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  1. #1
    WonderMary's Avatar
    WonderMary is offline Newbie
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    Fly by the seat of one's pants

    This idiom sounds really weird to me, I didn't understand in which situations there's a sense to use it and how it is using.

    Any help?

  2. #2
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Re: Fly by the seat of one's pants

    I googled your thread title and found this page for you (click on the underlined link).

  3. #3
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: Fly by the seat of one's pants

    I looked at the first result of the search you linked to and I don't agree with it. It mentions aerial navigation, but I think the phrase originated in what pilots call stick-and-rudder skills.

    When you turn an airplane in flight, you have to coordinate two main controls: the ailerons, which make one wing drop and the other rise; and the rudder, which makes the plane rotate on its horizontal axis. If you don't coordinate them correctly, you feel your bottom -- the "seat of your pants" -- pull to one side.

    An instrument called the "turn coordinator" displays this for the pilot. If the turn coordinator fails, you have to fly by the seat of your pants: by feeling in your rear end when you need more or less rudder.

    By extension, any time you rely on more fundamental skills to get through a challenging situation, you can say you're flying by the seat of your pants.
    I am not a teacher.

  4. #4
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Fly by the seat of one's pants

    Pilots who flew without navigators or navigation gear flew by the seats of their pants. Today, it has a more general meaning of trusting your instincts and experience - not metrics or measuring tools - to make decisions.

    It's also called "winging it."
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  5. #5
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: Fly by the seat of one's pants

    While the term originated in aviation, I think it's related to piloting skills that are more fundamental than navigation. You have to be able to keep the airplane in the air and maintain a heading before you can think about how to get where you're going.
    I am not a teacher.

  6. #6
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: Fly by the seat of one's pants

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    I agree with what you said in post 3 from a language point of view. On the flying side, you did not mention the forward/back movement of the joystick, controlling the elevators that make the noseof the aircraft rise or fall. This is part of the 'seat of the pants' feeling.
    True. I was thinking mostly about keeping turns coordinated, where the seat of your pants can substitute for the turn coordinator. Uncoordinated turns can be dangerous, potentially leading to a spin. I thought bringing the elevator into my explanation would make it unhelpfully overcomplicated -- and I don't remember my flight instructor ever mentioning paying attention to my perceived weight as a seat-of-the-pants way to gauge my elevator input.
    I am not a teacher.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Fly by the seat of one's pants

    This is a thread that has taught me where an idiom comes from- I had no idea.

  8. #8
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    Re: Fly by the seat of one's pants

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    This is a thread that has taught me where an idiom comes from- I had no idea.
    You had no idea you could learn something in the Forum?
    Please be aware that I'm neither a native English speaker nor a teacher.

  9. #9
    Tarheel's Avatar
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    Re: Fly by the seat of one's pants

    WonderMary, please familiarize yourself with the "Thank" and "Like" buttons.

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