back to article Supersonic bizjets could have windowless flight decks

Executive jet manufacturers, hoping to make some big money developing small supersonic bizcraft in the post-Concorde era, are seemingly undaunted by the economic climate. With the help of NASA, they are also working on some nifty tech fixes to the serious problems faced by supersonic civil aviation. Strangely perhaps, one of …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Colin Millar
    Black Helicopters

    This thinking is firmly in the box

    No need for the pilot?

    How about no need for the flight at all?

  2. Edwin
    Thumb Up

    Truly innovative

    Assuming that we're still talking about business jets here, would be to take the remote pilot concept a step further and allow the *passengers* to 'travel remotely', using cameras and some form of glass walls to show people to each other in real-time, mimicking face-to-face meetings for people thousands of miles apart.

    THAT would be innovative.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    While being able to fly etc. only on instruments is a basic requirement for any pilot, there are good reasons why aircraft will continue to have windows in the cockpit.

    The main one could be considered to be the psychological impact on the pilot, just as a primary reason for having pilots on civilian airliners is that people wouldn't be happy getting on a fully automated aircraft without even a nominal man in the loop.

    There's also the small problem of what you do in case of failure of camera and/or screen - not exactly the kind of thing you can easily support with fallback instruments.

    The thing is that this isn't even a real problem - fixed wing supersonic military aircraft land without difficulty all the time. One big reason for this is that you have a HUD. While landing the direct view of the runway may be blocked by the nose of the aircraft, but from the pilots viewpoint in this attitude the lower part of the HUD is projected onto the nose so you can 'see' what you're aiming for 'through' the nose. At least that's how it worked last time I tried it on a current generation fast jet.

    Obviously there are also autoland systems but these aren't everywhere and you're depending on an external system, whereas the HUD is relatively simple and makes any landing in any conditions much easier.

    The newer helmet mounted systems provide functionality equivalent to the HUD, but while HUDs are rapidly becoming a standard item in civil aircraft I can't see the helmet systems making the crossover due to cost and complexity.

  4. Ted Treen
    Jobs Halo

    Oh yeah?

    And to what degree would you be utterly stuffed in the event of a screen/camera failure?

    Good job I don't fly - not in commercial flights, anyway.

    I warn you though, that should I be struck by some future Airbus whose pilot has lost his screen/switched channels/is watching naughty films, that I shall have left instructions to m'learned friends to sue the bastards.

  5. Dr. Mouse

    I wish!

    "It now seems that a truly modern glass cockpit might be one in which all the windows have disappeared"

    Wouldn't that be great! No Windows, no more reinstalling every six months, no more BSOD...

    Oh wait, maybe you mean the other, usefull kind of windows?

  6. Jonathan


    Quote: It now seems that a truly modern glass cockpit might be one in which all the windows have disappeared.

    Are you sure dont mean a coffin?

  7. James Brindle
    Thumb Up

    Goodbye window blinds up....! (finally!)

    Removing the windows from the sides of planes would in a lot of ways be a fantastic thing as this would finally get rid of that rather stupid procedure of raising the window blinds during the 40-minute pre-landing experience where we have to turn off our own personal playback devices (which emit no radiation or very low magnetic field) and watch the airline's promotional video (on old CRT based drop-down TV sets that emit huge amounts of magnetic fields and could interfere with the plane's systems) about where we're about to land (rant over).

    At least it would be one less thing to be bugged by the cabin crew about when you're trying to sleep on a long haul flight.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Please buckle up

    Your flight from London to Paris will be brought to you by Windows 7.

    Have a nice day!

  9. Sureo

    no room for error

    And the systems will be 100% failsafe, right? No chance for some teenage whizkid to take over the controls after the pilots croak for some reason. Is technology that good? Think I'll stay home.

  10. Jonathan McCulloch

    "Insert disk 127 of 97"

    I can't avoid in my mind's eye seeing the pilot staring at the Blue Screen of Death while the co-pilot feverishly searches through piles of dusty old 3 1/2 inch floppies...

  11. kev whelan

    Windows !

    Why dont they put a window in the floor ?

    just a thought

  12. TeeCee Gold badge

    Or, alternatively.

    Reorganise the cockpit layout to be more like a helicopter and glaze the *floor* of the nose so the pilot can see out, forwards and down when "nose up".

