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Why pilot on starboard?

Why pilot on starboard?

Why pilot on starboard?

So far I've found no one that can answer why the pilots of fixed-wing aircraft typically sit on the port (left) side, yet helicopter pilots sit on the starboard (right) side.  (I guess tilt-rotor pilots either switch off flight duties or swap seats at the appropriate time!)

My best guess is that way back when Igor himself was trying to get off the ground, the collective mechanism complicated enough without trying to route it around the pilot, or learning the stick left-handed.

Any ideas?

RE: Why pilot on starboard?

This story is carried down through “tribal knowledge” and somewhere at one end of it sits Igor Sikorsky…

There are a few good reasons to do it.

In the early days of helicopters because of less than efficient rotor blade designs during a hover the right hand side of the aircraft was higher than the left.  This is due to “draggy” blades that required a lot of tail rotor force thus needing a lot of left hand cyclic to counteract the force of the tail rotor.  So the early pilots wanted a good view on the right hand side.

The original helicopters had a “shared” collective in the center of the aircraft.  Accessible to the left hand of the right seat occupant and vice versa.  The collective control also contained the throttle, so in the other hand is placed the cyclic.

In the early days of the Sikorsky helicopter fixed wing cockpits were not tandem for the most part.  In these typical arrangements the operator had a stick in his right hand and controlled the throttle with the left.  The original test pilots of the helicopter wanted to have cyclic control in the right hand and so they sat on the right side.  This allowed the left hand to be used for things like tuning radios, as the collective required slightly less attention as compared to the cyclic.

Once you consent to some concession,
   you can never cancel it and put
    things back the way they are.
         ---Howard Hughes---

RE: Why pilot on starboard?

Thanks blueskiesup,

Sounds like pilot preference (view, right-handedness, etc) as much as anything else.  Nowadays, it appears to be as much convention as anything else.


RE: Why pilot on starboard?

I fly a Safari from the left seat. The Bell 47 that I did my dual in was also soloed from the left seat.  However, if you want to adjust the Radio, transponder or other dash mounted equipment, it is better to use your hand that normally rests on the collective (left hand) and it is easier if you are in the right hand seat than if you are in the left and have to reach across the cyclic.  When I was flying about the LA basin in the Bell 47, numerous radio freq and transponder changes were requested.  I must of looked like a clumsy aerobatics performance leaning across the cyclic and diddling with the radios while the collective throttle changed a bit due to vibration.
Note:  I've got the radio freq controls integrated with my cyclic stick grip;.

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