What is the purpose of the clear windows in some helicopters in the floor of the nose, right where the pilot's feet and pedals are?

For example, here's a Huey with windows clearly visible:

Huey helicopter

Airbus helicopter example:

Airbus helicopter

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    $\begingroup$ I was involved in a Search & Rescue many years ago, using a C-130 Hercules. While 2 "spotters" were based at the side doors to the rear, there were 2 more looking through windows near the pilot / co-pilot feet. So the ability to look down is not limited to helicopters. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ The usual purpose of windows is ....... to see through! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ Honestly, I was tempted to downvote the question because the answer seemed so obvious. But for all I know, there could have been another reason well-known to pilots but not to civilians like Sam and me. My first question on this forum probably got a few actual facepalms. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 21:50

2 Answers 2


These fall into a category known as vertical reference windows. They can be used for many purposes, but essentially, they allow us to gain a better spatial picture of the orientation of our aircraft, the skids, and anything that might be slung beneath the aircraft. As someone who has landed many helicopters on trailers, it is extremely helpful to be able to see through the floor when precisely placing the skids. Holding a pinnacle approach and hover is much easier to execute as well. Further, when you have something on a line, it makes it easier to keep it in view, especially when it is closer to the aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ Also because when the engine quits and you start gliding, what you can see between your feet is where you're going lol. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ I guess a better question might be why do (most) fixed-wing aircraft not have this feature? It might be helpful to see the ground directly below you when landing a regular plane as well. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman: I guess because in most light, single, engine planes there’s an engine in front of you. Even in some light twins, they put other things up front like luggage or a cabin heater, etc. Plus, airplanes are usually still moving fairly quickly when they touch down. You want pilots to keep their eyes up, not looking down through the floor. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ @AaronHolmes Yeah, if you're looking down at your feet during touchdown on an airplane, you're probably doing it wrong. Maintaining the centerline is much easier if you're looking at the runway way out in front of you, not directly underneath you. Now, for taxiing very long aircraft, being able to see the location of the nose gear relative to the pavement actually can be helpful, which is why some newer heavy jets have foward-facing cameras on the bottom of the fuselage aft of the nose gear. As a bonus, airlines can also choose to attach it to the IFE system and give the pax a cool view. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman Helicopters can hover and descend vertically, so floor windows can help you to look down and see where you're going. In general, if a fixed-wing aircraft is flying at an angle where floor windows would show you where you're going, something has gone very wrong. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 8:25

I assume because being able to see straight down helps in an aircraft capable of vertical movement and landing, especially when flaring. That would suck to only be able to see up when you're moving down towards a solid object.


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