A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: Left-handed Plath Coutinho Sextant
From: Ken Gebhart
Date: 2017 Feb 5, 22:59 -0600
Firstly, I would argue that a sextant is a two handed instrument. One hand to hold it and the other to continually adjust the drum, and that the latter is the dominant player.
Secondly, this particular issue has more to do with the airplane. If it is controlled with a yoke and the throttle(s) are in the center of the cockpit, then a pilot will be at ease using either hand to control the yoke, and can devote either hand to the sextant. The throttles are usually set and require no manipulation. But if the airplane has a stick control with the throttle on the left side, then the pilot will not be able to fly smoothly with his untrained left hand, and will appreciate a sextant fitting his otherwise unused left hand. He can still use his right hand to make fleeting adjustments to the drum.
At least one other aeronautical sextant was held in the left hand: Brandis Model 206 C of 1931. I give details here: https://sextantbook.com/category/unusual-left-handed-sextant/ By 1935 Plath was making right handed Coutinho sextants.
I can think of one avantage to the left handed instrument: it allows a right handed person to write down results without setting down the sextant. If the navigator was also the pilot this may have been seen as an important detail. Brandis also placed the legs on the face of the instrument so that if it was set down, there was no need to juggle hands, but Plath did not have this detail.
Commander Bauer makes the same points on page 45 of his "The Sextant Handbook".
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