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Why Captain sits on the Left?

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Why Captain sits on the Left?

Old 18th Dec 2010, 06:25
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Why Captain sits on the Left?

Just curious why the skipper is seated on the Left?
Could it be.....

i) The circuit is always a Left turn circuit
ii) The airport aerobridges are mounted on the Left
iii) Early aviators are mainly cowboys, so they climb the horses fr the Left &
this habit runs to the plane
iv) It is always a Left Hand drive

Did I miss previous thread on this?
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 06:32
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But why do helicopter captains sit on the right?
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 06:43
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I always understood this was down to the fact that in a 'head-on' (fixed wing)aircraft are supposed to turn right to avoid a collision. Thus they would pass each other on the left hand side with the respective commanders having an unrestricted view.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 07:02
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Captain on the left because, once aircraft got large enough to have two crew side-by-side, controls (eg throttles) tended to be installed down the centreline of the aircraft to be operated by either, and as most people are right-handed, and, certainly in the earlier days, the captain did most of the work (!) it was natural to sit to operate them with your stronger hand.

Once this was established, all the stuff of approaching the terminal in a right-handed curve (because the aircraft was being operated from the left seat and it made it easier to judge clearances), and then handling passengers through the left hand side, follows on, along with all the rules about which side to pass each other, which suit left hand seating.

There have been some past exceptions. Some of the early purchasers of the DC3 (eg American Airlines) had the aircraft custom manufactured with the main door on the right, because it suited their own way of doing ground arrangements. But these exceptions died away.

There are many other similar situations around. The tradition to drive on the roads either on the left or the right in various countries goes back to various different types of horse-drawn vehicle which became common in different countries, and had different ways in which the driver sat and whipped the horses, but which had them doing the stronger action with their right hand (some countries sat on the wagon, others rode on one of the horses), and the it was then convenient for the vehicles to pass either on the left or the right to suit. Once this was established, motor vehicles once invented and introduced to the roads just followed on the local tradition (60% of the world population drive on the right, 40% on the left)

In the UK, which pioneered escalators and the tradition of standing on the right and allowing overtakers to pass on the left (the opposite of UK roads) this once again came from allowing the less stable, who were more likely to just stand, to hold the handrail with their stronger right hand.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 07:11
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Probably comes from early sailing vessels- port and starboard - in german bachbord and steurerbord (steering side)- The rudder was a steering oar on the starboard side of a vessel - the helmsman stood on the port side and had his back to the port side (bach(k) bord). This meant that the vessel could only dock on the bachbord side to avoid damage to the steering oar - hence port side.
Many naval terms and customs were adopted in aviation.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 07:24
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But why do helicopter captains sit on the right?
Helicopters often fly slower and lower than their fixed-wing counterparts. I believe the reason is so that helicopters can fly right-hand (i.e. a contra-directional) circuit at the same airfield simultaneously with fixed wing aircraft. However, many larger helicopters do not have lateral CoG limitations found in smaller helicopters which makes the former flyable from either the left or the right seat. (Mind you, some fixed wing aircraft do not have such limitations either). It's just a convention.

Just 2 cents worth from a dual rated pilot. I'm not sure if that answers your question though !
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 07:25
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....and how to pilots adapt to left-hand control columns?

I posted the following in the SLF section - and then noticed there was a new thread on the same topic here. I hope the admins don't mind but I've now copied my SLF post to this thread as it's on a similar topic:-

I'm a private pilot and, of course, have never flown an airliner - but I would love to know just now Airbus pilots manage to fly from the left hand seat - using that left-hand controller.

It seems odd to me that after years of training and sitting in the right hand seat - using the right hand controller - when a pilot is promoted to the left hand seat he has to use his left hand to fly the plane

Anyone who's naturally right-handed wouldn't normally choose to operate a computer joystick with their left hand - so why on earth should aircraft manufacturers expect someone with a brain which is trained and hard-wired to do the most delicate operations with their right hand to suddenly convert to flying an airliner with their left?

