Pilots have always used their laps as desks.
One of the first examples was in 1903 when Charles Manly, the test pilot for Professor Samuel Langley, prepared for a flight of Langley’s Aerodrome by sewing a compass to his trouser leg.
The aircraft was launched from a houseboat in the Potomac River on Dec. 8, 1903. The launching mechanism snagged and the aircraft pitched down sharply. Manly didn’t have enough altitude to recover and the aircraft promptly plunged into the water.
Critics at the time said that the failure was proof that heavier-than-air flight was impossible.