Star Wars cockpits always fascinated me as a kid. They had a believability to them. I’d seen plenty of real aircraft cockpits, so I knew what made sense. My dad was a private pilot, and I was very familiar with the cockpit of our Piper Comanche. (I can still hear my dad’s voice, “This is N7059P, requesting clearance for takeoff.”)
I’d also seen many military cockpits, both in photos, and up close. We lived near Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia, USA, and each year they held an open house. Every manner of military aircraft would be on display. They’d have portable steps leading up to the cockpit, and we could climb up and look inside.
I’d always start talking to the pilots, and pretty quickly they’d realize I was a 10 year old who knew aviation. On more than one occasion, they’d take me and my dad over to another aircraft that was not open for public display. Someone would bring a ladder, and they’d let me climb up and sit inside. All the while they’d lean in and describe to me what everything was. And more than once I surprised them by knowing it before they named it!
On a few occasions, they even described to me memories of air combat over Vietnam. As a kid, sitting in the cockpit of an F-4 Phantom while the pilot used his hands to describe an actual dogfight was mesmerizing. To this day I choke up a bit thinking of it. How wonderful for those young men to take the time to share with a youngster.
Star Wars Cockpits
Like I said though, Star Wars cockpits had a believability to them. Other scifi stuff at the time just seemed… weird. Wrong. No logic.
Take Star Trek for example. I loved Star Trek. My friends and I played Star Trek all the time. A couple of us used to fight over who got to be Kirk. But those interiors… blinking lights that shifted color. No labels. (Unless a plot point needed it, of course.) It all looked cool. But from the standpoint of anything reasonably believable, it made no sense.
So when Star Wars came along, I loved the little detail that was added in – realism. I could look at the cockpit and think “OK, that makes sense.”
And now almost 45 years later, I can combine my experience painting aircraft cockpits with my love of building Star Wars.
And it all adds up to fun.
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