As a kid (or, let's be honest, even as an a adult), nothing is more thrilling than getting to venture into an airline pilot's coveted cockpit throne. But if Airbus' new cockpit-less patents ever become a reality, those days are behind us. Because let's face it — a "tour of the baggage locker" just doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
Cockpits may be a mainstay of the modern aircraft, but as far as space-saving aerodynamics go, they're a major drag. The big, sweeping windows you see in flight decks severely interfere with the ideal, scalpel-like shape of an aeroplane's nose. What's more, windows that big require some major reinforcements at high altitudes, all of which adds a hefty bit of weight to the aircraft. But most importantly — at least in the aircraft carriers' eyes — having a cockpit in the front of the cabin takes away prime, first class real estate.
Instead of using conventional cockpits and windows, Airbus wants to move pilots out of the nose and have them rely entirely on electronic view screens. Thanks to a combination of onboard cameras and pre-stored data, the new design would effectively "immerse the pilot in a three-dimensional universe."
For example, when the aircraft is in locomotion on the ground and approaches a parking place in an airport, the projected image may be formed by a 3D reconstitution of the airport, stored in a data bank stored in a computer server on the ground, or captured by a video camera, in which reconstitution are embedded images termed circumstantial images, representing any obstacles currently present in the outside scene (such as an aircraft present at another parking place for example or any other vehicle passing within the zone), these incidental images coming from data supplied by an airport management service or by a video camera of the airport.
While all of that does sound vastly superior to plain old windows, none of it would be of much use should the cameras ever get knocked offline. Of course, with autopilot doing a decent share of the flying these days, there are hopefully enough fallbacks in place to render a camera outage (or two) a non-issue.
It's important to note that this is still just a patent and could very well never make its way into the real world. Plus, it's hard to imagine a world where passengers would feel psychologically at-ease knowing that their pilot has no literal window into the outside world.
Then again, airlines don't exactly have the best reputation when it comes to pleasing passengers over pinching pennies. So who knows, someday soon, we may very well be seeing a whole lot less of our pilots — and vice versa. [United States Patent and Trademark Office via The Consumerist]