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Death1111

Bf 109 cockpit size in real life

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Since my earliest days of using combat flight simulators (ww1 and ww2) I have always had an immense curiosity as to the real life cockpit view and positioning for the pilot. Given that I have only flown ww1 & 2 fighters on simulations the only idea I really have is the cockpit image on my screen and also by trying to imagine the seating position and view from analysing cockpit photos of various aircraft.

 

I have always liked the idea of a fighter plane having a small cockpit in which the pilot is hugged by the plane. It can give the pilot improved stability and control in the aircraft free of jerky movements caused by rough air manouvering. It could also help the pilot feel more like part of the airplane and if he/she is in a more horizontal position I have heard this can assist with decreasing the effects of G forces.

 

My favourite aircraft is the Bf 109 and to me it has always given such an impression as a true fighter due to the narrow cockpit and horizontal seating position of the pilot (almost like an F1 car). I have heard many accounts of how cramped the 109 cockpit was but my question is just how cramped and small was it really? I have seen a video on youtube with a modern day british pilot getting into a 109 cockpit and it did look very small in this video.

 

I would really like to know what the view out of the cockpit and the seating position was like for the pilot and just how small it really was. Was it's small size relative to the size of the airframe or intentionally designed even smaller?

 

Any information anyone has on this would be much appreciated.

 

 

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Years ago at Canadian Warplane Heritage I was allowed to stick my head inside (but not sit in) a Spitfire XVI they had on display. The cockpit was very small. I'm a thin frame 5'11" and I'm sure it would have felt small if I were allowed to sit in it. From what I could tell... the 109E that we had in Welland for a while was even smaller than that. So... very cramped. Surely the most comfortable pilots in there were small frame and short. Stocky and tall would not be a good place to be.

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Yes I heard that the spit was cramped also and that when spit and 109 pilots had a chance to get into a P51 they were amazed by how roomy the cockpits were. For me honestly I think I would feel more in control of the aircraft in a tighter cockpit but who knows how it would be in real life...it would probably be a claustrophobic experience and scare the hell out of me.....I'd still give it a try though ;)

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I like a larger cockpit that allowed me to twist my torso to look aft. The A4 was tiny, the F14 was huge for a fighter. The latter was much more comfortable and provided better visibility because crew could loosen straps and turn shoulders sideways to see aft. If nothing else, you need room to move your head without the helmet fouling on the canopy.

 

The 109 seems claustrophobic, not to mention difficult to bail out of. You need to be able to get your feet underneath you to help you jump clear more positively.

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Years ago at Canadian Warplane Heritage I was allowed to stick my head inside (but not sit in) a Spitfire XVI they had on display. The cockpit was very small. I'm a thin frame 5'11" and I'm sure it would have felt small if I were allowed to sit in it. From what I could tell... the 109E that we had in Welland for a while was even smaller than that. So... very cramped. Surely the most comfortable pilots in there were small frame and short. Stocky and tall would not be a good place to be.

I had a similar experience in a Spit 22, I'm 6'3"  of medium build, I only stuck my upper body in to the pit but it was quite cramped, not somewhere I would have wanted to sit for a couple of hours that's for sure

spitfire_3-176-640-480-100-wm-right_bottspitfire_5-178-640-480-100-wm-right_bott

 

The dummy pilot wasn't there when I visited fortunately

 

http://www.raafawa.org.au/museum/aircraft/item/191-supermarine-spitfire#!spitfire_3

Edited by III/JG11_Tiger

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a short story form of the former JG52 meetings where i have been serveral times and talked with the veterans.

there was an former SG 190 pilot too, who flew 109's befor the went on the 190.

 

He felt much safer in the cramped 109, because it was all so narrow, what gave him the feeling! of more security.

The 190 had an better view and had compared to the 109 a huge cockpit. But this gave him the feeling of vulnerability.

In german there is a term he mentioned, called "Präsentierteller".  In english it could be "like in a fishbowl"

 

just a small note...

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I had a similar experience in a Spit 22, I'm 6'3"  of medium build, I only stuck my upper body in to the pit but it was quite cramped, not somewhere I would have wanted to sit for a couple of hours that's for sure

spitfire_3-176-640-480-100-wm-right_bottspitfire_5-178-640-480-100-wm-right_bott

 

The dummy pilot wasn't there when I visited fortunately

 

http://www.raafawa.org.au/museum/aircraft/item/191-supermarine-spitfire#!spitfire_3

Just for interest they have a hands on tour of the RAAF museum at bull creek. It cost about $180 but you get a few hours of one on one with a guide and you get to sit in that Spitfire and in the Lancaster.  

