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Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?  
User currently offlineJAM747 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 550 posts, RR: 1
Posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Why does the Captain sit on the left in an aircraft? Is it just tradition or is it a technical reason because some of the controls are different than from the right?

50 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 1, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Many theories, few facts on this.

One theory hinges on the fact that air traffic meet left side to left side when on opposite headings. This means that if you are following an airway marked by visual means on the ground, such as ditches in the desert or lit beacons, you have to fly on the right side of the marked path. For the captain to see the path, he would have to be sitting on the left side.

Many early aircraft turned better to the left due to the rotation of direction of the engine(s). This meant that landing patterns were usually designed as left hand patterns, meaning that the captain had to be seated on the left side in order to maintain a view of the airfield.

Cheers,
Fred



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently onlineHaveBlue From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 2108 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Interesting FredT.

And JAM747 to muddy the waters a bit, in helicopters its just the opposite. The aircraft commander/pic/captain sits on the right side.



Here Here for Severe Clear!
User currently offlineLeanOfPeak From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 509 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

My hunch would be that that is to allow the right (favored) hand to operate the cyclic, with the left hand taking the collective, radios, navigation, etc.

User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 4, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

HaveBlue,
there's a theory behind that as well. Sikorsky flew from the left. He then trained his factory instructors. They flew from the right seat.

The factory instructors trained the military instructors, first customer. They flew from the left.

And then, they trained the military pilots... who flew from the right seat ever since.

We will probably never know, but this kind of speculation has merit and beauty of it's own.  Smile

Cheers,
Fred



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently onlineHaveBlue From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 2108 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Yeah Fred I remembered reading something like that, but not clearly enough to post the theory. Wasn't part of it that they had the left seat collective on the right hand side of the seat, and the cyclic was held in the left hand. It was extremely difficult to 'switch' and get used to controlling with the opposite hands, so he just stayed left seat and let everyone he trained sit in the right seat? Then, of course, they ended up puttting the collective on the left side of both seats, and the hands never had to reverse depending on which seat you flew from.

On a side note my dad has flown on logging and firefighting missions out west. In the case of logging with choppers, the PIC flies left seat. In the interest of trivia, anyone want to guess why?

I'll post the answer later if noone gets it.



Here Here for Severe Clear!
User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 6, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 32758 times:

HaveBlue,
no idea but I'll venture a guess to make it more fun.  Smile

Tail rotor on the right. Ground crews better to have on the left. Pilot needs to be able to see what the ground crews are doing, thus sits on the left?



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 7, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 32720 times:

Quoting HaveBlue (Reply 5):
On a side note my dad has flown on logging and firefighting missions out west. In the case of logging with choppers, the PIC flies left seat. In the interest of trivia, anyone want to guess why?

Never done that type of flying but here is my guess.

It would have to do with which side of the aircraft was toward the hillside when hovering out of ground effect. I can think of two possibilities based on direction of tail rotor thrust. One in case of engine failure and the other in case of tail rotor failure. I can't decide between them!

The aircraft commander could choose to be positioned to observe the work being done at the end of his sling cable, or he could choose to be in position to take over in case of an autorotation. I'm going with the former - the A/C is positioned to see signals from someone on the ground.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently onlineHaveBlue From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 2108 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 32551 times:

Well, here it is...

When logging or heavy lifting, the pilot of a helo has a bubble integrated into the door window so he can lean out and look down at the load. If you were right seat and were doing so, and if you can picture it in your head, in the right seat you'd be leaning out to the right to look down, thus possibly by accident pulling up on the collective with your left hand.

If you fly the logging/lifting in the left seat, leaning towards the left window, your left hand is on the collective but not getting 'pulled' as you lean.

As I type this I can see where you'd still have a tendency to pull the cyclic with your right hand when flying left seat, but what I described is for a fact the reason that they fly left seat. From recollection and without asking my father all I can surmise is that you have your right hand on the cyclic but resting your wrist on your knee, so you are less likely to overexaggerate hand movements when leaning out towards the window.

I'll ask him tomorrow for a more detailed answer, but that is what I recall from what he has told me before.



Here Here for Severe Clear!
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31684 posts, RR: 56
Reply 9, posted (9 years 6 months 4 days ago) and read 32529 times:

Very Interesting Topic.Thats whats best about A.Net
Would the Incorporation of Tiller on both sides of later Aircraft eliminate this requirement of Which side is more comfortable.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 10, posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 32480 times:

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 9):
Would the Incorporation of Tiller on both sides of later Aircraft eliminate this requirement of Which side is more comfortable.

Helicopters are the exception in flying machines.

In fixed wing, from the right seat you work the flight controls with your right hand and the throttles with your left. When you move over to the left seat you begin to fly the plane with your left hand and operate the throttles with your right. This is because there are two yokes and only one set of throttles. (Okay, I know - Electra and a number of others have two sets of throttles but they are both mounted on the center pedestal.)

On two-pilot helicopters you have identical sets of controls for each pilot. Cyclic, which is directional control (always a stick -never a yoke) is held with the right hand, with the forearm almost always spot-welded to the right knee. Collective - which is power and lift is held with the left hand no matter which seat you occupy. It would take tremendous mental discipline for a helicopter pilot to fly with any other arrangement.

