Chair flying is valuable for pilots of all levels of flight training, allowing visualization of steps, procedures, and flows. Whether you are preparing for your first solo, your private pilot checkride, your CFI checkride, or a type rating, chair flying is an inexpensive but extremely valuable tool. Chair flying is exactly what it sounds like: sitting in a chair and pretending you’re doing everything you do when you fly. There are two main benefits of chair flying:
- Save money: Repeating a procedure in an aircraft can cost you extra, expensive flight time.
- Master skills: Practicing procedures on the ground can eliminate the need to repeat them in the aircraft.
Learning at your own pace and being prepared for your lessons, check rides, and commercial flying will calm anxieties and make a more confident pilot. You can “chair fly” the entire flight from pre-flight to tie down, or you can chair fly procedures and flows, like stall entry and stall recovery (example below). If you encounter difficult procedures, spending extra time “chair flying” can help you master them before your next lesson or flight.
Chair flying can be done at home, in a desk or dining room chair, in a simulator, or in a cockpit of a parked airplane. If you are enrolled at a flight school, your school may allow you to sit in the aircraft before or after your lesson and chair fly. This extra practice can make you more proficient, so the time you have in the aircraft when you’re paying for both instruction and aircraft rental, is not wasted.
Tips for A Better Chair Flying Experience
The following tips can help your chair flying experience be effective:
- Find a quiet location free of noise and distraction, where you can talk.
- Use ARSim Aviation Radio Simulator to build muscle memory and master radio comms through the six phases of flight (taxi out, takeoff, flight following, airport entry and transition, approach, and taxi in).
- If you’re at home, use a cockpit poster with avionics similar to your trainer aircraft.
- Use aircraft checklists and your kneeboard (take a photo of your school’s checklist and laminate it).
- Repeat, repeat, repeat: The more you go through and talk through procedures, the more familiar you will become.
The costs of these tools to improve your ground training is a fraction of the price of a single ground or flight lesson, and can save you hundreds of dollars by reducing the time spent in the aircraft and with your instructor.
Chair Flying Example: Power Off Stall
If you wanted to practice a Power Off Stall in a 172, you would sit in a chair, visualize the cockpit, and talk yourself through the steps. It may help to record a voice memo of yourself speaking through the steps to play as you visualize the steps. Some pilots find it beneficial to pretend they are sitting next to an examiner or instructor and demonstrating your skills. For each step, imagine you are reaching for the appropriate control (yoke, throttle, flaps, etc.) or referencing the appropriate instrument (altimeter, airspeed indicator, vertical speed indicator, etc.).
- Select minimum entry altitude of at least 2,000 feet
- Verify the area is clear of traffic
- Reduce throttle to about 1,700 RPM
- Apply back pressure to maintain level flight
- Verify airspeed is 110 KIAS for 10 degrees of flaps and 85 KIAS for 20 and 30 degrees of flaps
- Select full down wing flaps in 10-degree increments
- Reduce (pull) throttle to idle
- Reduce airspeed to 65 KIAS
- Initiate a 500 feet-per-minute descent
- Legal the aircraft by pitching to a landing attitude (vy).
- Recognize and announce the onset of the stall.
- Upon stall, pitch the aircraft to the horizon
- Push throttle in for full power.
- Level the rings with the rudder only
- Retract wing flaps to 20 degrees
- Maintain a positive rate of climb
- Pitch aircraft for a climb speed of 79 KIAS
- Retract wing flaps to 0 degrees (in 10-degree increments).
- Continue climbing until back to entry altitude (or instructor advises to level off).
Remember, there are no shortcuts to practice and experience in flying. The more you prepare, the more you’ll be prepared.