Interactive 360° Cockpit Panorama

English Electric Lightning F.53 (ZF578)

This panorama contains two views that can be switched:

  • Day view, with all the instrument lights switched off,
  • Night view, with the light in the hangar dimmed (digitally, in post processing) and all instrument lights switched on.

The client is the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, near Chichester/Portsmouth, in the South of the UK.
The museum, on the site of the famous Battle of Britain Royal Air Force station RAF Tangmere, is certainly worth a visit!

"Meeting the natural desire to sit in and experience the cockpit of a displayed aircraft raises the twin problems of physical access and the demands of conservation. The incredible panoramic 360 cockpit view of our Lightning and Canberra cockpits, created by Harald Joergens, removes both problems at a stroke. Our visitors are now able to see, and examine in detail, every aspect of the respective cockpits using the interactive displays adjacent to each aircraft."
Dudley Hooley, Director Tangmere Military Aviation Museum
"It was a real pleasure working with Harald on this unique project and we are delighted with the result."
David Coxon, Curator Tangmere Military Aviation Museum

The museum has the English Electric Lightning F.53, RAF registration ZF578, on display in one of its halls. Visitors are not allowed to climb into the cockpit, so this interactive panorama has been created to allow them to explore the cockpit. The panorama runs on a console next to the aircraft, where visitors can navigate using a trackball.

Since every element in cockpit is named when the cursor is moved over it, the museum visitor has a vast amount of information to discover.

You can (virtually) start the engines (turn up the volume!) by clicking one of the Engine Start buttons. A screenshot showing their location can be found on the bottom of the page.

Equipment used:

  • Canon 5D Mark II with Really Right Stuff L-Plate
  • Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens
  • Manfrotto 529B Hi-Hat low-level, heavy duty tripod
  • Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head and Multi-Row Pano Elements Package
  • Really Right Stuff carbon fibre monopod with MH-01 Pro momopod head for nadir shots
  • Notebook computer with remote camera control software

How it was done: All photography has been done with the camera remotely controlled via a laptop computer. The main challenges have been the the confined space.

Because of the very limited room in the cockpit, an automated panoramic head could not be used, so all the positioning had to be done manually. For every position change, the canopy had to be lifted, and lowered again using a manually operated hydraulic pump.

To have every detail in focus, from the closest to the lens (2 inch) to the furthest (almost infinite), focus stacking has been used. All photography has been done with available light only, using exposure bracketing. The combination of focus stacking and exposure bracketing means a large number of photos: The cockpit section is based on around 500 21-megapixel RAW images,

To create the night view, all the photography has been done twice, with the instrument lights switched on and off. In total, around 1000 RAW images have been processed.

The resulting photos have been processed using focus stacking software first, followed by HDR processing. The resulting images have been edited, then stitched together, edited again, and then turned into a spherical panorama.

Technical information:
This interactive panorama exists in two different versions: One is using, if available, the Adobe Flash Player, the other uses HTML5. The Flash version allows viewing in screen mode, the HTML5 version works on almost all devices that don't have Flash (Apple mobile devices).

The aircraft:
The aircraft is a Lightning F.53, delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force in 1968, where it served until 1986, when it returned to the UK for disposal.. During restoration ZF679 took on the guise of Lightning F.6 XR753, and the livery of No 23 Squadron RAF. General information about the Lightning is available on Wikipedia.


  • Hugh Trevor, the museum's Lighning expert, has provided the names and descriptions for the cockpit.
  • The museum volunteers that helped in any possible way.
  • The museum engineers that restored the canopy hydraulics and electrical systems for the cockpit lighting.
  • The engine sound has been kindly provided by Hugh Trevor and the Lightning Preservation Group



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The two buttons to (virtually) start the engines are marked in the screenshot below! Cockpit screenshot showing the location of the "Engine Start" buttons

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