JAM747
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Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 3:31 am

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?
 
FredT
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 4:33 am

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
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HaveBlue
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 5:49 am

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.
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LeanOfPeak
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 5:51 am

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.
 
FredT
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 5:52 am

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
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HaveBlue
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 6:04 am

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.
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FredT
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 6:09 am

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?
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SlamClick
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 7:17 am

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.
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HaveBlue
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 5:18 pm

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.
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Mar 19, 2005 6:19 pm

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
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SlamClick
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:11 am

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.
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BritPilot777
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:26 am

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
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SlamClick
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:56 am

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.
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BritPilot777
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 1:02 am

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
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Airgypsy
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 8:11 am

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
 
FredT
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Mar 20, 2005 8:42 am

Airgypsy,
nothing spoils a good discussion as much as facts, logic and hard knowledge!  Wink  thumbsup 
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SlamClick
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Mon Mar 21, 2005 12:29 am

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.
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bri2k1
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Mon Mar 21, 2005 12:32 pm

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?
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willo
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Tue Mar 22, 2005 1:29 am

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.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Fri Apr 01, 2005 10:44 pm

What about the Russians.
Does the Commander sit on Left & F/O on right too.
regds
MEL
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SlamClick
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Apr 02, 2005 12:24 am

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
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Click
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FredT
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Apr 02, 2005 1:48 am

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!
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lekohawk
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Apr 02, 2005 2:59 pm

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.
 
SlamClick
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Apr 03, 2005 1:14 am

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.
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Apr 03, 2005 3:11 am

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
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Yikes!
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Apr 03, 2005 9:49 am

Everyone has missed the Obvious Answer.

The Captain is not always Right.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Apr 03, 2005 6:32 pm

Quoting Yikes! (Reply 25):
The Captain is not always Right

replace "Not always" by "Never".
But it would be too hitting  Smile , most are.
regds
MEL
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Yikes!
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Tue Apr 05, 2005 11:59 am

HAWK21M

Nice touch!
 
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jumbojim747
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Tue Apr 05, 2005 8:57 pm

Quoting Yikes! (Reply 25):
The Captain is not always Right

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 .
Cheers
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alphafloor
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Wed Apr 06, 2005 12:56 am

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.
Whatever
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Wed Apr 06, 2005 8:34 pm

Quoting Alphafloor (Reply 29):
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.

Out here too Command checks are done the same way.Pilot flying on Left.
regds
MEL
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Jetlagged
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:04 pm

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 30):
Out here too Command checks are done the same way.Pilot flying on Left.

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 sides so the F/O, as pilot flying, sat in the left seat. It would be too confusing to fly one sector in the left seat and the next in the right. Controls are duplicated on each side (apart from the tiller in many cases) so it's not necessary anyway.

You asked earlier whether crews find difficulty changing sides when upgrading to captain in sidestick flown aircraft. It's not much different to the situation with traditional yokes, except that handflying an Airbus is so easy that I doubt most pilots would have a problem.

My theory about the left seat is that circuits tend to be flown left handed, so the left seat offers better visibility of the field on the downwind and base legs. Of course, left handed circuits might have come about because the pilot was sitting on the left ...... Chicken and egg, anyone?
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CosmicCruiser
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:19 pm

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 23):
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.

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 Airman (training capt.) is the PIC and as a Check Airman is dual qualified to fly either seat. I personally don't know any U.S. carriers that swap seats when the F/O is flying. F/O trg. is done in the right seat and capt. trg. is done in the left. Even though all our F/Os are typed in the -11 there is no seat swapping. I can tell a funny story about a DC-10 trg. goof up that had a couple of guys (I was one) getting all their sim. trg. in the left seat but when checkride time came the sim. instrc. told us to sit in the right seat. When we complained that all the trg. had been in the left seat he gave us a choice of taking the trg. all over again in the right seat OR start the checkride over with a type ride oral and a type check. We chose the latter and by dawn had a -10 type rating. It wasn' very funny at the time.
 
Jerald01
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Nov 11, 2006 3:51 am

You are ALL wrong.

The pilot sits on the left because the *&%$# co-pilot always grabs the seat on the right.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sat Nov 11, 2006 5:35 am

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 24):
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.

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 other hand, require much more constant control input since they are inherently unstable.

Speculating here but the exception may be modern fighters, where there are a lot of buttons and switches on throttle and stick, with muscle memory is highly trained to find these.
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acabgd
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Nov 12, 2006 6:45 am

Expanding this interesting discussion a bit, is there any particular reason why airliners are always boarded from the left side?

