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Home Aviation Why a Captain of an aircraft sits on the left hand-side of the cockpit? Theories & Conspiracies

Why a Captain of an aircraft sits on the left hand-side of the cockpit? Theories & Conspiracies

by Visnu

I hope this would be my last time answering this question. In a cockpit the captain always seats in the left also known as the pilot in command(PIC). He will be in charge of decision making in the cockpit during flight as well as during emergencies


But why is he seated in the left but not on the right. On road some countries allow the driver to be seated on the left and some prefer right. I am not gonna elaborate on the driving part. There are many theories on this but none of it proves on really why they are seated left.It may be one of the chicken/egg questions and never be answered .You may say its because the pattern is a left hand circuit. But helicopter pilots are seated on the right.


According to one of the more colourful, since a cavalryman’s sword hangs on his left side, he must mount his horse from the left to avoid getting his feet tangled.

The first pilots often came from the ranks of cavalry officers and it was natural for them to board their aircraft from the left side ~ Traveller


Those days all single piloted aicraft are seated left even after the co-pilot seat was added. The pilots felt more comventional to fly left seated.


It’s not only pilots who board from the left. Most cyclists will hop on their bike from that side


One more theory is regarding maritime. Maritime started before even wright brothers invented the first flying machine.

The maritime tradition requires ships to pass one another on the left. Port or the starboard to be specific

To avoid collisions with oncoming aircraft pilots simply adopted this tradition, and for the pilot to gauge the necessary clearance, it was required that they sit on the left, closest to the oncoming aircraft.


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.


This theory only makes sense for a right handed pilot.


Back in World War 1, the planes that went meant for dog fights were build in such a way that the propeller rotates clockwise. Most of it were built with rotary engines which produces hell of a lot of torque. When it came to steering seating on the left was much more easier for the pilots to steer to the left, while sitting to the right was harder as it was against the torque. I believe because of this the pilots prefer a left turn and this is why most of the patterns are left turns. This seat also allows better visibility to the traffic coming in the opposite direction.


Since flight was born in United States. They adapted the left hand driving? Maybe wright brothers were left handed? Or is it because they wanted you to use your stronger hand to control the throttle?


The reason simply lies on the stability of the rotary plane.Unlike airplanes, helicopters need constant steering and direction on the “cyclic” control stick to stay in the air. 

Helicopters are designed so that the majority of people’s dominant hand can easily rest on the stick at all times. 

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1 comment

Youknowwho March 14, 2020 - 2:47 am

Haven’t sleep. Thx for explaining

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