Huge Cockpit Is “Bridge” of Giant Plane (Apr, 1939)

Wouldn’t it be better for the pilot to control the engines? Designing an airplane like a flying ship doesn’t seem like a great idea. Plus, that’s a pretty damn large cockpit!

Actually  Charlie,  everyone but Charlene pretty much got it wrong.  The pilots did indeed have engine controls in the cockpit as evidenced by the photograph in this article from Flight magazine.  A close up of the controls at the flight engineer console can be zoomed to where you can just read the labels on the first two sets of levers: Engine Cowl Flaps and Manifold Pressure Controls.  So the pilot “controls” the engines with the throttles, trim levers and mixture controls at his station but the engines are “managed”  and monitored by the Flight Engineer.

Huge Cockpit Is “Bridge” of Giant Plane
FIFTEEN times as large as the cockpit of a modern twin-motor transport, the huge control room pictured on this page is the nerve center of a seventy-four-passenger clipper plane, one of a fleet of six being constructed at Seattle, Wash., for transoceanic service. In the photograph at the left, four of the six stations within the spacious cockpit are visible: the chief pilot’s, the second pilot’s, the navigator’s, and the radio operator’s. The ship’s captain has a desk at the left rear of the cockpit, while the right rear section is occupied by the flight engineer, shown above controlling the operations of the four 1,500-horsepower motors.

  1. Charlene says: July 18, 20128:21 am

    The problem was excessive workload, especially at takeoff and landing. Piston engines of the time needed to be closely monitored – babied, really – and it just wasn’t possible for the pilot to keep a close eye on all the gauges and indicators for four engines while at the same time fly the plane. This aircraft, which I believe is the Boeing 314, was among the first to require a separate flight engineer.

    A lot of cargo operators still fly aircraft that call for a three-man crew. The MD-10 is a modified DC-10 that (among other changes) retrofits the cockpit to eliminate the flight engineer position, but for smaller operators the cost of retrofitting might not justify the savings in salaries. Most of Fed Ex’s DC-10s are retrofitted into MD-10s because that way they can use the same crews for the MD-10s and MD-11s in their fleet.

  2. Toronto says: July 18, 20126:23 pm

    There’s a throttle, mixture lever, prop pitch control, carb heat, and magneto controls (A/B and timing) for each engine, too. He *was* the engine management computer.

    And don’t forget the 4500 gallons of fuel and 350 gallons of oil to keep track of.

  3. JMyint says: July 19, 20127:19 am

    Good call on that Boeing 314 Charlene.


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