Technology Satisfies Cockpit Curiosity

By Scott Spangler on February 15th, 2016

NAHA-55Maybe it’s a pilot thing, but I find the insides of airplanes just as interesting, and often more interesting, than their outsides. Cockpits and crew stations is where humans interface with the machine that carries them aloft, and I’m always curious to see how engineers of the era approached this connection.

Previously unexplored—or unattainable—positions, like the tail gunner’s station on the B-52D Stratofortress, amplifies the curiosity to almost intolerable levels. Before radar replaced the gunner that flew in this lonely, pressurized cubicle separate from the rest of the crew (and how did he get in and out anyway?), what did his world look like, and what could he see out those tiny windows?


Courtesy of YouTube I’ve spent way too much time searching for and watching the Cockpit 360 videos created by AeroCapture Images. Courtesy of a news release from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, I’ve learned that there’s a free ACI Cockpit360º app that allows museum goers to satisfy their cockpit curiosity on their smart phones, which encourages me to investigate the acquisition of one of these devices.

Until that time, however, the Air Force Museum was kind enough to post their Cockpit 360 videos to its website. And after 40 years of wondering, my B-52 tail gun curiosity is satisfied…almost. I still don’t know how the gunner reached his lonely outpost.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force isn’t the only institution that employs ACI Cockpit360 videos. The ACI Cockpit 360 website lists many more, but in visiting a lot of them online, few of them post their cockpit curiosity tours online. You must visit with your smart phone. The Historic Flight Foundation posts its North American B-25, P-51 Mustang, and T-6 Texan and its Grumman F8F Bearcat and F7F Tigercat cockpits online.

The Air Force news release announced the addition of 15 new aircraft to the Cockpit 360 videos in the museum’s library, which now totals 60 different aircraft. Many of them, like the B-52, with more than one video per airframe.

The most interesting video on the site show how Lyle Jansma of ACI, records the high definition images with a Canon 5D Mark II camera body. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to check out the P-61 Black Widow and the B-36 Peacemaker. – Scott Spangler, Editor

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One Response to “Technology Satisfies Cockpit Curiosity”

  1. David Hipschman Says:

    Another fine column. Thanks Scott, you always takes us to great places.

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