Is there a distinction between a cockpit and a flight deck on an aircraft, or are the terms interchangeable?

Boeing refers to the flight deck The new Flight-Deck Displays and Airbus refers to the cockpit Passenger Aircraft>Cockpits

Based on this image,

Vice President Dick Cheney inside a B-2 cockpit with pilot Capt. Luke Jayne during a visit to Whiteman AFB, 2006

would the B-2 be described as having a cockpit or a flight deck, or is there not enough information in this image?


They refer to the same thing, but there is some separation between the terms, especially in the military. A cockpit is a hole with a seat that you strap into for the entire flight. A flight deck is a larger place where you can at least leave your seat and walk behind it.

The traditional nautical term "cockpit" used to refer to a fairly small steering station. "Flight deck" is a newer and more formal term, to which Boeing switched post-WWII for their large aircraft. A heavy's flight deck is often called a cockpit, but a pointy's (jet fighter) cockpit is very unlikely to be called a flight deck in speech.

In general and civil aviation, the terms are closer to interchangeable. Still, a ULA's cockpit is not a flight deck, so there is a connotation of a flight deck actually being a deck.

In response to question edit: The B-2 has a flight deck, same for the Su-34. Both can be called a cockpit as well. Basically, solo/tandem seating with entry through canopy = cockpit, side-by-side seating with side/bottom entry = flight deck or cockpit in non-Boeing aircraft or less-official contexts.

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    $\begingroup$ I assume the term pointy refers an aircraft with a very narrow area where the pilot sits and cannot get up and move around. Technically wouldn't the images from both Airbus and Boeing be of flight decks? $\endgroup$ – Bob516 Jun 29 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Bob516 Pointy = jet fighter (because of their pointy noses). I deliberately used jargon, because this is very much an English-specific jargon/terminology question. $\endgroup$ – Therac Jun 29 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ What's a ULA? (I'm assuming you aren't talking about this ULA.) $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 29 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean ULA = Ultralight Aircraft. $\endgroup$ – Therac Jun 29 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Therac: Ah, thanx. $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 29 at 21:29

The terms are one in the same. Cockpit is a little more archaic and derives from a nautical term used by the Royal Navy. But both terms mean the section of an aircraft where the flight crew is stationed in order to command and control the flight of that aircraft.


Some organizations prefer one term in their style guide, while others prefer the other. There is no substantive difference between them that I've ever encountered.


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