    Simpler and takes away all those pesky potential failure points.

  13. bobbles31

    A title is required.

    "But more and more, aviation engineers are beginning to chafe at the limitations imposed on their designs by the requirements of pilots who in a strictly technical sense are becoming less and less necessary."

    That would be necessary in the same way that that second hard drive in your mirror set isn't really necessary.

    Mines the one with a redundant array in the back pocket.

  14. Darkside


    They don't put a window in the floor because the avionics are under the flight deck.

    They'd block the view.

    But how would pilots stay awake in a flightdeck without even windows to watch the clouds go past?

    And who'd want to fly an aeroplane where you couldn't even watch the clouds go past?

  15. Chad H.

    has anyone thought this through?

    okay, what if there is a power loss? Let's assume the pilot is on board as it gets messier if there isn't. Glass windows don't need electricty. Screens to display the camera image do. I'd hate to be on board when (let's face it, it will happen eventually) that happens.

    It doesn't even take a full power loss, too manypotential points of failure

  16. Dave

    Gimli Glider Effect

    So when you get power failure and all your electronics stop working and you're left with a few basic instruments and flight controls, how do you see where you're going?

    (Title is named after the AC 767 that discovered all this the hard way, landed safely at a disused airfield having run out of fuel)

  17. Anonymously Deflowered
    Thumb Up

    Perfect for movies

    I suppose the pilots could help long flights pass by replacing the camera views of outside with the inflight movie. And they'd have the biggest screen on the aircraft!

  18. Charles

    @Chad H.

    Losing the viewscreen would be no worse than flying into a big cloud or landing in bad weather. A solution for that already exists, and passenger jet pilots must be certified for it anyway. It's called Instrument Flight Rules.

    Furthermore, I would imagine that the viewscreen, like electronic instrument panels (which are more critical than a window--again, you depend on them for IFR) would have fallback power systems.

  19. Paul Read


    The flightdeck of the future airliner will comprise of a computer, a pilot and a dog. The computer will fly the plane, the pilot will feed the dog and the dog will make sure the pilot doesn't try to fly the plane.

    Seeing as the largest share of air accidents is caused by human error, I'd feel safer being flown by computer.

  20. twat
    Dead Vulture

    Not microsoft

    I hope the software isnt written by microsoft. It would give new meaning to the blue screen of death

    Tombstone for obvious reasons

  21. druck Silver badge

    Look out the side windows like everyone else

    I don't fly a long nosed supersonic aircraft, but what my plane does have is a damn great engine and prop blocking the view at the front. As you descend to land the plane is at a fairly flat attitude, so you can see the runway and line up on it, but as you flare you loose sight of everything ahead, but we still manage to do a decent landing - most of the time!

    How? By looking out of the side windows! That is sufficient to judge the height of the aircraft during the hold off and maintain a straight path along the runway before and after touch down. There are even markings along the side telling you how far you are down it, just in case you are getting close to the far end. All looking forward does is show you a long expanse of black stuff, which you know is empty as you checked before landing, and wouldn't have got clearance from the tower if it wasn't.

  22. 4a$$Monkey

    Would a window really help?

    Aren't your pretty much boned if there is a major systems failure on a modern jet?

  23. Skip Curry
    Paris Hilton

    Bird Brained Idea..

    What if the plane was to take out a bird at that speed with the front mounted camera? All the pilot would see for the remainder of the journey is splattered bird brains.

    PH - The bird brain thing.

  24. Chad H.


    in bad weather you still have all those electronic systems, the ones that use gps to tell you about mountains, buildings and other aircraft, and all sorts of everything else.

    What would you have in a catastrophic failure on this craft? Sure backup power can reduce it's chance of happening, but when something bad happens here, what are you left with?

  25. Paul Donnelly

    Rubbish, Rubbish Rubbish! You're ALL Talking RUBBISH!!!

    Nice one El Reg, a double whammy! You reported a lovely little story about a sensible real life application of technology, and at the same time brought all these Aerotards into public view where they can be righteously denounced for their irrational, unfounded beliefs and planet encompassing levels of fail.

