Home Aviation General What is FD in Aviation? (Flight Director)

What is FD in Aviation? (Flight Director)

Flight Director (FD) is an integral component of an aircraft’s flight guidance system. It is a computer-based display system that provides pilots with precise guidance and navigation commands in order to fly the aircraft smoothly and accurately along a desired flight path. The flight director system takes inputs from the aircraft’s navigation systems and provides visual cues to the pilots, indicating the appropriate pitch and bank attitude required to achieve a desired flight profile.

The flight director is typically located on the aircraft’s primary flight display (PFD) and is usually represented by a series of command bars and symbols. These bars and symbols provide pilots with information such as where to position the aircraft on the horizon, when to initiate turns, and when to adjust the aircraft’s pitch. By following the guidance provided by the flight director, pilots can efficiently and accurately navigate the aircraft.

Functionality of Flight Director

The flight director is designed to assist pilots in various phases of flight, including takeoff, climb, cruise, descent, and landing. It offers several key functionalities that enhance situational awareness and help pilots maintain control of the aircraft:

1. Navigation Guidance

The flight director incorporates information from the aircraft’s navigation systems, such as the Inertial Navigation System (INS) or Global Positioning System (GPS), to provide accurate guidance along the desired flight path. It calculates the optimal heading, pitch, and bank angles required to maintain the aircraft’s position and route, and presents this information to the pilots through the display system.

For example, during a climb, the flight director may indicate that the aircraft needs to maintain a specific pitch angle and heading to reach the desired altitude. The pilot can then adjust the aircraft’s controls accordingly to follow the flight director’s guidance.

2. Autopilot Commanding

The flight director is closely integrated with the aircraft’s autopilot system. Pilots can engage the autopilot, and it will then automatically follow the guidance commands provided by the flight director. This helps reduce pilot workload and ensures precise control of the aircraft. The flight director’s commands can be displayed on both the pilot and copilot sides, allowing either pilot to take control if necessary.

When the autopilot is engaged, the flight director’s symbology (command bars and symbols) is typically overlaid on the PFD to indicate the desired flight profile. The pilot can monitor the autopilot’s performance by observing the aircraft’s actual flight path in relation to the flight director’s commands.

It is important to note that the flight director is not a standalone system. It receives input from other aircraft systems and avionics, such as the air data computer, attitude and heading reference system, and navigation sensors, in order to generate accurate guidance commands.

3. Instrument Approaches

The flight director is particularly useful during instrument approaches, where pilots rely on instrument indications rather than visual clues to navigate and descend safely towards the runway. Instrument approaches can be challenging, especially in adverse weather conditions, and the flight director provides pilots with precise guidance to help them execute the approach accurately.

During an instrument approach, the flight director will display guidance commands that indicate the pilot’s desired vertical and lateral flight path. This allows the pilot to make precise control inputs to follow the approach course and safely descend towards the runway.

For example, when executing a precision approach such as an Instrument Landing System (ILS) or a GPS approach, the flight director will provide specific command cues to the pilots, indicating the required glide slope and localizer deviations. By precisely following these commands, pilots can conduct a stabilized approach and smoothly transition from instrument flight to visual flight for landing.


The flight director is a vital tool in aviation that helps pilots maintain precise control of the aircraft. It provides navigation guidance, interfaces with the autopilot system, and assists pilots during instrument approaches. By following the flight director’s commands, pilots can ensure accurate navigation, reduce workload, and enhance flight safety.

For More: What is FAF in Aviation? (First Available Flight)

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