The Sikorsky Skycrane:

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Alexander Watts


. . . may have a bubble facing the sling hoist, as this one does. (Below the N-number) There may be a set of controls in there for a person to fly the helicopter while hooking up to a slingload.

If this is done, this pilot has no anti-torque pedals and gets directional control from twisting the cyclic left-right. Imagine flying a helicopter facing aft, with no pedals! It is possible because the cyclic control is directionally intuitive. You press it in the actual direction you want to go.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineBritPilot777 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1075 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 32474 times:

Hey,

I'm probably sure someone's mentioned this, but I cant be bothered to read through all the replies.

When flying VFR, and you are flying with reference to ground objects (linear features) you should fly to the right of it. Therefore, if you are heading from South to North, and another aircraft from North to South, you'll see each other on your left hand sides.
This was a rule / tradition / safety measure (whatever you want to call it) was implemented after back in the 1920s, an aircraft en route from London to Paris, had a mid air collision with an aircraft from Paris to London. They hit each other over the same ground object they flew over.

Moheet



Forever Flight
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 12, posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 32451 times:

Quoting BritPilot777 (Reply 11):
in the 1920s, an aircraft en route from London to Paris, had a mid air collision with an aircraft from Paris to London.

Do you know anything about this service?
My father flew, as a passenger from near Paris to near London in 1922. We don't have any pictures of this, and have always wondered who provided the service, and with what airplanes.

Thanks.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineBritPilot777 From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1075 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 32454 times:

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 12):
Do you know anything about this service?
My father flew, as a passenger from near Paris to near London in 1922. We don't have any pictures of this, and have always wondered who provided the service, and with what airplanes.

Hey,

Yea we covered it somewhere in History of the Airline Industry I think, let me take a look at my notes and i'll get back to you.

Moheet



Forever Flight
User currently offlineAirgypsy From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 130 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 32352 times:

In small helicopters the pilot sits on the side of the advancing blade unless there is someone else on board to balance. Western helicopters turn counterclockwise and soviet helicopters turned clockwise. Lateral lift at speed is a factor.
TC


User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 15, posted (9 years 6 months 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 32334 times:

Airgypsy,
nothing spoils a good discussion as much as facts, logic and hard knowledge!  Wink  thumbsup 



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 16, posted (9 years 6 months 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 32212 times:

Quoting FredT (Reply 15):
nothing spoils a good discussion as much as facts, logic and hard knowledge!

That might be true. On the other hand:

Quoting Airgypsy (Reply 14):
In small helicopters the pilot sits on the side of the advancing blade unless there is someone else on board to balance. Western helicopters turn counterclockwise and soviet helicopters turned clockwise. Lateral lift at speed is a factor.

Only stirs the discussion because it is not correct.

One of the most common helicopters in the world for the first forty years . . .

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © TTT
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Rudolf Fehlhaber


The Bell 47 we pilots sat on the retreating blade side, as seen above.

"Western helicopters turn counterclockwise " might be true unless you consider French helicopters 'western.'

Not exactly sure what he means by "lateral lift" either. Perhaps asymmetric lift due to the advancing blade having a higher airspeed than the retreating blade. It is indeed a factor but it is dealt with by the semi-rigid rotor sytem, shown above in a very simple manner.

When the advancing blade tries to fly UP as a result of higher airspeed/lift, the stabilizer bar remains, well, stable flying 90 degrees to the axis of rotation, the mast. The pitch change link, going to the pitch horn on the blade grip is attached to that stabilizer bar, and as the blade flaps up, the pitch of the blade is decreased with no pilot input. Likewise, on the retreating blade side the stabilizer bar and pitch link increase the pitch if that blade tries to fly down. It works quite transparently right up to the point of retreating blade stall.

If by "lateral" lift, he means the actual lateral component or thrust of the main rotor disc, that is a factor too. It is dealt with by a balance of forces too lengthy for this post.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineBri2k1 From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 988 posts, RR: 4
Reply 17, posted (9 years 6 months 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 32067 times:

It makes clear sense that most aircraft were designed with the commanding position on the left. But why?

One guess I have is another holdover from nautical operations. Clearly, the captian of a ship must be able to see the left, or "port," side of the ship while docking. Could this have been part of the reason?



Position and hold
User currently offlineWillo From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2003, 1352 posts, RR: 12
Reply 18, posted (9 years 6 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 31929 times:

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 12):
Do you know anything about this service?
My father flew, as a passenger from near Paris to near London in 1922. We don't have any pictures of this, and have always wondered who provided the service, and with what airplanes.

The flight may well have been with Instone Airline Limited who operated London (Croydon) to Paris using DH34's. They were subsequently absored into Imperial Airways, the forerunner of the current British Airways.

Funnily enough, Instone reformed in 1976. It is still in business and based about a mile or so from my home. They specialise in charters, particularly the movement of bloodstock.


User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31684 posts, RR: 56
Reply 19, posted (9 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 31459 times:

What about the Russians.
Does the Commander sit on Left & F/O on right too.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 20, posted (9 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 31455 times:

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 19):
What about the Russians.
Does the Commander sit on Left & F/O on right too.

