Why are Cockpits Called
The first “cockpits” were actual pits in the ground constructed (to
the extent that one “constructs” a pit) to house “cockfights” to the death
between game cocks.
The term came to be applied to the rear part of the lowest deck, the
orlop, of a fighting ship (orlop is from Dutch overloop, a covering). During
a battle it became the station for the ship’s surgeon and his mates because
it was relatively safe and least subject to disturbance by the movements
of the ship.
Like all lower-deck spaces, it was confined, crowded, and badly lit.
During a battle, it was also noisy, stinking and bloody. All this reminded
people of a real cock-pit, hence the name. About 200 years ago, on 21 October
1805, Admiral Lord Nelson died in the cockpit of HMS Victory during the
battle of Trafalgar.
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 when
enclosed cockpits became the norm.
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, theSpirit 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 right.
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 side.
The layout of the cockpit, especially in the military fast jet, has
undergone standardisation, both within and between aircraft different manufacturers
and even different nations. One of the most important developments was
the “Basic Six” pattern, later the “Basic T”, developed from 1937 onwards
by the Royal Air Force, designed to optimise pilot instrument scanning.
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.
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 so-called Hands
On Throttle And Stick or HOTAS concept. These controls may be then further
augmented by new control media such as head pointing with a Helmet Mounted
Sighting System or Direct voice input (DVI). New advances in auditory displays
even allow for Direct Voice Output of aircraft status information and for
the spatial localisation of warning sounds for improved monitoring of aircraft