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Port & Starboard versus Left and Right

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Port & Starboard versus Left and Right

Old 6th Dec 2022, 09:15
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Thanks to all for the feedback on this, including funny tales. EXDAC, stilton: not sure how I got it in my head that Port and Starboard had been common in aviation. Following the feedback, I looked up my 1994 dictionary of nautical terms and after explaining that "the left side was called the larboard side until the 17th century, when port was adopted to reduce the confusion caused by similar-sounding larboard and starboard" (per ubx99) it even indicates: "the use if port and starboard have also begun to give way to left and right"! Just be careful if you are a tail gunner though!

Oh, and I have since found this other exchange on the topic, similar to comments above: https://aviation.stackexchange.com/q...ed-in-aviation

Last edited by helispotter; 6th Dec 2022 at 09:30.
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 09:31
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Just my two pennyworth as an ex RN airframe driver, we were brought up proper and always used Port and Starboard in naval aviation. Even formation flying references would be echelon port, echelon starboard, etc. It followed me throughout my civilian flying and I’ve never even considered that there would be aviators who don’t use the terms!

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Old 6th Dec 2022, 09:32
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Apparently larboard is the side from which a ship would be loaded, from middle English latebord. Clearly wiser to say "port" which will not be misheard.

As for me, I am sinister rather than dexterous.
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 12:51
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My Dad always Port and Starboard, but then he was on Sunderlands
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 13:14
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Originally Posted by PilotIstBreit
Then you never have been in a cockpit of the famous BN2. Look what it says on the starter switch on the overhead panel.

I am not allowed to post URLs, but google it up and you will see, what I mean ;-)
I have never flown, or been in, a BN2 but I confirmed they do use port and starboard as descriptors:

https://britten-norman.com/app/uploa...Islander-1.pdf

Some references seem to suggest that left, aft, and right were the descriptors used for Trilander engines.
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 15:08
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In 20 years only ever heard port/starboard from students who had boats. Pretty pointless in aircraft where the control seats only face forward. (At least, for the flying part of things. I have had FA's multiple times say left and right backward, since they spend most of their time facing that way! So an absolute airframe-based direction system is not a bad idea for them. But we have CA side and FO side for that, instead of nautical terms.)
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 16:09
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Originally Posted by EXDAC
I have never flown, or been in, a BN2 but I confirmed they do use port and starboard as descriptors:

https://britten-norman.com/app/uploa...Islander-1.pdf

Some references seem to suggest that left, aft, and right were the descriptors used for Trilander engines.
BN Trislander engines are "Port, Rear, Stbd".

https://www.airliners.net/photo/Aurigny-Air-Services/Britten-Norman-BN-2A-Mk3-2-Trislander/315330/L

Last edited by dixi188; 6th Dec 2022 at 16:10. Reason: wrong link
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 16:09
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Originally Posted by Senior Pilot
Just my two pennyworth as an ex RN airframe driver, we were brought up proper and always used Port and Starboard in naval aviation. Even formation flying references would be echelon port, echelon starboard, etc. It followed me throughout my civilian flying and I’ve never even considered that there would be aviators who don’t use the terms!
The RAF used the same terms for formation flying!
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 17:40
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Originally Posted by HOVIS
It gets worse, the left/port engine used to be number one. 😒
It's probably worth mentioning that, for a long-time, long-range aircraft had (at least) two engines on each side. So a simple 'port - starboard' or even 'left - right' was not sufficient. Hence engine's 1, 2, 3, 4 (from left to right).
It wasn't all that long ago that I often heard flight crews (and even ground maintenance types) refer to engines on a twin as '1 and 2' - presumably as a bit of a throwback to the 747 (and perhaps 707).
However EICAS messages on twins have aways referred to the engines as "L and R" - while the 747-400 and -8 have them numbered 1 - 4.
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 18:17
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Even going back 50-odd years, I don't recall much use of "port" and "starboard" in maintenance circles.

