We asked an art historian to review 8 fighter cockpits
February 5, 2021 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Grumman F-14 Tomcat: This space is redolent of Pop Art, it riffs on the imagery of the past but there is an unmistakable element of Studio 54 about it. The joystick and serried ranks of switches remind one of a Lichtenstein image (see below). The pilot here is part of the narrative, two screens reflect back at them. The optimism of the sixties has gone, this is about brittle individualist control, it could be a DJ’s lair or the pilot might be Bowie—in any case this is the cockpit as Warhol print.
posted by ejs (14 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
These are surprisingly entertaining!
It resembles a Samurai Warlord resting having conquered all the blue infinite sky behind him and waiting for the next battle.
posted by Zumbador at 7:11 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]

These seem designed in particular to make mil-historian brains explode, which is a worthy goal in itself.
posted by Think_Long at 7:34 AM on February 5 [7 favorites]

side links got me interested in Cornelia Parker
posted by ovvl at 8:06 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]

Can’t write like this and confuse “reign” for “rein”.
posted by migurski at 8:20 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]

migurski, I know, right?!?
posted by Zumbador at 8:57 AM on February 5

I love the Boston City Hall caption.
posted by nickmark at 9:00 AM on February 5

As a Boston resident, I would like to thank this article for helping me imagine that I'm about to dogfight with a Russian Ace pilot the next time I go into City Hall to dispute a parking ticket. And that afterwards I shall be as a contented daimyo surveying the entirety of his domain.
posted by bl1nk at 9:21 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]

Another side link of interest:
"...There is little that you all do not know and I would know. I am a “ageing foggy aviator”. If I was to summarise my flight, I felt I was sitting atop a missile-head in a high-speed interception. The aircraft looked good and was made of razor sharp nickel steel and other metal edges. I liked the white and blue colour scheme. As someone once wrote, I don’t recall who, that comparing the MiG-31 with Rafale is like comparing Bruce Lee with a Para Special Forces commando. Sure Bruce Lee was much faster with his arms & legs but he couldn’t operate 14 different kinds of guns, run 40 km with a 25 kg backpack, navigate through jungles, perform special recon behind enemy lines, kill anyone just with a kitchen knife & rescue hostages."

I was the first foreign pilot to fly the Mach 2.8 MiG-31 interceptor, here’s my story: By Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd)
posted by y2karl at 9:35 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]

The Typhoon cockpit immediately made me remember many, many hours of Wing Commander. Something about the three completely utilitarian screens arrayed like that. Reading up on it now on wikipedia, it's got an interesting history, begun in the 80s, not in production until late 90s. "This coupled with the small armies of twinkling seeks to wrap the pilot up in the experience of flying within flying – a meta experience comparable to early virtual reality and digital art forms. A cockpit for the synth age." -- I'll buy this, yeah.
posted by curious nu at 10:33 AM on February 5

How could someone with so much hauteur choose the phrase "changeable canvas" and not "palimpsest"? i'm boggled.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:01 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]

As a former connoisseur of vintage gliders with minimal instrumentation, I find all military cockpits hideous. I've sat in a few (on the ground) and been astonished how awful the visibility was. I remember the F-4 Phantom being particularly atrocious. The F-16 seems the least offensive - it was the first fighter to have a proper bubble canopy with an unobstructed view.
posted by automatronic at 12:18 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

Check out Air Marshal Anil Chopra's letter letter from ejection seat maker Martin Baker. I think he might be the highest ranking pilot ever to have ejected.
posted by monotreme at 1:22 PM on February 5

One block of instruction at the US Army's parachute rigger school was on the Marin-baker ejection parachute. It was a monster to pack, having to cram it into a horseshoe-shaped box with a packing paddle. The unit was then mounted on what I believe to have been a 60 or 80 mm mortar tube. The charge propels the hapless pilot out of the aircraft--literally like a rocket. The objective is to throw the pilot fast enough to clear the verticle stabilizer, perhaps at supersonic speeds, and high enough to let his parachute open should he have to eject while still on the ground.

Many pilots who've joined this club have incurred spinal compression injuries. On the other hand, the parachute is pretty reliable.
posted by mule98J at 4:00 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]

I love hearing jargon out of context! It’s like a weird kind of Rosetta Stone to how something unfamiliar could apply to something familiar.
It has an edge of machismo; the screen nestles between the pilot’s legs and ‘pull to eject’ is the legend on the handle closest to the pilot’s groin. Yet the joystick is not large and there is almost a rococo playful element to the design of the dashboard, see for example the diagram of the aeroplane to the left.
I intend to describe small penises as having “a playful rococo element” from here on out.
posted by pulposus at 11:25 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

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