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Above the Clouds: The Airplanes
By the Seat of Your Pants: The Pilots
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>> Aviation Innovation: "Flying By the Seat. . ."
Learning that Delivers: Site Guide

Discussion points
Doing Your Best

At one time, flying was a new and unique experience. Aviation inventors learned much about the principles and mechanics of flight as they experimented with their new designs. Sometimes they fell flat, sometimes they soared.

The first time you try something, it is natural to be nervous because it may not work well. Like the pioneers of flight and airmail pilots, you can gain a lot by trying something, thinking about how you did it, considering improvements and applying them on the next try.

Have you done something new recently (such as learning to ride a bike, moving to a new place, or learning to swim)?

What did it feel like?
Would you do it again?
What steps can you take to improve upon what you did?
What would you like to try next?

Aviation Innovation: "Flying by the Seat ..."

Pilot Eddie Garner sits atop an airplane surrounded by co-workers in the Airmail Service
Pilot Eddie Garner sits atop an airplane surrounded by co-workers in the Airmail Service.

"Flying by the seat of your pants" means to do or take action without a plan, to go by feel, to make decisions in the moment.

This phrase dates from the early years of aviation when airplanes had few navigational aids and flight control systems. The pilots relied greatly upon their own senses to gauge the plane's position, performance, and to find their way. They flew by experience, intuition and feel. With the seat being the largest point of contact between the pilot and the plane, it was from the seat of his or her pants that the pilot could feel how the airplane was reacting to his or her controls and how well the engine was operating.

Can you think of a time that you were flying by the seat of your pants?

Review This Activity's Classroom Objectives, Subjects & Age Level.

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