Well... all is said in the title. I mean "traditional" powered airplane, with a cockpit and long flight capable, not a paraglider.

Upright pilot or prone pilot would qualify. Likely experimental or military.

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The concept was once studied with the XF-90, but didn't get to reality.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A bit related. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Dec 21, 2016 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ And of course, the most famous aircraft of all $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Dec 21, 2016 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer Not strictly an aircraft, but a powered flying machine. I see your Wright Flyer and raise you the Lunar Excursion Module $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Dec 21, 2016 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ @mins With tongue in cheek, there are several types of flying machine that do not require aerodynamic lift. Consider the Giffard dirigible for example. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Dec 21, 2016 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ Most modern airliners could be fitted with a couch or beanbags for pilot comfort in flight, but it looks much more professional to sit up looking forwards at the clouds. $\endgroup$
    – Rich
    Dec 22, 2016 at 2:16

3 Answers 3


In the first ones the pilot was rarely sitting. Inspired by ships, some early aviators steered their craft by standing upright:

  • Almost all balloons were and still are flown standing upright. Same goes for all Zeppelins, and they should qualify as powered aircraft.
  • All Lilienthal glider designs required the pilot to stick the forearm through a tube and grab a horizontal bar, so his weight would rest on the forearm. Steering was done by swinging the legs left or right rsp. back or forward. The legs also doubled as the landing gear, much like in modern hang gliders. Lilienthal experimented with carbon dioxide engines, so some of his gliders can be called powered.
  • Gustave Whitehead's Number 21 design of 1901 was flown standing upright, but it is disputed that he actually flew it successfully.
  • The early Wright Flyers were flown in a prone position. Sitting came later.
  • The Santos-Dumont 14bis of 1906 was flown standing upright. Similarly to the Wrights, Santos-Dumont's later designs like the Demoisielle had a proper seat.

Santos-Dumont training to fly his 14bis

Santos-Dumont training to fly his 14bis (picture source)

  • The Horten gliders were flown in a prone position so the pilot would present a lower cross section. The Horten IIId was a motor glider version using a 32hp Volkswagen engine, so this should count as powered, too.

  • Before anti-g suits were perfected, some designs used a prone pilot position to increase the possible g loads. Here is an answer which covers this aspect.

  • René Leduc's ramjet-powered experimental aircraft used an almost lying position for the pilot to keep the cross section of the centerbody small.

Yvan Littolff in the cockpit of the Leduc 021

Yvan Littolff in the cockpit of the Leduc 021 (picture source)

  • Most hang gliders use a prone or almost lying position for reducing the drag the pilot causes. The powered ones should also qualify here. Same goes for motor gliders derived from sailplanes, where the pilot position is almost lying, too.

Yes, but probably not what you have in mind.

The Hiller Pawnee had the pilot in a standing position.

Some weight-shift hang glider pilots are prone.

Hot air balloon pilots stand up.


I would also submit the Henschel Hs-132

Never flew, but four were built.

Based on the Volksjager

WW2 had the most gorgeous aircraft.....now everything is all angles and who can lock on and fire their missiles first.....

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    $\begingroup$ The Hs-132 was an independent design and quite different from the He-162. Only the configuration was the same. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2016 at 8:23

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