Flying by the seat of my pants means that someone begins to experiment in uncharted territory. It is often used before making an instinctual decision. “Winging it” is a similar expression, both of them referring to the experience of aviation.
When someone is “flying by the seat of their pants”, it means they rely on instinct over knowledge.
The idiomatic term comes from the early 20th century, when flying and aircraft technology were not very developed. Most airplanes did not have sensors and delicate instruments to help pilots.
For navigating the planes and landing them successfully, pilots often had to rely on their instincts. Flying by the seat of my pants is the end-product expression of pilots relying on their gut feelings continuously.
The phrase was used In a description of Douglas Corrigan’s flight from the USA to Ireland in 1938.
The first article about the expression was added to the site Urban Dictionary in 2006, by user Light Joker.
- Wonderopolis.org – Can You Fly By the Seat Of Your Pants?
- Writingexplained.org – What Does Fly by the Seat of Your Pants Mean?
- Smh.com.au – What is the origin of the phrase “Flying by the seat of your pants”?