Chair Flying is a common term for practicing procedures on the ground, in order to increase competency in the airplane. It’s often overlooked in training by instructors and students, but invaluable in its ability to shorten your training time, reduce training cost and reduce frustration along the way. Anybody who wants to excel as an aviator must chair fly. If you are not chair flying you are wasting money. We cannot emphasize this enough.
Because of this, we produce our content—videos, handouts, etc—with chair flying in mind. We outline the specific steps required for each maneuver so that students will understand the maneuver and have a reference to use while chair flying. It is your responsibility to drill those procedures so that you can produce results.
One more time, for effect: If you are not chair flying, you are wasting money!
Chair flying is valuable for several reasons:
- It exposes what you don’t know to yourself. If you can’t recite, by memory, the steps involved in a takeoff then you don’t know how to perform a takeoff. Plain and simple. Now, this is OK and it’s not abnormal. A superficial understanding of tasks and procedures is actually very common in the flying community. But it isn’t good.
- It is a process for getting better, with effort. Many pilots feel like they can’t improve because they don’t know how to. This is how. Now, we can’t put in the work for you, but if you put effort into chair flying you will get results. As instructors, it’s easy for us to tell which students are spending time chair flying and which ones aren’t.
- In the process, you learn how to learn: It’s unlikely you’ll fly just one airplane or fly in one type of environment for your whole career. Chair flying is a process that can be applied and reapplied in different environments. If you already know how to chair fly, much of the voodoo of learning a new airplane or new kind of flying is taken away. It then becomes, largely, a matter of your discipline and effort.
The exact routine, size of your poster, and so forth are not nearly as important as the fact that you spend time, sitting down, running through procedures. That said, the closer the scale is to real life, the more realistic it will be.
As your start, you might just run through a procedure or two, or practice the steps involved in starting the engine or completing a takeoff. As you become more advanced, however, you should be able to chair fly the main steps of entire flights by memory.
Military aviators and airline pilots frequently use chair flying to build muscle memory and organize their minds during training that could otherwise be overwhelmingly complex. If your brain is not organized, you will not fly well. Period.
As you chair fly, you will get caught up on things. What’s the next step? Why do I do this? Why is this step before another step? Consider as you chair fly that if you weren’t chair flying you would either (1) encounter all of these issues in real-time while trying to fly an airplane and learn (overload), or (2) you would be so task saturated, that you would never even notice the issue in the first place, meaning you would never learn from it.
If you aren’t chair flying, what are you wasting?