A cockpit or flight deck is the area, usually near the front of an
aircraft or spacecraft, from which a pilot controls the aircraft.
Cockpit of an Antonov An-124
Cockpit of an A380. Most Airbus cockpits are glass cockpits featuring
Saab 2000 during flight
1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth
The cockpit of an aircraft contains flight instruments on an
instrument panel, and the controls that enable the pilot to fly the
aircraft. In most airliners, a door separates the cockpit from the
aircraft cabin. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, all major
airlines fortified their cockpits against access by hijackers.
3 Flight instruments
3.6 Back-up instruments
4 Aerospace industry technologies
5 See also
8 External links
The word cockpit was originally a sailing term for the coxswain's
station in a
Royal Navy ship, and later the location of the ship's
rudder controls.
Cockpit first appeared in the
English language in the 1580s, "a pit for fighting cocks", from cock +
pit. Used in nautical sense (1706) for midshipmen's compartment below
decks; transferred to airplanes (1914) and to cars (1930s).
From about 1935, cockpit came to be used informally
to refer to the driver's seat of a car, especially a high performance
one, and this is official terminology in Formula One.
In an airliner, the cockpit is usually referred to as the flight deck,
the term deriving from its use by the RAF for the separate, upper
platform in large flying boats where the pilot and co-pilot
sat.[clarification needed][clarification needed] In the US and
many other countries, however, the term cockpit is also used for
The seat of a powerboat racing craft is also referred to as the
The first airplane with an enclosed cabin appeared in 1912 on the Avro
Type F; however, during the early 1920s there were many passenger
aircraft in which the crew remained open to the air while the
passengers sat in a cabin. Military biplanes and the first
single-engined fighters and attack aircraft also had open cockpits,
some as late as the
Second World War
Second World War when enclosed cockpits became the
The largest impediment to having closed cabins was the material the
windows were to be made of. Prior to Perspex becoming available in
1933, windows were either safety glass, which was heavy, or cellulose
nitrate (i.e.: guncotton), which yellowed quickly and was extremely
flammable. In the mid-1920s many aircraft manufacturers began using
enclosed cockpits for the first time. Early airplanes with closed
cockpits include the 1924 Fokker F.VII, the 1926 German Junkers W 34
transport, the 1926 Ford Trimotor, the 1927 Lockheed Vega, the Spirit
of St. Louis and the passenger aircraft manufactured by the Douglas
and Boeing companies during the mid-1930s. Open-cockpit airplanes were
almost extinct by the mid-1950s, with the exception of training
planes, crop-dusters and homebuilt aircraft designs.
Cockpit windows may be equipped with a sun shield. Most cockpits have
windows that can be opened when the aircraft is on the ground. Nearly
all glass windows in large aircraft have an anti-reflective coating,
and an internal heating element to melt ice. Smaller aircraft may be
equipped with a transparent aircraft canopy.
In most cockpits the pilot's control column or joystick is located
centrally (centre stick), although in some military fast jets the
side-stick is located on the right hand side. In some commercial
airliners (i.e.: Airbus—which features the glass cockpit concept)
both pilots use a side-stick located on the outboard side, so
Captain's side-stick on the left and First-officer's seat on the
Except for some helicopters, the right seat in the cockpit of an
aircraft is the seat used by the co-pilot. The captain or pilot in
command sits in the left seat, so that he can operate the throttles
and other pedestal instruments with his right hand. The tradition has
been maintained to this day, with the co-pilot on the right hand
The layout of the cockpit, especially in the military fast jet, has
undergone standardisation, both within and between aircraft,
manufacturers and even nations. An important development was the
"Basic Six" pattern, later the "Basic T", developed from 1937 onwards
by the Royal Air Force, designed to optimise pilot instrument
Ergonomics and Human Factors concerns are important in the design of
modern cockpits. The layout and function of cockpit displays controls
are designed to increase pilot situation awareness without causing
information overload. In the past, many cockpits, especially in
fighter aircraft, limited the size of the pilots that could fit into
them. Now, cockpits are being designed to accommodate from the 1st
percentile female physical size and the 99th percentile male size.
In the design of the cockpit in a military fast jet, the traditional
"knobs and dials" associated with the cockpit are mainly absent.
Instrument panels are now almost wholly replaced by electronic
displays, which are themselves often re-configurable to save space.
While some hard-wired dedicated switches must still be used for
reasons of integrity and safety, many traditional controls are
replaced by multi-function re-configurable controls or so-called "soft
keys". Controls are incorporated onto the stick and throttle to enable
the pilot to maintain a head-up and eyes-out position – the Hands On
Throttle And Stick or
HOTAS concept,. These controls may be then
further augmented by control media such as head pointing with a Helmet
Mounted Sighting System or
Direct voice input (DVI). Advances in
auditory displays allow for Direct Voice Output of aircraft status
information and for the spatial localisation of warning sounds for
improved monitoring of aircraft systems.
The layout of control panels in modern airliners has become largely
unified across the industry. The majority of the systems-related
controls (such as electrical, fuel, hydraulics and pressurization) for
example, are usually located in the ceiling on an overhead panel.