    First off, Ted Treen, you've never been on a commercial flight? Have you ever left the country you live in? If you've never flown on a commercial flight you probably lose all rights to have an opinion, because you'll either a) never have flown or b) be absurdly rich and completely out of touch with the entire world save politicians that you're lobbying (read: throwing cash at) to make things cheaper for you and your bunch of yes men. If either a or b is true, shut up,

    Secondly, there's the A/C third down. How do you KNOW that people wont want to get on planes without pilots? I'd be very happy to myself. Also, given the reinforced door to the cockpit, how can you be *sure* that there's even a pilot in there? Has anyone conducted a proper survey of this? Do one before you present your results. In the meantime, please shut up.

    Next, lets move on to the line 100% failsafe. What in this world other than death is 100% failsafe? Absolutely nothing. Do you really believe that a human is 100% failsafe? What you're hopefuly looking for is a minute possibility of failure, maybe once in a billion, or trillion. That is more than sufficient, I do wonder what percentage of the total number of flights pass without a single error at any point in time, I dont know, but I do know that even with the existing system of having human pilots, its not 100% certain that your plane will make it to its destination. So shut up!

    Now lets talk about 'neccesary'. If a computer can fly a plane, then a pilot is not strictly 'necessary'. Necessary is something you cant do without. Like oxygen is necessary for human life. Like a second hard drive in a mirror array is necessary for... oh wait! its not! it is a redundant failover, or a read/write access time enhancer, your computer would not cease to function if it failed, so it is not necessary. It is something you WANT so that you can have greater confidence in your ability to recover from hard drive failure. So Bobbles31, if that is your real name, please take a course in English or Economics so you know what the words WANT and NEED mean, and how they apply to any given situation. Until you know what the words you use actually mean to people that understand the English Language, shut up.

    And almost finally, Dave and the Gimli Glider man, if you lose power and you're flying by camera, where are you planning on getting the power from for your flaps, rudder, landing gear, oxygen pumps, fuel pumps, transponder, radio, and whatever else is used (not needed) to keep an aeroplane in the air? Answers on a postcard please! Until then, I'm going to be pretty damn convinced that being on a plane with a pilot and no power is exactly like being on a plane without a pilot and no power, ie, everyone plus aeroplane head toward the closest object exerting a gravitational pull, and crunch heavily into its surface. And for all you aerotards out there, yes you would crunch heavily into water as if it was solid, as water has similar properties to concrete when it is travelling at 50mph or above. No need for you to shut up, as your incredible lack of understanding means that its not strictly necessary for me to point out just how much fail you're carrying there.

    Finally, I'd like to denounce you all as Aerotards who are clearly carrying so much fail in your baggage that you're over the check-in allowance. But thats ok, because you have so much money you can afford your own supersonic jets and pay pilots wages during a global credit crunch, which pretty much cements the fact that you're also the same people keeping the third world hungry, keeping the free world opressed, and greasing the politicians so they do what YOU want, rather than what is for the good of the country. I don't care what country you're in BTW, but I hope there's an uprising by the people who have more brains than your average single celled life form.

  26. Anonymous John

    The Space Shuttle

    Actually, it is landed manually. Albeit with the help of computers, a microwave landing system, and a HUD.

    A camera and display wouldn't add much.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    One thing that is always immediately apparent from comments posted on aircraft stories is how little the general public know about aircraft, even on this tech-based site.

    The autolanding systems currently in use are astoundingly good, you won't get a smoother landing from a pilot even on a clear day, and certainly not a foggy night.

    I can understand the apprehension due to it being just one more thing that can go wrong, but something as simple as a tv screen that conforms to the very low failure rates required, it's not going to be a factor in a crash for many years, especially when combined with the numerous other instruments. People seem to have the perception that the power drops out and the pilot is left sitting in a dark box as the plane plummits - as opposed to what? Sitting in a light box where you can barely see the ground unless you are heading into it, because of a huge chunk of plane nose?

    Pilots flying planes remotely is very unlikely in the commercial sector. The risk of loss of connection is far too great. Many pilots of newer planes are pretty much only present in case something unusual happens, 95% of the flight is taken care of by the computers (and it is hilarious how people think that a large operating system would be allowed anywhere other than the entertainment system of an aircraft) and there is nothing to stop the other 5% being done that way too. Entirely computer controlled planes are much more likely, although not for some time. A pilot being present, even if he doesn't do anything, is probable for some time after it is introduced though.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows are failsafe, screens are not

    this whole idea is fail.

