Why is it that control sticks for the captains on Airbus are placed on the left? Wouldn't it be uncomfortable considering that most of the people, and by consequence pilots, are right handed?

To my opinion this would make flying more difficult as a right handed person would have less sensitivity on his left hand.

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    $\begingroup$ why only think of right-handed captains? poor left-handed FOs? $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Dec 4, 2015 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ True. But according to wikipedia 75-90% of humans are right handed $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2015 at 11:35
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    $\begingroup$ Since this popped back to the top... I steer my car left handed because it's a manual and I shift with my right hand. I steer my wife's car right handed because it's an automatic and my right hand gets bored without having something to do. I don't have problems wobbling from lane-to-lane in either vehicle. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Sep 14, 2017 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ Even just in an automobile (manual gearbox), anyone who spends a lot of time in countries with the both LHD and RHD ... it's quite mysterious that there is almost no difference in having your left or right hand on the gearstick. For some reason it's quite natural to control the gearstick, with either hand, even if you've never used that hand on the gear stick before. Strange thing! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    May 27, 2018 at 13:23

4 Answers 4


The Airbus is actually configured the same as the vast majority of other General Aviation and Civil Aviation aircraft.

The key factor is that the throttle is almost always the middle - meaning that as pilots get used to sitting in the left seat early on in their training, they become accustomed to using the throttle with their right hand and the control column in the left.

It's something of a misconception to think that pilots spend much, if any, time with both hands on the control column. The right hand is almost always somewhere else – configuring radios, squawks, navigation equipment, throttles and so on.

Watch this video of a Citation Jet – particularly during takeoff and landing.

The pilot on the left is using his control column in exactly the same way as he would on an Airbus. You'll note that when his right hand is on the control column, it doesn't become dominant – it's just a resting position.

  • $\begingroup$ Well on the J-3 the throttle is on the left and the stick in the middle. I think there are bigger human factors concerns. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Sep 15, 2017 at 6:34

First, even if the aircraft is controlled using a yoke, the pilot is still controlling using his left hand (left hand on column, right hand on throttles/PCL). This is not much different and almost all pilots switch from controlling using their right hand to left hand pretty easily (they'll usually do this while training itself as they switch seats). The basic concept is same as say, a Boeing 737.

737 Cockpit

Boeing 737 cockpit, from gearthhacks.com

The basic control layout in airliners is that the pilot/copilot controls the yoke/sidestick with one hand and throttles/TCL (and flaps etc.) with the other hand. Having dissimilar layout for pilot/copilot has some advantages.

At the minimum, the throttles can be placed in the center. If the pilot's sidestick is to (his) right, then the throttles have to be placed in the left, resulting in duplication. This can be seen in the B1 Lancer, where the pilot's throttles are in the left (though the aircraft has a centre stick).

B1 cockpit

Image from left wingsovereurope.com

While this may be possible if only the throttles were to be duplicated, it is very difficult to do so with the whole center console.

Also, having the sidestick to the left side serves as a good hand(wrist) rest.

  • $\begingroup$ and that brings up a whole new question - why in the world did they duplicate the throttle quadrant on the pilot's left in the B1? (Yes, that's for a whole new question, not the discussions here...) $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Dec 4, 2015 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ F-111 had the same left hand throttle quadrants (for both crew). The quadrants were slightly different, but the ergonomics were very similar. $\endgroup$
    – BradHards
    Dec 5, 2015 at 10:45

Please note the flying captain could be left seated or right seated, also the stick on Airbus needs no effort to move it, it is very soft to handle it has a springy central positions. In normal flight longitudinally once you reach the desired vertical speed you may leave the stick, similarly laterally once you get the desired bank angle you can leave it until you finish the turn, so no effort is applied to the stick. What follows explains how this is possible: Indeed longitudinally it gives a LOAD FACTOR order(to simplify this is the ratio of lift to weight), when left in its neutral position it gives a load factor of (1)thus keeping the active path. Laterally it gives a « rate of roll » order, that is when you get the bank angle you want you leave the stick in the neutral position; to get out of the bank, you move the stick in the opposite direction. So it is a different technology you cannot compare it to a standard control column. Whether right-handed or left-handed, whether the left seated or the right seated is flying it would make very little difference to operate this soft stick.


Well, it would be hard to put it anywhere else! The pilots are used to flying this way. Most captains and left-seat pilots use their right hand on the throttle and left on the yoke or stick during takeoff. The force on these flight controls is minimal, so there's no need to use your dominant hand to fly the plane.


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