Radios are generally placed on a panel between the pilot's seats known
as the pedestal. Automatic flight controls such as the autopilot are
usually placed just below the windscreen and above the main instrument
panel on the glareshield. A central concept in the design of the
cockpit is the
Design Eye Position or "DEP", from which point all
displays should be visible.
Most modern cockpits will also include some kind of integrated warning
In a 2013 comparative study of a number of novel methods for
cockpit-user interaction, touchscreen produced the largest number of
USAF and IAF airmen work inside the cockpit of an IAF Ilyushin Il-76
Vickers VC10 cockpit of the 1960s
A later analogue cockpit (1970s) of a
Hawker Siddeley Trident
Hawker Siddeley Trident airliner
In the modern electronic cockpit, the electronic flight instruments
usually regarded as essential are MCP, PFD, ND, EICAS, FMS/CDU and
A mode control panel, usually a long narrow panel located centrally in
front of the pilot, may be used to control heading, speed, altitude,
vertical speed, vertical navigation and lateral navigation. It may
also be used to engage or disengage both the autopilot and the
autothrottle. The panel as an area is usually referred to as the
"glareshield panel". MCP is a Boeing designation (that has been
informally adopted as a generic name for the unit/panel) for a unit
that allows for the selection and parameter setting of the different
autoflight functions, the same unit on an Airbus aircraft is referred
to as the FCU (Flight Control unit).
The primary flight display is usually located in a prominent position,
either centrally or on either side of the cockpit. It will in most
cases include a digitized presentation of the attitude indicator, air
speed and altitude indicators (usually as a tape display) and the
vertical speed indicator. It will in many cases include some form of
heading indicator and ILS/VOR deviation indicators. In many cases an
indicator of the engaged and armed autoflight system modes will be
present along with some form of indication of the selected values for
altitude, speed, vertical speed and heading. It may be pilot
selectable to swap with the ND.
A navigation display, which may be adjacent to the PFD, shows the
route and information on the next waypoint, wind speed and wind
direction. It may be pilot selectable to swap with the PFD.
The Engine Indication and Crew Alerting System (used for Boeing) or
Aircraft Monitor (for Airbus) will allow the
pilot to monitor the following information: values for N1, N2 and N3,
fuel temperature, fuel flow, the electrical system, cockpit or cabin
temperature and pressure, control surfaces and so on. The pilot may
select display of information by means of button press.
The flight management system/control unit may be used by the pilot to
enter and check for the following information: flight plan, speed
control, navigation control, and so on.
In a less prominent part of the cockpit, in case of failure of the
other instruments, there will be a battery-powered integrated standby
instrument system along with a magnetic compass, showing essential
flight information such as speed, altitude, attitude and heading.
Aerospace industry technologies
In the U.S. the
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have researched the
ergonomic aspects of cockpit design and have conducted investigations
of airline industry accidents.
Cockpit design disciplines include
Cognitive science, Neuroscience, Human–computer interaction, Human
Anthropometry and Ergonomics.
Aircraft designs have adopted the fully digital "glass cockpit". In
such designs, instruments and gauges, including navigational map
displays, use a user interface markup language known as ARINC 661.
This standard defines the interface between an independent cockpit
display system, generally produced by a single manufacturer, and the
avionics equipment and user applications it is required to support, by
means of displays and controls, often made by different manufacturers.
The separation between the overall display system, and the
applications driving it, allows for specialization and independence.
Cockpit – from stick-and-string to fly-by-wire, by L.
F. E. Coombes, 1990, Patrick Stephens Limited, Wellingborough.
Fighting Cockpits: 1914 – 2000, by L. F. E. Coombes, 1999, Airlife
Publishing Limited, Shrewsbury.
Control In The Sky: The Evolution and History of The
by L. F. E. Coombes, 2005, Pen and Sword Books Limited, Barnsley.
^ "Press Release – FAA Sets New Standards for
Faa.gov. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved
^ a b Godfey, Kara (25 May 2017). "FLIGHTS REVEALED: Pilot reveals
what REALLY goes on in a cockpit...and it may surprise you". The
Express. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
^ Roderick Bailey Forgotten Voices of D-Day: A New History of the
Normandy Landings, p. 189, at Google Books
^ S. A. Cavell Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy,
1771–1831, p. 12, at Google Books
^ Peter Stanley For Fear of Pain: British Surgery, 1790–1850, p.
100, at Google Books
^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved
^ David Levinson and Karen Christensen Encyclopedia of World Sport:
From Ancient Times to the Present, p. 145, at Google Books
^ Richards, Giles (22 July 2017). "FIA defends decision to enforce F1
halo cockpit protection device for 2018". The Guardian. Retrieved 30
^ "Sunderland flying boat replica cockpit unveiled". bbc.co.uk. 21
April 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
^ By David D. Allyn Yardarm and
Cockpit Hardcover, p. 225, at Google
^ Bob Wartinger A Driver's Guide to Safe Boat Racing (2008), p. 17, at
^ The Right Seat Handbook: A White-Knuckle Flier's Guide to Light
^ Stanton, N. A., Harvey, C., Plant, K. L. and Bolton, L., 2013, "To
twist, roll, stroke or poke. A study of input devices for menu
navigation in the cockpit", Ergonomic Abstracts, Vol. 56 (4), pp.
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