About a week ago I finally got the chance to work on the back seat flying with my instructor in our Citabria. I'm not new to flying from the back. I've done so in gliders for a few years now, but I knew this was going to be a bit different.
I wasn't concerned about the actual flying. Flying is pretty much the same no matter where you are. The only question is how many of the instruments you can see from the rear seat. Luckily, I found that I was usually able to see the two or three that mattered: airpseed, altimeter, and engine RPM.
What I knew would be the most interested was the takeoff and landing--especially the landings. Being a tailwheel airplane, the nose is naturally much higher when on the ground or in a landing attitude. That means dramatically restricted visibility from the back. On takeoff it's not too bad, since you can pretty quickly get the tail flying and level out the airplane.
On landing, however, you end up using a lot of peripheral vision and a bit of faith. (This is assuming a normal three-point instead of a wheel landing. See also: Conventional Landing Gear).
But a funny thing happens after you practice it a few times: you start to get the hang of it and realize that it's not all that different than landing from the front seat. You're still trying to stay lined up on the runway and fly the airplane until it lands. In fact, you're trying to keep it from landing as long as you can so that when it finally touches down there's not enough energy for it to start flying again.
Aside from the satisfaction of learning something new and building confidence in flying your airplane, being able to fly from the back seat has another benefit.
You can now have your wife fly from the font seat and get used to the airplane that she'll be using to finish up her training too. And I may be biased, but I think she did a pretty darn good job on her first flight from the front seat. :-)
I'm not sure I'd want to put a non-pilot up front--or at least not someone who hasn't been around airplanes a lot. There are a some controls that I cannot reach from the rear. But I'd feel pretty comfortable giving rides from the back now.
Posted by jzawodn at October 07, 2008 06:53 AM