had nothing more than a spring-loaded needle moved by wind to indicate airspeed. The fancier ones had colored regions to indicate danger zones. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 1, 2018 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ Even more primitive (but not in the cockpit) are telltale yarns in the guy wires (like sailors used before aeroplanes). $\endgroup$
    – amI
    Jun 1, 2018 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Gliders still use yarn taped to the nose or windscreen as a slip indicator. When I was learning to fly in 1975, my instructor put yarn on the windscreen for a couple flights when I started doing (uncoordinated) ground reference maneuvers (it doesn't take long to learn how much rudder to use instinctively). $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Jun 1, 2018 at 20:34

2 Answers 2


If you are asking about military aircraft there would often have been a compass, oil pressure gauge, a not very sensitive altimeter, a tachometer and some sort of airspeed indicator. Not sure about fuel gauges. I have also seen bank indicators. There was not the standards for instruments as in later days and some items were specific to individual aircraft types. Some of these guys could fly a sort of instrument flight but had not much in the way of navigation aids.


Eyes and ears(including the inner ear) were the only "standard" instruments at that time. Although some crude gauges were in moderate use.(not all were found in all aircraft and some aircraft had few or none) DaveK listed most of them. A map and some navigation tools would also be fairly common, especially on longer flights. Fuel gauges were mostly of the sight glass type. (clear tube to physically see the fuel level)


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