Are there any rules (i.e. airline-specific) or regulations (laws) that state that the pilot in command (PIC) must sit on the left seat in commercial airliners?

This question specifically asks for rules concerning the PIC who is not neccessarily the highest ranking crew member (as I think that a check captain may sit in the right seat when checking a captain).


2 Answers 2


No, the PIC does not always sit in the left seat, and there's no regulations about it. Most airplanes are configured so that the primary pilot would sit on the left, however there are military trainers (the Slingsby Firefly comes to mind) which have this on the right so that the pilot has the throttle on the left and stick on the right as single seat military jets have. Helicopters have the pilot on the right, not the left.

In any case the PIC is not necessarily the handling pilot, instructors usually sit on the right and are often the pilot in command.

  • $\begingroup$ Similarly, virtually every GA airplane is designed to allow a PIC (a CFI training a private pilot student, for example) to fly from the right seat. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Feb 5, 2017 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ A book written by an Army helicopter pilot, about his service during the Vietnam War, pointed out that where the aircraft commander (pilot-in-command) sat depended on the mission. USUALLY, the helicopter PIC sits in the right seat, so he doesn't have to climb over the collective stick as he gets in and out. For SOME missions, he needed the better ground view out the chin windows on the left side, and so he sat in the left seat (and, presumably, grumbled about the collective). $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2017 at 22:00

GdD is correct BUT this is not to give the impression that the pilots can just swap seats from leg to leg at will. Most if not all US airlines operations procedures now require seat specific qualification because the the duties are different for each position. Check Airmen who train pilots do sit in the right seat when training a Captain but they have to take a checkride in that seat to demonstrate proficiency in addition to their regular left seat checkride. When I started my career in the early 1980's this wasn't required. I was a Boeing 727 Flight Engineer and at the end of a month they were out of Co-Pilots to fly so I was with two Captains. I remember that entire trip looking up front and seeing many switches normally set by the co-pilot out of place.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nice answer -- welcome to Av.SE! We could do the same thing in the USAF -- "you're qualified in the left seat, so you're qualified in both seats" and it wasn't all that common to find somebody who could actually do the right seat job all that well, even though he was allowed to. Far better to fly with a "real" copilot in almost every case! $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    May 16, 2018 at 17:18

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