If you have ever thought about flying from the right seat (perhaps on a flight with a student pilot), then a lengthy post by John Ewing for his Aviation Mentor blog is a must read as John began by noting that moving into the right seat can be the equivalent of entering a bizzaro world. He further added that without some training or experience in right seat flying and landings in particular, you will increase the “risk of something bad (read expensive) happening.” He then proceeded to outline some of the challenges that come with right seat flying as well as suggestions about how to cope with them.
Among the challenges noted by John included the fact that the altimeter, airspeed indicator and turn coordinator may be hard to see plus you will not be looking straight at the instruments. Hence, it will be harder to judge what a needle is indicating or when a ball in an indicator is centered. Moreover, many of the switches may also be beyond your normal reach and not in clear view plus you will be operating the throttle, prop and mixture controls with your left hand.
John then wrote that the biggest challenge to right seat flying will be landing – specifically aligning the longitudinal axis (yaw) as well as maintaining the centerline alignment during the landing flare. He also noted that new right seat pilots will tend to apply too much rudder during the flare and this will result in side loading on the landing gear when landing. However and after briefing a pilot about common errors along with plenty of coaching and about 5 to 10 hours of practice, pilots will see an improvement when landing from the right seat.
Finally, John noted that for most people, their right hand and right eye are dominant. However, John also pointed out he taught right seat flying to at least three pilots who were right-handed but left-eye dominant and these pilots had more difficulty and feelings of awkwardness when they moved into the right seat. To illustrate his point, John also included four pictures to show the difference in what a pilot sees depending upon their hand and eye dominance.
At the end of his post, John noted that the most important thing is to get proper training from an authorized instructor who is also familiar with aircraft that you will be flying. He also pointed out:
Remember that when you reach for a control or switch using either hand, focus on your intention, not on how awkward it may feel. Expect to become fatigued more easily during your first few hours of right seat flying for the simple reason you’ll have to concentrate on things you’d normally do unconsciously. Exercising your brain by thinking and coordinating in a different way can be challenging. Don’t be surprised if you feel a bit like a student pilot at first, but don’t worry. Right seat flying gets easier with practice.
John’s complete post is a must read if you have any plans of flying from the right seat any time soon.