The wonderful SR-71 ha what looks to me an intimidating cockpit: enter image description here

However, lots of planes of that era have ostensibly-similar cockpits to the layman, take this F-5 for instance:

enter image description here

I choose the F-5 as it was flying around the time the SR-71 was introduced, and thus potential SR-71 pilots may have been familiar with it. Would the cockpit designers have taken this into consideration? In general, are next-generation airplane cockpits designed to be familiar to pilots of current-generation aircraft?

Elements that may or may not be taken into consideration:

  • Placement and relative placement or grouping of instruments
  • Size and relative size of instruments
  • Lighting, colours
  • Calibration
  • Materials selection
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I strongly suspect, but have no direct evidence to back it up, that there's a minimum set of instruments and controls needed to operate either aircraft safely. You're going to need basic flight instruments, engine instruments, fuel gauges, radios, etc., almost no matter which type you're in; and for example, a jet airplane needs more instruments than a piston for engine monitoring. Everything beyond that is just a choice on how to lay things out in the cramped space of a small airplane cockpit. I doubt many pilots, even low-hours GA pilots, wouldn't readily recognize the basic instruments. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 11:03

1 Answer 1


Unless there is regulation enforcing certain aspects (e.g. as in the automotive sector), it is practicability would be the most probable cause leading to similar-ish cockpit designs.

Another reason would be convention, e.g. prior to the introduction of the side-stick, the center-stick was the way to do it.

Also, ergonomics is a very strong driver. During the landing approach, you wouldn't want to take your eyes far away from the windscreen to check altitude, speed and rate of sinking. Thus, these instruments are found in similar locations in most airplanes.


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