Ever since getting my commercial license, I’ve been excited about the transition to the right seat. Until now, my right seat time has been limited to the occasional safety pilot duty for friends, or swapping seats for a cross country.
It’s one thing to take the controls for a moment or two while someone puts on the hood — it’s another to actually fly from the right seat.
But that’s exactly what I’ll need to do as a flight instructor.
While I work away at the mountain of CFI ground school materials, I figured trying my hand at right seat flying would be a fun way to try something new in the airplane.
To make the transition, I called up my friend Larry, a very experienced CFI who runs the local IMC Club chapter at KFDK, and who I really enjoy flying with…
We took my club’s Piper Archer — even though I’ll need to use a complex airplane for the CFI checkride, the Archer is a plane I’m very familiar with, and the shared ownership of a club makes it cheaper than anything else. I figure if I can get proficient at flying the Archer from the right seat, I’ll be able to move to a complex plane like an Arrow in minimal time.
It definitely felt weird starting the engine up from the right seat. The only control in the Archer that’s challenging to get to from the other side is the fuel selector, which sits near the left ankle of the pilot’s seat.
Oddly enough, the trickiest part of flying right seat for me was taxiing. The new sight picture meant that I kept right of centerline, but I suppose it’ll come with time.
Takeoff was a little strange from the right seat, particularly because the airspeed indicator was hard to read from my angle. But was simple enough.
We departed the pattern and headed Northeast of Frederick to do some air work so I could get comfortable with my new view. After climbing and clearing for traffic, we started off with steep turns. It wasn’t my best work, but it was a pretty passable first attempt.
Then, we moved on to stalls. First, power off, which were easy enough, then power on. One thing that I really never realized until now was how much I looked at the ball to see my coordination during stalls — that’s a lot trickier from the angle provided by the right seat. Power on stalls ended up being a really solid exercise because they forced me to fly by the seat of my pants a little more than usual.
The last thing we did before heading back was a “falling leaf”, where you hold the airplane in a stall, and keep the wings from dropping by using your feet. It’s something I hadn’t done since aerobatic training in an Extra, and it was a great exercise to feel comfortable flying from the “wrong” side of the plane.
We headed back to KFDK for a couple of laps in the pattern. Surprisingly, landing from the right seat wasn’t too difficult…
I managed a pair of good landings to cap things off. Now, I’m pretty sure that I can fly from the right seat without killing myself — it’ll take some more practice before I get to the point where I can fly maneuvers within PTS standards from this side.
If you’re thinking about making the transition, it’s a very good idea to bring a CFI along for the first time or two.
At this point, I’m thinking about flying from the right seat as PIC from now until my CFI checkride (or at least alternating between seats). Seems like it’ll be a great way to get comfortable with sitting on the wrong side of the airplane ahead of time.