No one would expect a brain surgeon to swop his scalpel into his left hand - so why expect pilots to be able to do so?Maybe Airbus think pilots are a special breed - totally ambidextrous. Maybe the naturally right-handed pilots are all rejected in the course of training -who knows? But I'd love to hear from Airbus pilots how they cope with moving from right to left and whether their finesse in handling the controls is ever quite as good afterwards.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 07:29
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I have always understood that helicopter captains sit on the right because the pioneers of two pilot helicopters were the US Navy with the S55 (Whirlwind) and with the carriers island on the starboard and the plane guard helicopter hovering to port it made sense to command from the right-hand seat.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 07:39
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But why do helicopter captains sit on the right?
Simply because the helicopter is easier to control from the right side. Well, all the buttons/controls are in the center, and if your holding the stick with your right hand (like most people do), u can easily take off the left hand from the collective and push those buttons. If you were sitting on the left side, you'd have to reach across quite a bit, with some body twist, and your hand gets further from the collective - not really a problem, but annoying nonetheless, and if the collective creeps up on you while you are busy pushing some buttons, it can be 'distracting'.

Interestingly enough, the first certified civil helicopter (BH-47) has the pilot seat on the left side. Aside from 2 controls (fuel shut off valve and the starter, which is foot operated), i'd rather fly it from the right side too if it has dual controls . I often found myself clutching the stick between my knees so i'd have a hand free to set some knobs with out having to let go of the collective, considering its friction lock isn't that good and if you got turbulence, its less than ideal. Doing that means taking the feet off of the rudder pedals though, also not really optimal. ANd if your hoving, unless u got monkey arms, you are better off putting it on the ground first before making prolonged frequency changes.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 08:01
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v) because Copilot already sit on the right.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 08:03
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It takes about an hour in the sim until your left hand does what your right hand did. Its no biggie.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 08:14
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And, Korrol, this has nothing to do with airbus.

In the planes you fly, with a PPL, where do you sit?

I guess on the left (unless it is in the center, on a single seater) - and how do you operate your engine?

After 10 years of airbus as an FO (flying with my right hand) I got command on a CRJ (very conventional jet), and now I am flying it with my left hand, I really need the right one for the thrust levers.

Having been in the LHS for 4 years now, I really wonder, how I ever could have been flying with my right hand...

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Old 18th Dec 2010, 08:17
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Modern control systems require very little pressure, so left hand can be better. Less overcontrol. It was for me.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 09:01
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The reason is the view is better from the left as the passengers board.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 09:08
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I've always thought that on aeroplanes the pilot-in-command sits on the left because in the US that's how vehicles are driven, and when the matter was officially regulated by ICAO, the American point of view prevailed (a bit like feet that prevailed over meters for altitudes).

Total speculation anyway and it doesn't explain the opposite convention for helicopters.
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 09:15
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Originally Posted by FR1A
The reason is the view is better from the left as the passengers board.

And most people (therefore Captains) are right handed and it's far easier to hit the F/O with the right
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 09:20
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And most people (therefore Captains) are right handed and it's far easier to hit the F/O with the right

This copilot seems to have no trouble hitting with the left hand.

YouTube - Copilot slaps Pilot while Flight Engineer watches
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 09:34
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Airplanes : first planes were flown by military ex horse riders (because of the sword, and more right handed people), when the question of choice came, the left was chosen.
Helicopters : first mass production 2 blades helicopter had a nasty consequence in unloaded g's manoeuver and the consequent tail strike, the blade momentum would get more chance to strike the cockpit on the l/h side, hence the choice. still carried todayon multiblades...

airbridges, traffic patterns and the like came later and were chosen accordingly...

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Old 18th Dec 2010, 09:35
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Train drivers sit on the left too (of course the Great Western had to be different and their steam locomotives were right hand drive).
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Old 18th Dec 2010, 10:36
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As a PPL and flying instructor for many years, I used to swap seats as appropriate and very rapidly became totally "ambidextrous." This followed me into commercial (fixed wing) flying and the seat I am sitting in never concerns me. The only difference is that in a large aircraft it is necessary for the other pilot to aid the positioning of the turn in when flying a circuit in the opposite direction to the seat in which you are sitting.

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