“Sit up straight,” mother scolded me as I was devouring mac ’n cheese at the dinner table when I was a small child. Little did she know at the time that she was teaching me a fundamental of successful flying. That fundamental is something called “sight picture.”
Sight picture is critical to mastering many aircraft maneuvers: takeoffs, turns, ground reference maneuvers, performance maneuvers, and—perhaps most important of all—landings. So the list includes just about every flight operation. And a key to a proper sight picture is posture.
Seeing a trend here? Yes, sight picture is personalized. Your sight picture is different from your instructor’s, and your instructor’s is different from that of other pilots. To master sight picture, you need to be positioned in the airplane the same way each time, so that your sight picture is the same each time, and this is where posture comes in.
What matters is that you are consistently able to reproduce the proper sight picture. This entails more than just your body posture: it includes uniform adjustment of the pilot’s seat. Most training airplanes have seats that adjust fore and aft, and many feature vertical height adjustments, as well. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how mastering maneuvers would be challenging if your seat—and hence your sight picture—changed with every flight.
So, make note of the seat position that works for you and adjust your seat during preflight, so you have the correct sight picture.