Basic chair flying can be done anywhere. You could be actually sitting in a chair, if you like it literal, reading through a checklist and visualizing the steps. Or maybe you walk around outside with a chalk runway on the ground, checklist in hand, talking through the steps of flying the traffic pattern. Whatever the application, chair flying really just means mentally practicing any phase of flight that has steps to it. Why do we do this? Think about your favorite song. Actually, any song you know well. You can probably sing all of the words, hum the tune, air guitar the solo, and air drum the fills. You know you do. After you’ve heard it enough times, it will even get stuck in your head. You can just hear a clip of it and hear the rest play out in your mind. In the same way, chair flying is a cheap and easy way to sort of listen through the different songs or steps of aviation to help write them in your memory. Cramming for a test relies on rote memorization, but chair flying helps you surpass that and get to a point where you visualize a checklist or a maneuver as if it is your favorite song.
A Good Preflight
Every good flight starts with a good preflight, but when I crank up the flight simulator at home, I’ve always had to bypass any of the preflight items. They are simply difficult to replicate on the computer. Skipping through the preflight section on the checklist, each flight tends to begin with starting the engine. But the benefits of chair flying can extend to preflight as well. By going though preflight with a checklist, as close to the same way every time as possible, you establish a rhythm that begins to play out any time you start it. Eventually you’ll use the checklist only as your double-check to make sure you did each item, rather than a task list to tell you what to do next. Then much like changing or leaving a word out of your favorite song just won’t sound right, you’ll develop a feeling for when you deviate from normal procedures. Our friends over at Airfoillabs have developed a beautiful Cessna 172 that you can add on to X-Pane 10 or 11. On top of many great features they’ve developed, an interactive walk around makes preflight more realistic than ever. By being able to actually exit and walk around the airplane, you can click the different regions to interact and check them off. For example, the baggage door opens, closes and locks. The chocks are removed from the wheels with a click, and the oil dipstick can be pulled out. You can even adjust the oil level right there at the dipstick, just like adding oil to the plane. There are a whole bunch of applications for these features, but take a look at the video below for a full preflight with the Airfoillabs Cessna 172 in X-Plane 11.
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