For much of my hangar-rat career, left and right engines were No 1 and No 3.
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 18:38
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In the seventies I was at Marham on a Victor K1A and we were doing a Practice Pan with the examiner on board with the number four at flight idle, and on what was then called an overshoot, he called for full power on numbers one two and three. There was a bang and the number three caught fire and I put out a Mayday but I used the term 'the starboard inboard is on fire' !
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 18:47
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Originally Posted by dixi188
I found at least two left, rear, right designations on controls in this image. Perhaps they were struggling with proper nomenclature and trying to keep everyone happy.

https://www.jetphotos.com/photo/8112742
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Old 6th Dec 2022, 19:09
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Port and Stbd nomenclature was certainly still used in British Military Aircraft at least up to the (Metal) Harrier/Hawk T1 era (ie in parts catalogues and component names).
I officially changed over to L+R when I started working on Plastic Harriers (GR5 upwards) but it never bothered me which words were used - I was happy to use either system.
Same as I was happy to use any of the impressive list of different units for measurements and capacities,sometimes of course different units were used when comparing an export aircraft to a (same type of ) RAF Aircraft.
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Old 7th Dec 2022, 06:39
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Just to muddy the waters a little, this thread reminds me of the single debrief comment from a JP5A formation trip I did, as a student, many years ago.

'Make sure you call the clock code correctly while inverted!'
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Old 7th Dec 2022, 08:37
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Originally Posted by EXDAC
I've been a pilot for well over 40 years and have been involved in aircraft systems development for longer than that. I don't recall ever hearing any part of an aircraft, or any part of an aircraft system, being designated as port or starboard.
Then you were never subject to anything remotely British, the old Fokker 27 had a port and starboard Rolls Royce Darts.

Originally Posted by tdracer
It's probably worth mentioning that, for a long-time, long-range aircraft had (at least) two engines on each side. So a simple 'port - starboard' or even 'left - right' was not sufficient. Hence engine's 1, 2, 3, 4 (from left to right).
It wasn't all that long ago that I often heard flight crews (and even ground maintenance types) refer to engines on a twin as '1 and 2' - presumably as a bit of a throwback to the 747 (and perhaps 707).
However EICAS messages on twins have aways referred to the engines as "L and R" - while the 747-400 and -8 have them numbered 1 - 4.
Except the 737; where they are stil counting engines. 1 and 2…
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Old 7th Dec 2022, 09:44
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Originally Posted by BANANASBANANAS
Just to muddy the waters a little, this thread reminds me of the single debrief comment from a JP5A formation trip I did, as a student, many years ago.

'Make sure you call the clock code correctly while inverted!'
The RAF BFTS JP system never seemed to allow a criticism free debrief. I remember one of my few IF trips that I knew had gone exactly to plan and I’d flown very accurately.

As we walked in from the aircraft my instructor said:“Well, that was a very smooth trip!”

”Thank you, sir!” I replied, feeling very pleased to receive what was a very rare compliment.

”Not you, you ****, I meant the weather…!

Such was the RAF flying training system of the late 1970s.
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Old 7th Dec 2022, 10:12
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I think Boeing changed from 1,2 to Left, Right with the 757/767.
Airbus are still 1, 2. I think.
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Old 7th Dec 2022, 10:30
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Back in the late 60's to mid 70's, in the RAF, I was an airframe fitter on Lightning majors and it was, port, starboard, mainplane, tailplane and fin. I left to join BA on B747 majors and later B777's. There I was introduced to wings, horizontal and vertical stabilisers and of course left and right. The whole tail section was called an empennage, I had to look that up in a dictionary. Lots of nautical terms in aircraft construction, frame, stringer, bulkhead, deck, beam, spar, hatch, keel, longeron, tiller, to name some. Then you have the crew, Captain, purser, stewards and stewardess's.
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Old 7th Dec 2022, 14:59
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The 787 uses Left and Right but at least one company uses 1 and 2 for communicating with the ground crew during engine start. Do military aircraft still use port and starboard?
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Old 7th Dec 2022, 16:44
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Originally Posted by dixi188
The fact that Messrs Britten and Norman were keen sailors may have influenced this.
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