Why are jetbridges always placed on the left side?

I've also landed many times on airports without jetbridges and they never place the stairs on the right side, even for planes that have normally accessible doors on both sides.
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Starlionblue
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Nov 12, 2006 7:54 am

Quoting Acabgd (Reply 35):
Expanding this interesting discussion a bit, is there any particular reason why airliners are always boarded from the left side?

Why are jetbridges always placed on the left side?

I've also landed many times on airports without jetbridges and they never place the stairs on the right side, even for planes that have normally accessible doors on both sides.

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 side started, it may be that the naval tradition of "port" has carried over.
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lowrider
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Nov 12, 2006 8:45 am

Quoting Acabgd (Reply 35):
Expanding this interesting discussion a bit, is there any particular reason why airliners are always boarded from the left side?

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. All of the parking and equiment is currently set up for passengers to board from the left. Imagine the waste of space that would ensure if a right side boarding aircraft was introduced. Sort of like single point fuel fittings, its done that way because it has always been done that way, and changing would be too expensive.
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BAE146QT
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Nov 12, 2006 9:24 am

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 12):
Do you know anything about this service?

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 roads. A pair of aircraft - following the same road but in opposite directions - had a head-on collision in fog.
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BA777ER236
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Nov 12, 2006 9:46 am

Quoting HAWK21M (Reply 24):
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.

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 become a trainer on the A320, and found it quite difficult. After 2 hours in the sim, it became somewahat easier, and soon after, I was flying from either seat without much difficulty, it just takes a little thought sometimes!

I don't think that the side stick makes it any less or more difficult, just different.

I wish the 777 had a side stick!  Smile
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Starlionblue
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Nov 12, 2006 10:40 am

Quoting BA777ER236 (Reply 39):
I wish the 777 had a side stick!

It does. That version is known as the 340. Big grin
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Sun Nov 12, 2006 3:19 pm

Quoting BA777ER236 (Reply 39):
I don't think that the side stick makes it any less or more difficult, just different.

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  Smile
regds
MEL
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prebennorholm
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Tue Nov 14, 2006 4:29 am

Quoting JAM747 (Thread starter):
Why does the Captain sit on the left in an aircraft?

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 things up.
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KELPkid
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Tue Nov 14, 2006 4:51 am

RE: Helicopters (and no, I don't fly whirlybirds  Wink ),

Not all helicopters are flown solo from the right. The vast majority of small, piston-powered GA helicopters are, however a friend of mine, who picked up my wife and I after our wedding, and took us downtown to the hotel via helicopter Big grin, did so in a Schweitzer 300 with 3-abreast seating. He flew from the left seat, and took out the stick for the right side before taking off for our wedding reception (he is also a licensed A&P with IA for helicopters...not sure if that was needed for removing the right hand side stick).

However, from talking with him, apparently in helicopters, there is a need for lateral load balance (i.e. side-to-side) as well as CG management. So maybe this also plays into which side you solo a helicopter from? Like I said, I have no helicopter experience, other than being a good passenger.
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pygmalion
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Wed Nov 15, 2006 3:58 am

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 left or right and were not a factor. Driver sat on the left so that he could shift with his right hand. Most controls were in teh center as they weren't duplicated. Sitting on the left placed them in reach of the right hand. In earlier days, these controls were much more complex than todays. You had to adjust them not just select Off-Auto-Stby. Most folks including pilots had better fine motor skills in their right hands and so sat in the seat where using their right hands on the controls was easier.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Wed Nov 15, 2006 4:57 am

Quoting Pygmalion (Reply 44):
Actually is a hold over from cars. Driver on the left.

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 multiple theories. Left hand has you holding the sword hand towards the road. Also if you are leading an animal you would hold the reins in the right hand and walk between the animal and the edge.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:00 pm

Quoting Pygmalion (Reply 44):
Actually is a hold over from cars. Driver on the left

Not all cars have LH drive.
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MEL
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
 
Boeing7E7
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:48 pm

Quoting JAM747 (Thread starter):
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?

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 in aircraft as it is in cars in some countries. When it came to Helicopters, he decided they were screwed up anyway, so he let things be.  

[Edited 2007-03-29 15:50:19]
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:54 pm

Quoting Boeing7E7 (Reply 47):
When it came to Helicopters, he decided they were screwed up anyway, so he let things be.

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.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
louA340
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RE: Why Does The Captain Sit On The Left?

Fri Mar 30, 2007 3:53 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 40):
Quoting BA777ER236 (Reply 39):
I wish the 777 had a side stick!

It does. That version is known as the 340.

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