On every aircraft I know, there is either one set of flight controls if it is single-pilot operated, or two sets of flight controls allowing either the pilot or copilot full control.

Has there ever been an aircraft that has three or more sets of flight controls?

To clarify:

  • "aircraft" includes fixed-wing, helicopter, powered lift etc.
  • remotely operated aircraft do not count.
  • A set of flight controls consists of yokes, pedals and/or sticks that allow the operator to manipulate the pitch, roll and yaw axes.
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You could say most WWII bombers had a third set of controls for the bombardier. On the bombing run control of the aircraft was turned over to the bomb sight. I don't know if it controlled all axes, though, or how much control authority it had, since it was intended for fine adjustments $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Feb 13, 2018 at 18:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not posting an answer because I don't know the details but the winch operator on some sea rescue helicopters has some control over the aircraft, I don't know how much. $\endgroup$
    – user29000
    Feb 14, 2018 at 14:40

3 Answers 3


Depends if you are asking about production or testbed stuff, NASA had at least one test bed aircraft that looks to have had at least 4 sets of controls (also covered in this question).

If you consider the space shuttle an aircraft, some of the thrusting capabilities (enough for pitch roll and yaw I belive) were operable from the arm control position.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Rotation and translation were both available from the aft station on shuttle -- it was how they did docking, since the docking adapter was in the payload bay. Interestingly, the translational hand controllers didn't look like that diagram indicates. They looked like this (the far left of the front panel, the stick with the square head): collectspace.com/images/news-062611a/013.jpg $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Feb 13, 2018 at 15:21

Dave's second reference (here) includes two helicopters with a third set of controls:

The Boeing BV-347 (link) Boeing BV-347 Helicopter

Sikorsky S-64 (link) and it's predecessor the S-60 S-64 Diagram

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ a retractable gondola which was fitted within the helicopter's fuselage. This compartment was equipped with a set of flight controls and could be lowered down allowing a third pilot to fly the aircraft while facing towards the rear! Is that the rickety shed-cum-greenhouse hanging just forward of the front wheels? Everything about it, that it came from B&Q with a free tomato plant, the fact it'll be crushed if you land, the fact it faces backwards, is All Awesome. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2018 at 15:47
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Are you sure it's not just something in the background? I think I see the words "Police box"... $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2018 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ The Sky Crane's third pilot does not Have rudder pedals so technically they do not have "full control", but it is close. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2018 at 7:00

There have been a number of one-off aircraft which attached one plane's cockpit to another aircraft for testing or training purposes. Furthermore, if your restriction of "proper" flight controls were lifted we could consider a number of bombers which were "flown" by the bombardier, by redundant interfaces to the autopilot system.

There is also the unique situation of lifting bodies and attached gliders. These were technically three or more people in control of two or more aircraft. Given that the child aircraft would need to be trimmed in order to avoid upsetting flight, input to control surfaces by 3 or more people could influence the flight path of the agglomerated system.

The only "production" aircraft I can think of with more than two sets of flight controls is White Knight Two which has a complete cockpit in each of its two fuselages. Unfortunately I cannot find an indication as to whether all four sets of controls can assert authority at the same time. If so, and if Space Ship Two's controls are not locked out while it is being carried there would actually be six people influencing the flight of the aircraft in some way.

  • $\begingroup$ White Knight Two's successor Stratolaunch also has two cockpits, but "The left fuselage cockpit is unpressurized, contains the flight data systems, [but] has no flight control systems." So it probably has no more sets of controls than its donor 747-400. $\endgroup$ Jan 11 at 19:22

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