The empty, dolphin-like, forehead of the A380 seems like it would be an amazing place for the first and/or business class bar, especially if it had forward-facing windows.

I realize in the A380's case there are crew rest and storage compartments in that space, but wondered if there have ever been any passenger planes outfitted with forward-facing windows to enjoy the view?

Lufthansa A380 Image source: lufthansa.com

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    Not a complete answer, but there were plans to build a plane with a viewing dome on top of the fuselage. I haven't heard anything more about it so I'm guessing that, unsurprisingly, it was never put into production. – KlaymenDK Aug 6 at 9:48
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    Probably because of the cost, weight, and structural complications that large windows entail. Party Ark's examples are all older aircraft that fly lower and slower than modern ones. – KlaymenDK Aug 6 at 15:19
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    Other than takeoff and landing, is the view from the front that much better than from the side? Enough to pay for the high cost of building it? During takeoff and landings, no one would be allowed in the view lounge anyway, so seems like the most interesting view would be wasted. – Johnny Aug 6 at 17:47
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    The view from the front is always better. It stinks to have to sit facing sideways, craning your neck to see out a little porthole that always seem to mounted too low (or the seats are too high), especially around someone else's head. I have flying commercial for that reason, vs flying my own plane. All the way across the US for business I don't really have a choice, but I never look forward to it. – CrossRoads Aug 7 at 0:10
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    From my limited experience of commercial flight, it seems that the great majority would rather watch in-flight TV than look out the windows. – jamesqf Aug 7 at 17:07
up vote 69 down vote accepted

We could start with the Tupolev ANT-20 with its rather daring forward-facing passenger gallery. [edit - the prime seat right at the front in the gallery was for the navigator and his equipment.]

ANT-20 source ANT-20

Like the Tupolev, most examples are inter-war. Here is the moderately successful Latécoère 521 being assembled showing its gallery beneath the cockpit [edit - seems this was only for the navigator, not for passengers] :

Latécoère 521 source

... and the more esoteric Caproni Ca.60 which would have made for an interesting journey had it entered service -

Caproni Ca.60 source

-- EDIT - one special mention for the Junkers G.38 which also had a sizable glazed area in the wings. Unfortunately as far as I can tell (and despite what Wikipedia says) neither the nose nor wings were accessible by the passengers, but rather used by the navigators and engineers, which seems like a missed opportunity. [ed. the wing area was indeed intended for passenger, see comments]

Junkers G.38 source

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    I was wondering why the Caproni Ca.60 looked familiar before I realized: Hayao Miyazaki animated that amazing aircraft in his film The Wind Rises. – tonysdg Aug 6 at 14:15
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    Did the ANT-20's flight pilot/etc share the nose with the passenger gallery, or were they in the pod structure on the top? – Dan Neely Aug 6 at 14:25
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    @DanNeely the cutaway isn't brilliant, but it and the photo do show the cockpit area above and behind the gallery in a fairly conventional manner. The pod on top of the upper engine is not, despite appearances, for a person, but part of the cooling for the engine. There's a better cutaway here - flickr.com/photos/x-ray_delta_one/6986518667 – Party Ark Aug 6 at 16:24
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    thank you. That picture was clearer, or was after I went into the page source to find the full res version. For some reason Flickr was only showing the lower res version even though it had a better one available. – Dan Neely Aug 6 at 17:01
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    It's good to have a healthy skepticism for Wikipedia, but maybe you trust NACA aircraft circular 116 more. The wing of the Junkers G-38 held six passenger seats, three on each side. The walkway for engine inspection was behind the forward passenger cabin. – Peter Kämpf Aug 6 at 21:50

Boeing 747

I'm a little surprised to not already see the Queen of the Skies here. If 'partially forward' counts, the first several windows on each side of the lower deck of the 747 are angled partially forward. The angle is enough that passengers seated in the first row or so can indeed see directly in front of the aircraft.

KLM 747-400 Front View
KLM 747-400 Front View - Image Source: Wikipedia

Many 747 operators choose to install First or Business class seats in the forward part of the lower deck. Especially with some of the "reverse herringbone" style business class configurations, where the seats are angled relative to the cabin wall, this can result in the first row or two facing more-or-less straight forward with a window in front of them. This was the case with Delta's 747-400 configuration, for example. The 747 is notable as one of the few, if not the only, modern airliner to offer such a view to passengers through an actual window (as opposed to camera views on the IFE screens.)

Of course, there aren't any windows facing directly forward on the lower deck, as that would require placing them on the front of the nose itself, where the radome is.

That would definitely be an appealing feature for passengers but the airframe of the A380 at its forehead is too curved to be able to fit a viewing area for passengers. Furthermore, the design and operational (aerodynamic) costs associated with structuring an aircraft to be able to fit a cockpit and a forward viewing area, along with the cost of another set of cockpit-spec windows has economically ruled out such a feature for modern airlines competing in a market where ticket price rules all.

I would imagine airlines would opt to install remote viewing stations connected to external cameras before creating a space with forward facing windows. In fact, some airlines have already started to do just that -- Etihad's First Class "Apartment" seats have monitors that are connected to cameras with different viewing angles outside of the plane.

Many Soviet passenger aircraft did in fact have viewing areas in the nose of the aircraft aside from the cockpit. Unfortunately for travelers, these areas were designated for navigators, not passengers. Some examples:

Tu-104:

enter image description here

Tu-134:

enter image description here

An-12:

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    The scumclass seat I was allocated on my Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Auckland (in Q1 2018) also had cameras accessible via the seat mounted monitor. We had great fun watching approach and landing. – Gusdor Aug 6 at 13:16
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    Those Russian aircraft look like convertible bombers. That "navigator" position in the nose looks a lot like the bomb sight compartment. – Mike Brass Aug 7 at 2:59
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    @Gusdor Same with my Qantas A380 flight earlier this year; the in-flight entertainment screen (even in coach) had an option to see a feed from a camera mounted on the upper forward part of the tail. – bogardpd Aug 7 at 21:07
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    @bogardpd The cameras are on the 777-300ER, A380, and at least some A350s. – reirab Aug 7 at 22:06
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    @Gusdor reminds me: on a recent Emirates flight a radio program about the Dubai World Expo featured a speaker about future of airplanes. He suggested that eliminating windows altogether and replacing them with cameras and screens would save 1/3 of fuselage weight, allowing for faster flight/ shorter trips at same fuel cost – jdog Aug 8 at 8:32

Another two examples from the Farman Aviation Works, purveyors of the world's ugliest aircraft. Unlike the ANT-20 (the gallery primarily for the navigator), the Caproni (never operational) and the Junkers (where the wing pods are separate from the passenger compartment), the Farman F.120 and the F.60 "Goliath" were designed with the full gallery experience in mind.

The forward view in the Goliath was interrupted on the left hand side of the fuselage by the walkway up to the exposed cockpit on top. However, the F.120 had, I think, exactly what is being asked for - uninterrupted forward view for the passengers.

Farman F.120 interior F.120 interior source

F.120 in flight F.120 in flight (also known variously and confusingly as the F.3X and F.4X) source

F60 "This unidentified horse accompanied Miss Betty Rand and the Hamm brothers from London to Paris aboard the Farman F.60 Normandie in 1922." source

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    Look! Herringbone seating! And Branson claimed he had a patent on it! :) – Zeus Aug 8 at 3:42
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    That F.60 looks like a tramcar with wings. – Sean Aug 8 at 21:03
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    +1 for wicker chairs on an aircraft – djsmiley2k Aug 9 at 9:23

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