Hands down the best source of airplane cockpit pictures.
I used to live in the Washington DC area. For a couple of years I worked within a five minute walk from the Air and Space museum. On many days I would skip lunch and walk down for a quick tour through aviation history. This was right before 9/11, so I could just walk right in and not be delayed by going through a security checkpoint.
The National Air and Space museum (NASM) has an amazing collection of aircraft. Many are historically significant airplanes, like Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of Saint Louis. Unfortunately, given the extremely valuable nature of the aircraft on display, visitors need to be kept a healthy distance away from them.
I remember staring at these airplanes many times and wondering what their cockpits looked like. For a pilot, the cockpit is the heart of the airplane. I need wonder no more.
A unique book, At The Controls contains outstanding pictures of real airplane cockpits. The authors had full access to the aircraft collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum. A total of 40 airplanes and 5 spacecraft are covered, including one of the space shuttles.
A large format book of about 150 pages, the cockpit pictures are given center stage. Each one is given a full page and they are all in glorious color.
The cockpit pictures are extremely well done. They were all carefully framed to include as many of the controls and instruments as possible. They are very well lit and everything is in sharp focus.
Many of the aircraft pictured in the book are of historical significance. The accompanying text is very well written and researched. It does a good job of explaining why these aircraft are important.
The book also includes pictures of what the outside of each of these aircraft looks like. They are usually historical photographs, but sometimes they are just pictures of what it looks like today.
Not all of these pictures look interesting, and not all of them give you a sense of the size of the aircraft.
Given the extensive collection of airplanes at the NASM, the fact that they were only able to include 40 in the book is a shame.
There is not much to dislike about this book. As a scale modeler, a picture looking back at the pilot’s seat would have been a very nice bonus.
I have been lucky enough to see firsthand several of the aircraft pictured. I have visited all three of the museum’s facilities: the main museum building downtown, the new Dulles annex, and the Paul E. Garber restoration facility (no longer open to public tours). To me, this book is a dream come true.
I know of no other book like this one. If you are working on a scale project and your subject is included in the book, run out and get a copy. This is the best source of information you are ever going to find. Even if your subject is not specifically pictured, seeing what other airplanes of the same era looked like will be invaluable.