Nah man! They're commies! They both sit on the left. The captain just sits farther to the left.


Slam
"I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the Communist party."
Click



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineFredT From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 2185 posts, RR: 26
Reply 21, posted (9 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 31434 times:

SlamClick,
 rotfl  Funniest I've read on a.net in a long time!

"Captain, I think you landed somewhat left of the centerline this time"

"Yes, and my F/O landed somewhat to the right of it..."

 Wink

Cheers,
Fred, embarking on a weekend and then a week of wearing green and living in a tent - and feeling good about it!



I thought I was doing good trying to avoid those airport hotels... and look at me now.
User currently offlineLekohawk From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 159 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (9 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 31342 times:

Ahh SlamClick... you and your crazy politically charged humor.  Wink

My question: Is it not theoretically possible for the PIC to sit on the right and still do his job? Aside from the nosegear tiller on some models, aren't the left and right seats virtually identical?



If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 23, posted (9 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 31310 times:

When a new captain is getting his IOE a training captain will sit in the right seat. It might be argued that until the trainee is signed off, the training captain must be the PIC.

Certainly a pilot could sit in either seat. Under US FARs we now have "seat-dependant-task training." This is because an FAA safety inspector used to pulling the gear with his right hand cannot be retrained to do it with his left ( Smile just kidding guys) So you could not legally fly from the right seat even though you spent the first part of your career over there.

I once heard a story of a guy operating a DC-3 single-pilot in some corner of the world. He flew from the right seat because it is easier to operate the gear and flaps from that seat, and you can also reach the cowl flap controls.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31684 posts, RR: 56
Reply 24, posted (9 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 31280 times:

On Aircraft using the Side stick.Would it be difficult to adapt to using your RH hand as a F/O & then using LH hand as P1.
Is the transiton tough.
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
25 Yikes! : Everyone has missed the Obvious Answer. The Captain is not always Right.
26 Post contains images HAWK21M : replace "Not always" by "Never". But it would be too hitting , most are. regds MEL
27 Yikes! : HAWK21M Nice touch!
28 JumboJim747 : Reminds me of a quote an old friend used to always say. It goes something along those lines. The captain is not always right but he is never wrong .
29 Alphafloor : Is it true that on KLM planes the flying pilot sits on the left hand side ? That means that if the F/O is flying the plane he'd take place on the left
30 HAWK21M : Out here too Command checks are done the same way.Pilot flying on Left. regds MEL
31 Jetlagged : Clearly if you are being checked for command, you would sit in the left (commander's) seat. I've never heard of a situation where the crew swapped si
32 CosmicCruiser : Hello Slamclick, You may have added that The new capt. is not the PIC until he is "signed off" after his final Standards ride therefore the Check Air
33 Jerald01 : You are ALL wrong. The pilot sits on the left because the *&%$# co-pilot always grabs the seat on the right.
34 Starlionblue : As Jetlagged said changing hand in fixed wing is trivial, even with a side stick. The movements required are not THAT precise. Helicopters, on the ot
35 Acabgd : Expanding this interesting discussion a bit, is there any particular reason why airliners are always boarded from the left side? Why are jetbridges al
36 Starlionblue : The reason they are boarded from ONE side is that all the other work (cargo etc) is done from the other side on most airliners. As for how the left s
37 Lowrider : I think the answer here might have to do with the fact that once the tradition of boarding from the left was started, it would be expensive to break.
38 BAe146QT : I do know that the cross-channel service was one of the first victims of a mid-air. They flew by pilotage of course and mostly that meant following r
39 Post contains images BA777ER236 : I can tell you from personal experience on my previous type, that, having flown from the left hand seat for several years, I did a rhs conversion to
40 Post contains images Starlionblue : It does. That version is known as the 340.
41 Post contains images HAWK21M : Although the Pilots I talk to dont agree.I feel the Control column is Easier that the Side stick from a Mx point of View regds MEL
42 Prebennorholm : I have heard that it's because most captains are righthanded. It makes it easier to slam a fist into the face of the F/O when the boy is f***ing thin
43 Post contains images KELPkid : RE: Helicopters (and no, I don't fly whirlybirds ), Not all helicopters are flown solo from the right. The vast majority of small, piston-powered GA h
44 Pygmalion : Actually is a hold over from cars. Driver on the left. All the early side by side aircraft were this way too. Ships had the steering in the center not
45 Starlionblue : You can argue cars both ways though. Early cars had central seats. Later, there were both variants. I don't think that cars were "handed". There are
46 HAWK21M : Not all cars have LH drive. regds MEL
47 Post contains images Boeing7E7 : Because when God decided it was time for man to fly, He decided that driving on the wrong side of the car and road just wasn't going to be the case i
48 Starlionblue : Heh. Maybe it was because the collective on older choppers was only in the middle, leaving the right hander with his right hand on the cyclic.
49 Post contains images LouA340 :
50 Post contains images InnocuousFox : But is that cause or effect? It could be that you are told to fly to the right of it (so oncoming traffic passes down the left) simply BECAUSE the ca
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