Soon after earning your pilot certificate, you’ll fly with another pilot. If you’re like me, you’ll split the rental cost or the fuel, and each fly one leg as you go in search of the perfect airport hamburger. It’s like weekend nirvana, right? Maybe not.
Flying with another pilot in a single-pilot airplane is something not taught during the private pilot training. It’s mentioned briefly in the realm of aeronautical decision making and situational awareness, but other than that, it’s ignored. The process seems simple enough. One person flies from the left seat, and the other person sits in the right seat. The problem is that pilots can’t keep opinions to themselves. Try it sometime. It’s harder than you think. So inevitably the person in the right seat ends up flipping switches, messing with the radio, critiquing technique, or in the worst case, grabbing the yoke or depressing a rudder pedal.
Here’s some advice to maintain your flying friendship:
1. If you are the person in the right seat, do nothing but enjoy the ride. This means no critiquing, no touching, and no grunts, sighs, or other disparaging noises.
2. If, as a right seater, you just can’t sit still for the ride, ask before you do something. For example, if I’m in the right seat of another person’s airplane, I’ll ask permission even before scaling the map on the GPS, or helping with the transponder.
3. Never, unless you feel your life is in imminent danger, grab the yoke. And please use a high standard for imminent danger. Most hard landings are harmless.
4. As the pilot flying in the left seat, be courteous to your airplane-loving passenger and offer to have him operate the radios and navigate.
Flying in sync as a crew takes hours upon hours of practice and a lot of specialized training. But when done well, it’s a thing of beauty. I recently flew with a friend who’s bulk of experience is with the airlines. He knew what to do and when to do it. I didn’t have to ask him not to touch anything, and he knew from his training that radios and navigation were appropriate tasks for him. I learned a lot from him that I’ll apply the next time I’m in the right seat.
It may seem trivial, but proper recognition of who’s doing what in the cockpit is a safety issue as well as a major annoyance. So be sure to establish it all before starting the engine, and everyone will be happier.