 

When I found out about it I dropped a few subtle hints to the wife and kids about a good Fathers day present -  I got socks!  :(

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S!

 

 I had the possibility to sit in the Bf109G-6 in Tikkakoski museum. I am only 177cm tall and normal build. The cockpit was small, I had only enough room sideways that fingers could be put between shoulder and canopy sill. When cockpit was closed my head was within 2cm from the top glass. Moving about was still easy and I could check 5/7 relatively easy. One has to remember the Bf109 seat, at least in G-series, could be adjusted on ground to 3 positions giving some extra headroom.

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Just for interest they have a hands on tour of the RAAF museum at bull creek. It cost about $180 but you get a few hours of one on one with a guide and you get to sit in that Spitfire and in the Lancaster.  

 

When I found out about it I dropped a few subtle hints to the wife and kids about a good Fathers day present -  I got socks!   :(

Yeah it was very quiet the day I was out there so I just took the opportunity to get up close to the Spitfire, spent a minute or two with head and shoulders in the pit playing with the joystick pressing the brass button etc, it was like being a kid again, my at the time 8 year old daughter was on lookout, back then no one went in the Lanc as it's back was starting to break, maybe they have reinforced it, not much chance of getting $180 for my B'day either :(

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I recall when the Fw190 was on the floor in the IWM and it was possible to walk around it, under it and climb up to look in the cockpit. The stick was missing and had been replaced with a length of wood, which was a shame. Souvenir hunters on the staff most likely.

 

I also recall, as a kid, trying to pinch a length of rubber tube from Rudolph Hess' 110 engine. That's now safely behind a barrier. :dry:

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You Sir, are the targed audience for Oculus Rift. I see it exactely the same: just the feeling of really sitting in a 109's pit is worth spending the 300 bucks on that device imho.

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It's not without reason that the larger guys were typically assigned to bombers and transports and the smaller guys to fighters - at least in the American air forces. 

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In that era, people was more small that now. And americans and australians etc was more tall that in europe.

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S!

 

 Tallest Bf109 pilot in Finland was almost 200cm tall. It could be said the cockpit was filled with pilot :)

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I'm 6' 6" and would trade concussion for the chance to drop a 109 canopy on my nut.

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at 6'6" I think they'd have to take out the top Perspex panel so you could hang your nose over the windscreen.......lanky git.

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I've sat in Red 7.  I'm 6' and a bit (184cm) and with the canopy down it felt snug.  There was not much room between my shoulders and the frame.  I found there was more space above my head than I expected but then I wasn't sitting on a parachute (the seat was the bucket type to allow the parachute to rest in it).

 

Realistically though if you had pilot clothes on, a parachute, helmet and were strapped in it would feel uncomfortable at least until you acclimatised.  It might be hard to fight but you'd sure as hell be looking everywhere to avoid the bounce.  There were after all some tall and successful Me/Bf109 pilots.  Maybe a tight fit actually helped get more of a seat of your pants experience - I can imagine a P47 pilot feeling somewhat swamped by the cockpit.

 

Hood

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If I understand correctly, the cockpit configuration in the 109, small size and reclined body position allow for the fuselage to have a smaller cross section to give the plane greater speed.

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A friend of mine was given a flight in the Grace Spitfire as a present by his wife. He sat in the rear cockpit of the two seat trainer and said it was extremely cramped with his head jammed against the canopy for most of the flight.

Luckily he doesn't get claustrophobic and he did get to fly the spit which he said was very responsive just using a couple of fingers on the column.

Years ago I got to sit in the front seat of an Air Cav. Apache and that was very tight and I'm a skinny 5'7". Just to add to the effect the trooper then shut the door on me which gave me the feeling of being jammed very tightly into an aquarium with the lid shut.

I guess crew comfort is secondary when they're designing these birds.

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It must also come down to personal opinions of cramped, I have sat is aircraft that truly are cramped, sitting in the Spitfire felt like being in a living room by comparison.

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One downside, and it's a big one, to the narrow cockpit of the 109 was that it could limit the leverage the pilot could apply in the roll axes on the control stick.

 

The "feeling" of it being "safer" is just that, a feeling.  Total placebo effect.  It's like a dog that hides in the bathroom or closet during a thunderstorm.  He is no more "safe" in the small room than in the living room.

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Pilots I spoke to said that flying a P-47 was like riding in a Cadillac .... A Mustang was like a Corvette... That 109 cockpit looks claustrophobic even on the video..

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S!

 

 P-47 pilot's enemy fire evasion: running around in the cockpit! One phrase I have heard  :lol:

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One downside, and it's a big one, to the narrow cockpit of the 109 was that it could limit the leverage the pilot could apply in the roll axes on the control stick.

