What is MCDU on Airbus A320? (Multipurpose Control And Display Unit)

The Multipurpose Control and Display Unit (MCDU) is an essential component of the Airbus A320 aircraft. It serves as the primary interface between the pilots and the aircraft’s Flight Management System (FMS), providing them with the means to enter and retrieve data necessary for flight operations. The MCDU features a user-friendly interface that allows pilots to input flight plans, performance data, and other parameters crucial for safe and efficient operations. In this article, we will take a closer look at the functions and importance of the Multipurpose Control and Display Unit on the Airbus A320.

The Role of the Multipurpose Control and Display Unit (MCDU)

The MCDU is responsible for managing the input and output of data related to flight planning, performance calculations, navigation, and aircraft system management. It allows pilots to interact with the Flight Management System through a series of menus and pages displayed on the MCDU screen. The MCDU can be controlled using a keypad or through the use of physical buttons and knobs.

One of the primary functions of the MCDU is to enable pilots to input the flight plan into the aircraft’s Flight Management System. The flight plan consists of various waypoints, airways, and performance data necessary for the aircraft’s navigation and guidance throughout the flight. The MCDU allows pilots to enter this information in a structured and intuitive manner, ensuring accurate and efficient flight plan entry.

Another crucial role of the MCDU is to provide pilots with important performance calculations. These calculations include the optimal speeds, altitudes, and fuel burn for each phase of the flight. By inputting parameters such as the aircraft’s weight, runway conditions, and weather information, pilots can obtain accurate predictions of the aircraft’s performance. This allows for more precise flight planning and fuel management, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings.

The MCDU also serves as a central hub for various aircraft system management functions. It provides pilots with access to system status and alert messages, allowing them to monitor the aircraft’s overall health and respond to any abnormalities. Pilots can also use the MCDU to control and manage other aircraft systems, such as the communication and navigation systems. This integration of functions streamlines the workflow for pilots, reducing their workload and enhancing cockpit organization.

Furthermore, the MCDU is used for data link communication, which enables pilots to exchange information with Air Traffic Control and other aircraft. This feature enhances situational awareness and facilitates more efficient communication between pilots and ground personnel. Pilots can receive updated weather information, clearance instructions, and other important messages directly through the MCDU, reducing the dependency on traditional voice communication.

Features and Interface of the MCDU

The MCDU features a bright and clear display that allows pilots to view multiple lines of text and graphical information simultaneously. The display is typically monochrome and optimized for readability in various lighting conditions, including direct sunlight. The keypad and buttons on the MCDU are carefully designed for ease of use, with intuitive labeling and tactile feedback.

The MCDU’s interface relies heavily on the use of menus and pages to navigate through the various functions and options. Pilots can access different menus by selecting specific buttons or using dedicated keys on the keypad. The menus are structured in a logical manner, guiding pilots through the different steps required to perform specific tasks.

One important feature of the MCDU is the scratchpad, which is a temporary text entry area displayed on the MCDU screen. Pilots can input data and make changes to flight plans or performance data using the scratchpad before executing the changes. This allows for a review and verification of the inputted data, reducing the chances of error.

Additionally, the MCDU incorporates an auto-tuning function, which automatically tunes the navigation radios to the appropriate frequencies based on the selected waypoints and airways. This feature simplifies the navigation process for pilots, saving time and reducing cockpit workload.


The Multipurpose Control and Display Unit (MCDU) plays a vital role in the operation of the Airbus A320 aircraft. It serves as the primary interface between pilots and the aircraft’s Flight Management System, enabling efficient flight planning, performance calculations, system management, and data link communication. The user-friendly interface and intuitive features of the MCDU enhance pilots’ situational awareness, reduce their workload, and contribute to the overall safety and efficiency of the aircraft. Understanding the functions and capabilities of the MCDU is essential for pilots operating the Airbus A320 and is a testament to the advanced technological systems incorporated into modern aircraft.

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