What is a Cockpit?

Diane Goettel

A cockpit, which is also sometimes referred to as a flight deck is an area located in the front of an aircraft from which the pilot controls the movements of the aircraft. Inside the cockpit, there is a panel of instruments and controls that are used to take off, land, and control the progress of the flight. The size of a cockpit is usually directly related to the size of an aircraft as a whole. In many cases, the cockpit is closed off from the rest of the aircraft and is only accessed by the pilot and a co-pilot or flight crew members.

The cockpit of a commercial airliner is only accessed by the pilot, co-pilot, and select cabin crew.
The cockpit of a commercial airliner is only accessed by the pilot, co-pilot, and select cabin crew.

The controls and instruments in a cockpit depend on the aircraft model and size. In airplanes that are large enough to have a pilot and a co-pilot, there are usually duplicates of some of the controls and instruments with a set that is accessible from each of their seats. This allows the pilot or the co-pilot to be able to control the plane as needed during take off, during landing, and while in flight.

The cockpit of fighter aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, is usually located above the nose and under a bubble canopy.
The cockpit of fighter aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, is usually located above the nose and under a bubble canopy.

The various systems that are incorporated into the control panel in a cockpit include instruments that are used to direct the path of the aircraft, as well as instruments that are used to monitor various parts of the aircraft. Engine-monitoring instruments reflect information regarding the engine's functions such as the cylinder temperature, the exhaust gas temperature, the oil pressure, and the oil temperature. There are also instruments that are used to relay warning messages in the event of a problem with one of the parts of the plane.

Cockpit instruments may include an altimeter to display an aircraft's altitude above sea level.
Cockpit instruments may include an altimeter to display an aircraft's altitude above sea level.

In addition to the controls and instruments that are used to manage the movements of an aircraft, there are also instruments that are used to stay in touch with agencies that are overseeing or controlling air traffic. As these instruments are crucial to the safe and successful takeoff, flight, and landing of a plane, there are often two radio sets, even in rather small aircraft, in case one of them fails. On commercial airplanes, there is often a public announcement system that allows the pilot or co-pilot to report flight information. These kinds of planes are also sometimes outfitted with communication systems that allow the pilot to communicate directly with members of the flight crew.

The cockpit of a modern passenger plane is located at the front of the cabin.
The cockpit of a modern passenger plane is located at the front of the cabin.
A control panel is part of an airplane's cockpit.
A control panel is part of an airplane's cockpit.

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