 

 

I'd have thought some sort of pulley arrangement to the control cables would have taken care of that.

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One downside, and it's a big one, to the narrow cockpit of the 109 was that it could limit the leverage the pilot could apply in the roll axes on the control stick.

 

The "feeling" of it being "safer" is just that, a feeling.  Total placebo effect.  It's like a dog that hides in the bathroom or closet during a thunderstorm.  He is no more "safe" in the small room than in the living room.

But, feeling more safer, feeling more confidence too about their abilities flying. The fear can restrict your actions. Is an important psicologic point.

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There is a video out there with 2 BoB pilots being interviewed, one British, one German where they talk about the cockpits of the Spit and 109. The German liked the nice large cockpit of the the Spit.

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The dimensions of the Spitfire and 109 cocpit are practically the same, at least in width. Maybe there is a bit more headroom upwards in the Spit, but its difficult to tell because they have very different seating positions (the Spit is upright, the 109 is inclined). In the 109 you sit with your legs extended before you, and the stick grip is just above your legs (good for neg-G). Your legs do get in the way of the stick when moved sideways, but its more or less the same for all planes unless you are standing in it (you dont) or unless you are Douglas Bader. :wacko:  I suppose the seating position may be very influental on the subjective feel, as well as framing - you have clearly defined bounderies of the cocpit due to them in the 109, whereas large bubble of plexi in the Spit gives you the illusion of space. I have only seen the Spit cocpit from up close but it looks tiny because it has shorter glass panels.Certainly the leg room seemed to be meant for amputees. The Hurricane OTOH, is considerably larger than both, not to mention the P-47, which looks rather like a locomotive, with wings.

 

I have sit in a 109, though the hood was not closed, which might have been a problem since I am quite tall (6+ feet). It does feel as if its molded around you but I would not describe it as cramped, having sat in a couple of jets like the MiG 21 and AFVS which IMHO are similar or worse... certainly you do not have room to strech yourself, but you can sit in quite comfortably. Entering the cocpit is quite natural, as you grip the handles on the forward cocpit frame and just lump yourself into the long cocpit, rather than actually climbing into it. One thing that impressed me though is how much lower you sit in the cocpit than you see it in sims POV, its like 70% of your front view is the instrument panel, and you do have to make some effort to see the sighting view over the nose - which is huge compared to say, a car.

 

Also what strikes me is how often its described as a small fighter. Well it may be small for a fighter (or rather, it sits really low), but compared to common machines like a car we see, its HUGE machine still. The engine is enormous.

Edited by VO101Kurfurst
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Great thread. I've never sat in a WW2 cockpit, but I'd love to. Wigram museum in Christchurch, New Zealand lets you enter a mocked up upper turret, like one in a Blenheim or other early RAF birds, perhaps an Anson??. That was pretty tight, without ammo belts, flight suits, etc. Pretty sure they have a mocked up Spitfire pit to try, too. As I recall, in terms of width, I filled it up pretty well. I'm 178cm, 85kg, so not that big. That cockpit lacked a canopy, which would have made things quite different, I suspect.

 

The Vampire they have is a two seated so there's a ton of room, but again, no canopy so you lack the complete experience.

 

 

 

Victory - you flew the Skyhawk? That is one of my favourites. Humpbacked version?

I've always imagined it would be a dream to fly. How was it?

 

 

Very interesting, Kurfurst. Please don't tell any sim maker about the view forward! Its hard enough without TrackIr already!

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I had the possibility to sit in the Bf109G-6 in Tikkakoski museum. I am only 177cm tall and normal build. The cockpit was small, I had only enough room sideways that fingers could be put between shoulder and canopy sill. When cockpit was closed my head was within 2cm from the top glass. Moving about was still easy and I could check 5/7 relatively easy. One has to remember the Bf109 seat, at least in G-series, could be adjusted on ground to 3 positions giving some extra headroom.

that's interesting... i'm ~ 179-180, so, i also can understand from your example, how it will be...

 

btw, i think russian specifics during 1940s, it's, mainly low and medium size people, but not sure...

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S!

 

 Nice picture :) I agree with Bivalov that people propably were in general shorter in 1940's than today.

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Height is much effected by nutrition (or the lack of it) at young age... and most people who fought in WW2 were born during or right after World War I and were raised during the Great Depression...

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Death1111 do you try to have realistic fov in the game ?

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...that people propably were in general shorter in 1940's than today.

yes, really, i mean most people around world were shorter etc, just looks like for ussr it's more typical (revolution, civil war, golodomor, collectivisation and other bad things)...

 

 

btw, Kurfurst is tester?! well, i think it's great for 109... :good::biggrin:

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