Dear Captain Lim,
Why the flight deck of an airplane is called a "cockpit"?
Since the day I started to fly an airplane, the area where the pilots sit in front to control the plane has always being referred to as the “cockpit”. Why it is often referred to as such is probably due to the fascination and uniqueness of this term. There are neither “cocks” nor “pits” around in the first place and yet the term is stuck to mean the flight deck of an airliner.
From the sources that I have researched, "cockpit" also comes from the rather barbaric sport of cockfighting and refers to the pit in which the fights occurred. Shortly thereafter, the word naturally attained a connotation as being related to any scene of grisly combat.
Let’s have a look at an excerpt from word-detective.com:
The first "cockpits" were actual pits in the ground constructed (to the extent that one "constructs" a pit) to house "cockfights" to the death between game cocks (essentially very belligerent chickens). Cockfighting, a barbaric "sport" usually conducted for gambling purposes, probably originated in ancient China and remains distressingly popular around the world.
Well, this term is also used in relation to ships. "Cockpit" in the 1700s was referred to as the compartment below decks on a British naval vessel. The often cramped and confined compartment was placed below the waterline and served as quarters for junior officers as well as for treating the wounded during battle.
Here is another version of the explanation by another source from the Internet:
In the early days of aviation aircraft had open cockpits and the overhead of biplanes had wet wings. The petcock, which is usually a small spring loaded valve to control fuel flow from the tanks to the engine as well as to drain a sample of fuel from the tanks for contaminants such as water or grit that may inadvertently enter the fuel.
A person could drain off the water which is heavier than fuel. Water sinks to the lowest part of the tank - where the petcock is installed. The actual petcock on most early aircraft was where the wings came together at the center of the fuselage which was directly overhead the open seat of the pilot, making where the pilot sat as the pit under the petcock or "cockpit".
Even today, a room on the lower deck of a yacht or motor boat where the crew quarters are located is often called a "cockpit". In addition, the rudder control space from which a vessel is steered is sometimes called a "cockpit" since a watchman in the highest position is called a cock, and a cavity in any vessel is called a pit.
Just like how the word “knots” to measure the sailing speed as well as “port and starboard” (left and right) sides of a ship and amongst others, are also applied on airplanes. So “cockpit”, as an often confined space used for control purposes, was also applied to aircraft around 1914 by pilots during World War I. In keeping with this same meaning, the tightly confined control space of a racing automobile has also became known as a cockpit by about 1935*.
So, in the modern sense “cockpit” now includes the entire crew areas of large airliners, which are usually fairly spacious and not the scene of conflict.
An Airbus A380 Cockpit