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Why is the Front of the Plane Called the Cockpit?

When you get on a plane, you know what to expect: rows of seats and many people with their luggage. But, have you ever thought about the other parts of the plane? Like the cockpit, the part of the plane where the pilot flies the plane and gets you safely to your destination. 

Cockpits are an important part of the plane… without them, the plane wouldn’t move! But why is the front of the plane called the cockpit?

Here is the origin of the cockpit according to Lexico:

Cockpit derives from a nautical term denoting an area in the aft lower deck of a man-of-war where the wounded were taken, later coming to mean ‘the ‘pit’ or well from which a yacht is steered’; hence the place housing the controls of other vehicles.

So the place on a boat where they would drive and steer was called the pit. After airplanes were invented, they had similar control areas, so they got a similar name: the cockpit!

This article details other names for the cockpit and the difference between a cockpit and a flight deck. We also go over whether or not passengers can go into the cockpit. 

What is the Cockpit Also Called?

Even though most people refer to the front of the plane as the cockpit, there are some other names for it. Here are some words you might hear people use instead of the cockpit:

  • Pilot compartment
  • The pit
  • Pilot quarters
  • The deck
  • The control compartment
  • The cabin

But, one of the most common synonyms for a cockpit is the flight deck, which we’ll explain later in the article!

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Can Passengers Go Into the Cockpit?

view into the airplane cockpit

Many people do not know this, but passengers can go into the cockpit. However, it is always at the pilot’s discretion, and there is no guarantee that you will be able to visit it. 

Your best bet is to ask the pilot as you get off the plane. The crew is often standing near the cockpit, waiting for everyone to deplane. Try to be one of the last people to leave your seat, and ask the pilot before stepping off the plane. 

It is possible to go into the cockpit during boarding or before the flight, but quite unlikely since the crew is busy preparing for the flight. If you are on a small flight or a flight that is not at a busy time, like early or late flights, you have a better chance of visiting the cockpit before the flight.

And, of course, you are not allowed to go in the cockpit during the flight for safety reasons. 

If you want a better chance at visiting the cockpit, talk to the gate staff or flight attendants and ask if and when it would be possible. You will have to do this before boarding or after the flight takes off, so make sure you know when planes start boarding, so you are early enough. 

If you don’t get a chance to visit the cockpit on one flight, try again next time you fly! All pilots are different, and some are more willing to show you around than others. 

What is the Difference Between a Cockpit and a Flight Deck?

old airplane bomber cockpit

Sometimes you may hear people refer to the front of the plane as the flight deck instead of the cockpit. For example, the pilot or flight attendants might make an announcement on a flight and reference the flight deck. They are referring to the cockpit. 

But is there a difference between a cockpit and a flight deck?

In general, like for passenger planes, you can use the two terms interchangeably, and people will know what you’re talking about. The word that someone uses will vary depending on where they’re from or what word they hear used most often in reference to the front of the plane.

But, in a military plane, the two terms mean different things. A cockpit is small; usually just a seat you sit in and stay in for the whole flight. Cockpits are common in small military jets, and you cannot move around in them.

A flight deck is much bigger, and you can move around in it, like in a passenger plane. Even if the flight deck is not big, you can stand and walk at least a little bit. 

Another part of the plane that people forget about is the cargo hold. Now that you know all about the cockpit, learn about a plane’s cargo hold!

Hayden Wall

Hayden is the founder of Travel Gear Discounts and tries to vacation as much as possible. He loves finding the latest travel accessories that will make getting out easier and planning the perfect weekend getaway.