Fighting Cockpits: In the Pilot's Seat of Great Military Aircraft from World War I to Today

By Willingham, Frank | Air Power History, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Fighting Cockpits: In the Pilot's Seat of Great Military Aircraft from World War I to Today


Willingham, Frank, Air Power History


Fighting Cockpits: In the Pilot's Seat of Great Military Aircraft from World War I to Today. By Donald Nijboer (Author), and Dan Patterson (Photographer). Minneapolis MN: Zenith Press, 2016. Photographs. Illustrations. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 224. $40.00 ISBN: 0760349568

Nijboer is a best-selling aviation author, historian, documentary writer/producer, college instructor, and speaker. His articles have appeared in Flight Journal, Aviation History, and Aeroplane Monthly. He currently writes and produces aviation documentaries for Aerocinema.

Patterson is an accomplished photographer who has excelled in the fields of portraiture, architecture, and aviation. His work has been featured in twenty-three books. In 2003, he received the first annual Harry B. Combs Award from the National Aviation Hall of Fame for Excellence in the Preservation of Aviation History. Also, he has lectured widely on aviation.

Fighting Cockpits surveys the evolution of cockpit design and relates it to performance and operation of aircraft from the Nieuport 28 to the Lockheed-Martin F--35. From the onset, the cockpit was typically the last part of the aircraft to receive design attention. World War II showed some ergonomic and layout improvements. But, it wasn't until the later jet age, with the advent of complex systems and high pilot workloads, that more attention was focused on cockpit design. This evolution is shown through full-page photographs of over fifty cockpits, divided into four progressive chapters. Each chapter begins with a short overview of aircraft and cockpit improvements through the period including engineering highlights and operational impact. This is followed by pilot impressions of cockpit design and aircraft performance.

Chapter 1, World War I, covers the beginnings of airpower--virtually unknown and believed to play only a minor role in warfare--reconnaissance. When the war started, the combatants had merely 2000 pilots and 1000 aircraft. Bombers and pursuit aircraft were unknown. Cockpits contained a minimum of haphazardly placed instruments. By the end of the conflict, 150,000 aircraft had been produced, with the additional roles of bomber, fighter, ground attack and maritime patrol. …

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