  29. bob, mon!

    Hardly a new idea - go back 81 years

    Charles Lindbergh solo'ed across the Atlantic in a plane with no front window --- the "Spirit of St. Louis" had a fuel tank in front.

    Admittedly, you wouldn't want to lean out the side for a looksee at supersonic speeds...

  30. Charles Tsang
    Gates Halo

    Cloud Cuckoo Land

    Flying through clouds on instruments only is one thing. After all, there isn't much to hit there.

    Flying whilst landing on instruments only is another. Don't forget, it's not the falling that kills you, it's the landing bit.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Re: responsibilities

    > Seeing as the largest share of air accidents is caused by human error, I'd feel safer

    > being flown by computer.

    And who programmed that computer? Yup, a human. Computers don't necessarily make a system any safer; and in some cases they can make it a whole lot less safe. People always seem to trust a computer, even when it's obvious that it's giving them the wrong results.

    In a nutshell that's also the reason I'm not keen on nuclear power; those systems are designed by humans, and the systems are programmed by humans. So, you're saying that my safety is in the hands of the lowest cost programmer management could find, a long way away from the potential explosion? Thanks, but I'd rather not.

  32. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    oh geez

    Cloud cuckoo land... ever hear of 'fog' and strangely, the aircraft makes it down and lands on instruments ever since something called 'ILS' was invented which stands for... yes you've guessed it... Instrument landing system.

    As for the gimli glider incident, ALL commecial aircraft are fitted with a wind powered electrical generator to provide emergency power to the flaps and controls in the nasty event of all the engines falling off

  33. Anonymous Coward

    @Paul Donnelly

    I know I shouldn't feed the troll, but...

    How do I know that people wouldn't get get on planes without pilots? Well I have to admit that I haven't actually done a passenger survey myself, but I do know the people who have done them.

    The simple fact is that even though the avionics can handle everything on their own, that they're extremely reliable, and that in the case of a serious problem the pilots can't usually do anything to fix it, passengers just won't trust a machine to make the decisions. At least with a man in the front they can pretend to themselves that this isn't already the case.

    There would undoubtedly be quite a few who wouldn't care, but enough people would care that it would be a problem, and all for a relatively small (potential) cost saving.

    And personally I'd never get to the point where I'd trust the machinery that much - too much time looking at failure modes in the avionics may be to blame.

    Anyway, the basic point of the article was about something altogether different, and I think they're creating a solution to a non-existent problem - or at least one that was solved years ago with multiple solutions that have been proven to work. I just can't see anyone buying into this concept except for remote piloted aircraft.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Rubbish, Rubbish Rubbish! You're ALL Talking RUBBISH!!!

    @Paul Donnelly

    Ohh Paul, get out of bed the wrong side this morning did we?

    Muppet! Shut Up!

    PS, some of your interpretations of facts could be improved on, so go back to school and SHUT UP!

    Plus, please be so kind as to re-read what RAID means. You might get it one day... but removing one drive from a mirror RAID makes it no longer a functioning mirror RAID, and by the rest of our definitions, it is no longer redundant (the R in RAID). This means it is a non-functional RAID and by inference that means it AINT FECKIN WORKING AS INTENDED! - Despite the fact you PC may continue to function. Get it yet?

  35. goggyturk

    @Paul Donnelly

    Dude, that was awesome. I think you may be the first person to win FotW without resorting to swearing.

    Someone as angrily eloquent as yourself is obviously wasted in your current job - you could be an inspiring leader of men, if you really push yourself.

  36. Kaitlyn Kincaid

    take a queue from Quantus

    and keep the kiddies away from the wireless mice

    mine's the one with the Faraday Cage around it

  37. Captain DaFt
    Black Helicopters

    It seems obvious to me

    Why not just put the cockpit UNDER the nose of the plane instead of on top of it?

    Seriously, the times you need visibility most are landings and take-offs, when you need to see the ground.

    In flight, Um, you're in the air, there's nothing over you, a nose under cockpit would still give you a view off to the sides, front, and below. Everywhere except directly overhead, in fact. (Funny, but no one seems to worry about what's coming up from behind up there, unless they're in a combat situation.)

