Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE FIRST pilots moved levers forward and aft, wiggled their hips or shoulders this way or that and gripped wheels, only some of which steered. (See Before long, however, controls evolved into a joystick or yoke for roll and pitch, with a rudder bar or pedals for yaw. Cockpits also evolved, though views forward continued to offer plenty of variety.

Here’s A Pilot’s View, Episode 2, Acts 1-3, featuring the 1912 Avro Type F, the 1913 Sikorsky Russky Vityaz and 1915 Curtiss JN-4 Jenny.


The 1912 Avro Type F, renowned for its enclosed cabin, a world’s first.

Alliott Verdon Roe, 1877 – 1958, was a pioneer English pilot who set up his Avro aircraft manufacturing firm in 1910. Roe’s earliest aeroplanes had open structure with no cockpit per se, but in 1912 his Type F featured an enclosed cabin. See


My Avro Type F in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The Avro’s cabin had windows “glazed” with celluloid and a pair of open ports through which the pilot could pop his head for a clear view.


A pilot’s view, Act 2, Scene 1, over Brooklands School of Flying, 1912. The Avro Type F.

The cabin wasn’t very wide, less than two feet across, and it must have been a racket within. But it was a start.

In less than a year, the 1913 Russky Vityaz (Russian Knight) offered more than a cramped cabin for its pilot. Igor Sikorsky, 1889 – 1972, designed, built and flew this giant aeroplane, the world’s first four-engine craft.


The 1913 Sikorsky Russky Vityaz had a large cabin as well as a forward open balcony.

The Russky Vityaz offered enclosed accommodation for its pilot, co-pilot and as many as eight passengers. Double doors ahead of the flight deck opened onto a balcony featuring a searchlight (and, on occasion, a machine gun).


My Russky Vityaz for Microsoft Flight Simulator features no less than Tsar Nicholas II on its balcony.

In August, 1913, the Russky Vityaz established a record flight of 1 hour 54 minutes with eight passengers aboard. It was shown they could move around the cabin without upsetting the aeroplane’s stability.


A pilot’s view, Act 2, Scene 2, over St. Petersburg, Russia, 1913. The Sikorsky Russky Vityaz.

The Russky Vityaz flight deck had dual control columns and instrumentation monitoring its four engines. I like to think the table in its passenger compartment contained a samovar.

World War I accelerated the development of aircraft on all fronts. (See Though its cockpit continued as an open one, the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny had what has come to be a conventional joystick and rudder bar.


Control scheme of the Jenny, from The Curtiss Standard JN-4D Military Tractor Hand Book, 1918.

Frenchman Robert Esnault-Pelterie, 1881 – 1957, invented the joystick, a single integrated flight control with fore/aft for pitch, left/right for roll. See for information on Esnault-Pelterie’s Goupy II (and a great portrait photo of him).


The Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, introduced in 1915, became the iconic biplane of the 1920s (

The pilot of a Jenny had the wonderful view (and noise!) of a Curtiss OX-5 V-8 engine. For more OX-5 details, see


A pilot’s view, Act 2, Scene 3, over Hammondsport, N.Y.,  c. 1920. The Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, a Microsoft Flight Simulator default design. To add appropriate open-exhaust delight, visit

The Jenny pilot had a full set of instruments to monitor its engine, fuel and progress through the air. And the feel of the rushing airflow.

But was this last experience really necessary? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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This entry was posted on June 17, 2014 by in Vintage Aero and tagged , , , .
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