Civil Aviation

Airline pilot explains why Concorde cockpit was one of the most user-friendly cockpits of its era and why it paved the way for modern cockpits of today Airbus airliners

The Concorde

The Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde was a British-French supersonic passenger jet airliner. It had a maximum speed of Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km/h at cruise altitude, over twice the speed of sound), with seating for 92 to 128 passengers.

The aircraft entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years. Concorde, which was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty, was built in twenty samples including six prototypes and development aircraft.

Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) were the only airlines to purchase and fly Concorde. The supersonic airliner flew regular transatlantic flights from London’s Heathrow Airport and Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport and Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados; it flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners.

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The Concorde cockpit was one of the most user-friendly cockpits of its era

The Concorde was not only one of the most iconic aircraft to ever grace the sky, but it also had one of the best cockpit layouts of its era.

Anas Maaz, Airbus A320/A321 pilot explains, why on Quora;

‘The cockpit of Concorde was one of the most user-friendly cockpits of that era. Of course, for a non-pilot every cockpit can look intriguing but for a trained airline pilot who fly transports, Concorde cockpit would not look complex at all. If you look at the cockpit of Concorde you can see small but significant details which are designed to make it easy to operate and to increase the pilot situational awareness. One of these is the markings on the engine gauges. The N2 indicators of the engines have green, yellow and blue markings on them. They represent the hydraulic systems of the aircraft. This hydraulic system naming convention is used by Airbus aircraft to this very day.

‘In the picture above you can see this. The engine 1 and 2 has a green tag. This means that the green hydraulic system is powered by the engine number 1 and 2. The engine 3 and 4 has a blue tag and this meant that the blue hydraulic system is run by the engine number 3 and number 4. The engine 2 and 4 also have a yellow tag and this means that these two engines also power a yellow hydraulic system which is the standby hydraulic system of the aircraft. The advantage here is that as soon as there is an engine failure, the pilots are immediately made aware of which hydraulic system is hampered. It is a situational awareness master piece and no aircraft of that era had such a design feature.

Flight engineer panel a lot more organized than that of the Boeing 747–200

‘It does not end there. The Concorde’s flight engineer panel is also a lot more organized when compared to say airplanes like the 747–200. The panel on Concorde is nicely labelled. So, even the most novice person can immediately know which part of the panel controls what without looking much into it (first image). And if you look at the engineer panel of the 747–200 (second image) you will see no real labelling. It just has just the individual switches labelled. This makes a huge difference. It is more welcoming and less intimidating when you have things stickered in English without getting too technical. This makes training pilots and engineers on the aircraft a much easier job.’

Maaz concludes;

‘The autopilot control panel of Concorde is also pretty advanced in terms of user interface to an aircraft built in the 60s. The autopilot mode control switches are no different in the Concorde to aircraft which have today. The control switches are labelled on the switch itself in words on what it does. And they are arranged in an orderly fashion which makes it easier to operate. This is exactly how they look, even in the most advanced airliners we have today, such as the A350 and the Boeing 787.’

The autopilot control panel of Concorde. The white switches are the control switches.

Photo credit: Chris Christner from Frederick, MD, USA, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Dmitry Avdeev via Wikipedia, Heritage Concorde and Unknown

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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