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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hand Flying the Boeing...

Yesterday I received a great question from Ravi, from Australia

"Greetings from Melbourne, Australia. I  read your blog with passion and it is great. I fly light aircraft for pleasure and I love jetliners.

I have a question for you and I hope you will kindly answer me.

I have seen many cockpit videos of Boeing jetliners in you tube. I find pilots resting their elbow on the seat armrest during hand flying.

When hand flying Boeing jetliner do you   Rest your elbow on the armrest ? does it improve accuracy and smoothness.?.

Is it SOP for Boeing.

Thank you very much
Kind regards

Ravi, It is definitely "not" SOP (Standard Operation Procedures) to fly with armrests down on the Boeing, or any airplane for that matter.

When I first started flying, I used the armrest for stability. I put the plane where I want it and it was easier to hold there. That was back in the old Boeing days. It worked great for doing steep turns as part of a check-ride, too. We don't do those anymore.

Now that I fly the Airbus, one of the "tricks" for landing is to rest your arm on the armrest and rotate your wrist. But that can cause a wing to tip if you don't pay attention.  Try this. Put your arm on your table, hold a stick or a glass, and then rotate your hand back without lifting your arm. Using your right hand, you will see a natural tendency for tilting left. The reverse for the left hand. Something to be aware of. But the arm resting technique is useful.

I have flown with a lot of captains who raise the armrest on Boeing 747 and 747-400 aircraft while they hand fly for landing. I suspect that comes from experience, because they don't need that extra little help.  I have not paid attention to what that guys are doing on the airbus, as the armrest involved is on their left. But mostly they don't hand fly the airbus. They only kick off the autopilot on landing.

I like flying with my arms rested. If you're sitting in a chair for any length of time and had to hold your arms out, it would be much easier resting them.

Enjoy your flying Ravi. You're dancing in the skies with a plane you can fly. The jets, they are becoming so automated and computer driven, there will be a day when we no longer fly them. Now we have the choice. I'm a proponent of hand flying when ever you can. And the armrest... it's all about personal preference.

Thank you for the great question!

XOX Karlene


  1. Great post Karlene, love stuff like this. What's the culture like on the airbus for hand-flying? Is it frowned upon to do so? I've often found that if a captain doesn't do it much himself or is reluctant to do it, they are typically more prone to be uncomfortable with an FO doing it... Perhaps that's not fair to the FO, perhaps it's only fair to the captain. I've seen people get in a fight about this before.

    1. Actually, not too many pilots will hand fly the airbus. Most kick it off and land. With that said, there are a few that make sure they fly. Which is essential.

      Oh...and you are right, if the captain is not comfortable, no way in heck he wants the FO to do it. I too have heard stories on this one. No fights, but a definite, "What are you doing!"

  2. The automation does such a great job that it's easy for many to get into the habit of just clicking it off at low altitude to land.
    Pilot's are ENcouraged to keep hand flying skills current, and we do practice it in the simulator too.

    If it's not to busy, I like to click it ALL off (Autopilot, flight director, autothrust) and will occasionally ask my FO do to the same on his approach. Though, I'm in the minority. One must be prepared for the day when it doesn't work.

    1. Bill, you're right, you are one of the minority. But with that said the last CA I flew with did hand flew his approaches. Thus he had confidence when I did it too.

      I did a little kicking it all off in the simulator last time. It's a good idea to do that when it's not busy, because you get busy. Thanks for the comment.

      And one day... it won't work.


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