Basically like the functionality of a rear-view mirror in a car. It's made known that pilots have all the information, hence they might not need the feature, but my question is to know if such a feature exists in modern commercial airlines.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Civilian or military? Related: Why don't airliners have any mirrors or cameras? $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jul 21, 2016 at 12:11
  • $\begingroup$ Why would they need to? Most modern aircraft usually don't "power-back", there are a few exceptions but usually those aircraft have good rearward visibility. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jul 21, 2016 at 13:32
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Worth noting that, in Instrument Conditions, the pilot doesn't necessarily have the ability to look in front of the aircraft, either.... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Jul 21, 2016 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ Interestingly, the A380 has a camera on the vertical stabilizer, but opposed to what you might expect, it faces forward. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2016 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ @JonStory: Exactly what I edited my question to. $\endgroup$
    – Firee
    Jul 22, 2016 at 5:20

3 Answers 3


Some do, some don't.

It depends by the type of the aircraft and by the need to see behind the aircraft itself.

Just as an example, this is a render of a Boeing F/A-18E "Super-Hornet" cockpit:

Source Wikimedia

On the canopy's frame are located three adjustable mirrors (like the one on the windshield of a car) the pilot can use to see what's happening behind him.

As already stated in comments, aircraft usually don't "power-back" and there is no overtaking like in cars (where cars from behind can overtake you just from left or right), so usually there is no need of mirrors inside a cockpit.

In a military aircraft, mirrors increase your situational awareness, but

  • with a wide Field-of-View (FoV), details or a distant aircraft or missile cannot be seen
  • with a narrow FoV, a smaller portion of the sky is visible

Just for reference, the F-16 or the F-22, both featuring a single piece canopy, don't have rear view mirrors. The pilot must turn the head as much as he/she can and look behind.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've been told before that the mirrors are primarily only for spotting if you're leaving con-trails behind you, which would be a dangerous giveaway for a fighter jet. Their field of view is too small for situational awareness. I'm not sure how true it is, but it sounds reasonable. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Jul 21, 2016 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ @abelenky Well, at least to me, it sounds not so much reasonable, because then I should ask... why three mirrors? Beside this, fighter pilots usually fly in formation. A wingman could easily spot contrails (and other threats, by the way) for the leader or vice versa. $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2016 at 10:12

Almost all tow planes have rear view mirrors mounted in them so they can see the glider and the tow rope.

You can see mirrors mounted on the cowlings of these Piper Pawnee tow planes.

pawnee tow plane

enter image description here


There is one example that I can think of.

The Norhrop Grumman AN / AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System,

Developed for the F-35 airplane, this sensor suite for the aircraft consists of six visible and infrared cameras placed at points around the fuselage. The images which these cameras create are fed to a central processor, which not only uses the information for automated functions such as missile launch warnings, but also creates a 360deg picture of the space around the jet projected directly onto the visor of the pilot's half million dollar helmet.



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