Left Handed Flying (finally)

A weird thing happened recently in my flying: I got comfortable flying left-handed.

I started flying gliders as a teenager back in Michigan and have always had the stick in my right hand and used my left hand for things like spoilers (which seem to always be on the left side of the cockpit). Years later when I transitioned to powered aircraft in the Citabria, it was the same way: right hand on the stick and left hand to control throttle and trim. And it always felt natural to me. If someone had asked, I probably couldn’t have imagined flying with my left hand on the stick (or yoke, not that I fly much with a yoke).

Fast forward a number of years to 2015 when I started instrument training in our Glastar. Early on my instructor chided me for not having a hand on the throttle during the takeoff and landing phases of flight. I explained that if felt very unnatural and I probably couldn’t fly well that way. He said “you’ll get used to it” and made it a requirement.

So for my 40+ hours of instrument training, I flew a decent amount of my time near the airport with the stick in my left hand. And I never liked it. It always felt weird. I’d even comment on it from time to time, but my comments were always met with “you’ll get used to it… eventually.”

Last year when we got the Bonanza, I had a similar experience with my checkout flights. I made a point of keeping my right hand on the throttle during takeoff and landing and having my left hand on the yoke, but it just felt weird.

Then earlier this year we got the SuperSTOL and it finally started to sort of feel OK. Maybe it’s because it was such a different airplane. Or maybe I’d finally just accumulated enough time flying that way. I’m not sure, really.

But about a week or two ago I noticed that in both the SuperSTOL and in the Glastar, I now feel completely comfortable flying the landing and takeoff with my left hand. And I’m still a little baffled about when and how that happened. But it did, and that’s what really matters.

Part of me wishes I’d started the practice long ago…

About Jeremy Zawodny

I'm a software engineer and pilot. I work at craigslist by day, hacking on various bits of back-end software and data systems. As a pilot, I fly Glastar N97BM, Just AirCraft SuperSTOL N119AM, Bonanza N200TE, and high performance gliders in the northern California and Nevada area. I'm also the original author of "High Performance MySQL" published by O'Reilly Media. I still speak at conferences and user groups on occasion.
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