Where can a digital reading of the pitch of plane be found?

E.g on Microsoft flight simulator, on the attitude dial, the pitch of the plane (e.g 10 degrees up above horizon) has to be manually read from the visualisation of where the dot is.

Where is the digital numerical reading that shows the pitch is 10 degrees?

If there isn't a digital reading of the pitch and you have to manually read it from the visualisation of the dot - why isn't there a digital number that is also shown to make it easier to to know and get an accurate reading?

  • $\begingroup$ In your flying what would you do differently if you knew your pitch attitude was 9.1 degrees instead of knowing it was just slightly less than 10? Or what would you do if it were 10.2 instead of “close to 10”? $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Dec 4, 2022 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ I have been recently looking at the certification requirements of civilan digital AHRS units (the data source for the pitch angle). These units are quite inaccurate. Therefore displaying the exact numeric pitch-angle would probably suggest a data precision which simply is not given. Therefore in addition simply not being needed, I guess you also do not really want to display this number in order not to confuse the pilot. $\endgroup$
    – U_flow
    Dec 4, 2022 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ @U_flow, yes, but any inaccuracies of the digits will be reflected in the visual indicator. In any case, actual accuracy to the horizon is less important than reliably displaying relative change. $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2022 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim In my car I have an analog and a digital speedometer. They are reading sligthly different speeds (a couple mph). Some reasons I use digital whenever I can: 1) numbers are in the same place (vs. needle tip location being speed-dependent) 2) numbers are way bigger 3) numbers are brighter (esp. in the night) 4) numbers allow finer precision (e.g. when setting cruise control) 5) numbers allow for easier comparison (e.g. road signs and navigation display speed in numbers) 6) I like numbers. Nothing revolutionary, just slightly more comfortable and slightly easier for my brain to process. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2022 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @levantpied - Numbers don't actually allow finer precision. A digital display can only display exactly 10 or exactly 11. An analog needle can show a difference in two speeds closer together than that. It's also easier to spot a trend. I'll see my needle start to move before the number changes. And in an airplane, knowing an exact pitch angle is meaningless because you never are trying to maintain an known numeric pitch angle. You trim a plane to whatever angle is found to maintain altitude. Besides, the amount of trim added or removed during minute trim adjustments is < than a 1 deg. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Dec 7, 2022 at 3:17

1 Answer 1


There's not one in any typical cockpit I can think of, although it is a parameter stored on the flight data recorder.

The attitude indicator that you refer to is the best instrument for avoiding spatial disorientation. That is, even if the pilot is in thick cloud or with G forces trying to fool their body into thinking they're rapidly climbing, the pilot simply looks at this instrument which has a visual representation of whether the aircraft is pointing up or down, in a banked turn or level. In instrument flying, the pilot is continually scanning between the bank and pitch indications to keep the plane doing what they want it to be doing.

Replacing this instrument with a series of numbers to interpret is a big step backwards in safety, for the simple reason that pilots are not computers. Pilots are susceptible to human errors and in times of stress need information presented to them in the simplest manner possible. Having to think "wait does that number mean my bank angle 20 degrees to the left or to the right?" is easy enough in isolation, but combine that with every other activity they've got on and you will end up with fatalities at some point.

I don't think it would be too hard to add a digital readout in addition to the attitude indicator, but there's not really any benefit. The existing instrument is easy enough to read within a degree or two, which is accurate enough for all actions. I've never met a pilot who can hold an attitude to a tolerance of less than a degree anyway.

  • $\begingroup$ It is also possibly relevant that classical mechanical artificial horizons would have had a low precision so any readout to decimal points would be meaningless and or misleading in any case. The markings used are also focusing on speed and clarity, with classical 'sky' and 'not sky' markings being by far the most significant. $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2022 at 2:10

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