Why do Captains sit on the left side?

Hello fellow pilots and air traffic controllers but I have a question that I have been wondering for quite a while. Why do pilots always sit on the left and co pilots sit on the right side. Are they aloud to switch sides if they want or is it a safety thing.

Thanks guys Gman


I’ve heard it’s something to do with the early rotary aircraft that would have a natural pulling effect to the left and so most manouvers would be performed to the left and as the captain they’d have better visibility sitting on the left had side. I just think it’s traditional to do this now. I might be completely wrong.


I read somewhere that it’s because most holding patterns involve left turns, so the captain needs better visibility, I guess


Same reason the driver of a car sits on the left side (in the United States). It’s either one side or the other. Industry took a pick and choose the left I suppose. I’m sure there are supporting reasons though, such as visibility in the pattern etc.


The car thing is because you drive on the right hand side whereas in the UK it’s RHD because we drive on the left


Exactly. Someone made the discussion to have cars drive on the left in the U.K. and to drive on the right in the US.

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And since flight was born in the US, the driver sits on the left as it should be.


Didn’t the Wright brothers sit (well, lay) in the middle?


That is a good point, Patrick. I do not know why captains do not lay in the middle yet today.


“We are 20 inches off the ILS because I can’t sit in the middle”


Because they’re left handed:D

Helicopter captain sits at the right side


With fixed wing aircraft the Primary Pilot or Captain sits on the left hand side because the throttles are in the centre and majority of people are right handed so that they can use their stronger hand to contro the engines. This was more important when there was a direct link between the throttles and the engines. So overtime, and when a co-pilot was added, the Captain was on the left with the co-pilot on the right. Most aircraft manufacturers make their SOP based on that seating arrangement and there is a good chance that CAA have made it law ( the last bit is a guess,)


Daniel is totally correct. :) That is the main reason, however there are many more

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Plus on a 737 (maybe others?) only the left seat can steer the aircraft on the ground

Correction, only captain’s side can use the Tiller. :) You can still steer with the pedals


This has something to do with it too!

Regarding if the captain can switch I have heard from credible sources that it is not unheard of of left handed captains requesting to switch seats with the first officer before the flight. As far as I know it’s just a traditional seating arrangement and not a mandatory one.

I always wondered how a right handed captain gets used to the side stick being on the left in an Airbus. Especially switching from the 1st officer’s seat, with the side stick on the right, to the captain’s seat. In this cast it’s not only switching sides, but also hands.


This has always been something I wondered about. What about in an airbus for a right handed captain. Surely it would be more beneficial for the captain to use his better hand to make a smoother takeoff and landing.

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