Why Do Helicopter Pilots Sit on the Right Seat?
The Pilot in Command (PIC) and the co-pilot share responsibilities and control of the aircraft, but the PIC is ultimately responsible for the aircraft, crew, and passengers. In certain operations, the PIC may also be titled the Captain and the co-pilot may be titled the First Officer. Regulations do not govern which seat the Pilot must sit in. However, in a fixed wing aircraft, it’s traditional for the PIC to sit in the left seat and the co-pilot to sit in the right seat, so we wonder why it’s often the opposite for the pilots in a helicopter. Well, it’s all about the design of the helicopter and the fact that most people are right-handed. And what does handedness have to do with where they sit? It gives them an operational advantage.
There are usually two cyclic sticks in the cockpit, and they are located between the pilot’s legs. Pilots do not let go of the cyclic stick very often during flight, even when trim is being used, because helicopters are more unstable than most airplanes and they need to maintain control at all times. Holding on to the cyclic stick is especially important when hovering because it requires constant inputs. Because the cyclic controls attitude and direction, it is the primary control of the helicopter, and right-handed pilots prefer to keep their right hand on it because it makes it more comfortable to control. The left hand is used for the collective lever, buttons, and instrument knobs, which are located in the center console— between the two pilots. Being able to sit in the right seat makes it more comfortable for the PIC, but the co-pilot just has to learn to become comfortable using their left hand for the main control stick.
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