    For directly overhead, a camera view should be sufficient for the occasional errant plane, falling space debris, planet killing asteroid, or passing UFO.

    (Of course, I'm talking passenger aircraft here, for a fighter plane, an under nose cockpit might make ejecting a tad tricky!)

    Helicopter icon, because ejecting from them's a bit tricky too!

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Fibre-optic backup?

    As a backup incase the power fails, how about a lens connected to some viewing goggles via a fibre-optic cable?

  39. Adrian Coward

    @Boris the Cockroach

    >... ALL commecial aircraft are fitted with a wind powered electrical generator...

    No, not all. For example the 747 (100-400) doesn't have one, neither does the 737 - and these are two of the most numerous aircraft of all time.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Rubbish, Rubbish Rubbish! You're ALL Talking RUBBISH!!

    *Golf clap & muted guffaw*

    The worn leather one with the fur collar, please.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    @ Kaitlyn

    Oh, big mistake. Paul Donnelly may come after you with a big stick.

    It is QANTAS you "aerotard".

    Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services.

  42. Mike Hocker


    How many passengers check before boarding to make sure the wings are securely duct taped to the fuselage? Well, they don't generally think about it since other failure mechanisms are higher than the duct tape failure rate.

    The whole thing is about system reliability, when having a meat pilot causes more crashes than having a computer pilot, people will refuse to board planes with only an unreliable meat pilot.

  43. Kevin Rudd

    @Rubbish, Rubbish Rubbish!

    Recently, a Qantas Airbus a330 flying over remote Western Australia suffered a "computer error" that caused the plane to sharply rise then plummet towards the ground, injuring most passengers not buckled up. The meat bags upfront rescued the situation, no doubt helping their fight for a pay-rise.

    Scarily, a Boeing 777 from Malaysian Airlines had a similar problem, in a similar location a year or so ago. Meat bags saved the day on that occasion too.

    No logical reason, except a "a one in a billion coincidence" and these aircraft, particularly the Airbus, we are told, have never ever suffered such a problem before.

    So keep the windscreen and give me an extra window please in the cockpit door so I can have a look into the flight deck and make sure both meat bags are at the controls.

    Aerotard and comfortable to be an aerotard.

    Mines the parachute looking one.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Hardly a new idea - go back 81 years

    But he did have a periscope type thingy so he could at least get some kind of forward view.

    (Off topic, maybe Lindbergh could actually tell us all what the weasel word term "going forward" means or is the term said "going Ford"?)

  45. Colin P

    Paul Donnelly

    tehehehehe... oh dear. FAIL.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo


    It is only Microsoft that needs Windows

    Pilots can fly simulators. So why not use an in flight simulator to fly the aircraft. Far more comfortable than helmet based systems.

  47. Richard Thomas
    Thumb Up

    Remote pilots

    One big advantage of a physically present pilot as opposed to a remote one - a MUCH bigger incentive to get the damn plane back on the ground in one piece

  48. Robert Matiuk

    Computer sent Qantas jet into dive

    That's the headline for what happened to a Qantas Airbus a couple of weeks ago.

    "About two minutes later … the flight control computers commanded a nose-down movement," Mr Walsh said. "The inertial reference unit continued to generate random spikes and a second nose-down aircraft movement was encountered."

    70 people injured

    No thanks

  49. Anonymous Coward

    @ James Brindle

    So everyone like me (severe projectile motion sickness if I cant see the outside, usually caused by nazified cabin crew closing the damn things, only stopping when I tell them I will start uncontrollably hurling if they dont stop trying to close them.) will never be able to fly again from not being able to see out?

    Also why do airline seats recline at all, I keep having to deal with some wanker ramming their seat back and crushing me and ruining my view of the seat back screen. Then after I finally flag cabin crew, they put it up for a whole 10 minutes or so, then do it again....ars*holes

    Why do they keep the blinds closed when the sun is BLAZING outside??? Helps balance my body clock out if I can see the time of day, sun/darkness/dawn (amazing sight coming over the australian outback when the sun is coming up :) )

    I think the reason for opening on landing is in case of an accident so rescue crews can assess who is most seriously injured and have a head start on saving lives.

    Also have heard that window blinds down == hijack (in some parts) (not 100% on that one though)

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like