After years of flying left-hand throttle and right-hand yoke (in the right seat), are there ever first officers who simply cannot transition to the opposite due to particular hand-dominance?

As a corollary, are there any pilots who simply cannot acquire the left-hand dexterity/sensitivity to use the Airbus joystick when transitioning to captain?

And in all cases, are there ever trainees who cannot get used to yoking or throttling with a non-dominant?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If a pilot is still a natural entity, then pilots as a group will have a distribution, between sometime who almost can not graduate from flight school to someone who flies damaged planes to safety, there are ones in the middle, if that's what you are asking. $\endgroup$ – user3528438 Jan 19 '18 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sure...i'm just asking if anyone has personally experienced this, and what happened... $\endgroup$ – aAaa aAaa Jan 19 '18 at 23:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It would be unthinkable for this to happen, simply because in order for a pilot to get to the point of flying right seat in a commercial environment, they had to fly a LOT of left-seat time, quite a few of those being as CFI's or single-pilot operations. You can't get an ATP without having significant left seat time. As for handedness, I'm right handed, but my left hand is always the one operating the yoke (right does throttle/prop/radios). $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jan 20 '18 at 3:54

In a study titled 'Role of handedness in flying performance', the author notes:

[Leon had reported] that movements in one limb were not affected by actions in the other limb. It may be for similar reasons that in multi-crew cockpits of transport and passenger aircraft, pilots have not reported any difficulty in operating controls at either the left or right seat even though the layout of the controls is a "mirror image".

From an observation that may or may not have been studied, operating controls is not like handwriting—handwriting requires major shifts in body position to use the other hand. The human brain is really good at ordering one hand to mirror or follow the path of the other hand. If you think of the yoke as a steering wheel, then when switching from right to left seat, the left hand follows the circular path of the now free hand.

It takes getting used to, but unlike handwriting, it's very quick. I've done this experiment years ago. If you have a flight simulator, setup the plane on approach and switch the joystick from your preferred side to the other. In my case, just like the study above, I did not find any difficulty.

enter image description here https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Patria_pilot_training_OH-GSC_Malmi_3.JPG

Above is the cockpit of a Cirrus aircraft, it's often remarked that the stick resembles half a yoke, and would be operated much like any yoke. The same is said about the Airbus stick.

But Airbus also has an armrest, which is very beneficial as the precision increases when the arm is rested, see here: Why don't we fly helicopters with yokes?


Part a pilot's career is transitioning between the left and right seats (single pilot, captain, first officer, flight instructor, etc). By the time a pilot gets to fly airliners they are accustomed to flying in both seats.


To be honest, it takes all of about 10 minutes to transition between a control yoke and a stick. The more strained process is learning the systems, performance numbers and procedures. Most certified aircraft have docile handling characteristics and good handling qualities and the kinesthetics feel of the stick quickly becomes accustomed to during the transition process. The more varied and different types of aircraft a pilot has flown, the easier this process is. Another factor is that many professional pilots are also certified flight instructors and have developed a familiarity with transitioning into new aircraft from both the left and the right seat.

Now some people who learned how to fly one type of plane only and have a lot of hours in it, then attempt to switch to another have problems doing so, mainly due to handling qualities between the two aircraft. I once saw a guy who recently bought a SR-22 after logging 800 or so hours in a PA-28R Arrow IV. He seemingly could not land the new Cirrus no matter how hard he tried. Again with limited flight time in different types and develop habits around the handling of one platform, it becomes harder and harder to change between types regardless of whether they use yokes, sticks, ram’s horns, etc.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.