Why a cockpit is called a cockpit in the airplane?
I have answered this question in my book, Life in the Skies. I reproduce it below for those who have not read my book yet:
“Ever since I can remember, the area in front where the pilot sits to control the plane has always been referred to as the ‘cockpit’. The term comes from the rather barbaric sport of cockfighting and refers to the pit in which the fights took place. Cockpits were thus the actual pits dug into the ground to house duels to the death between game cocks.
Obviously, the flight deck of planes – which has neither game cocks nor pits – has nothing to do with this. The term was instead adopted from the 18th century British naval lingo, where ‘cockpit’ referred to a cramped, confined compartment below deck. It was placed below the waterline and served as quarters for junior officers, as well as for treating the wounded during battle.
Just like how the knots were used to measure sailing speed and port or starboard to indicate the left or right side of a ship, ‘cockpit’ was also applied to aircraft around 1914 by pilots during World War I.
In keeping with this same meaning, by about 1935 the tightly confined area of a race car’s control space was also known as a cockpit.
In the modern sense, ‘cockpit’ now includes the entire crew areas of large airliners, which are fairly spacious and not at all the venue for cockfights.”
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