Tap, Tap…


How many little habits do you have that you have had for longer than you can remember and can’t seem to shake? I don’t want to get personal, of course—I’m talking about flying habits!

In my case, I have one thing that has stuck with me since my very first flying lesson. Whenever I twiddle the altimeter knob, I tap the face of the gauge. This frees up any “stiction” in the instrument’s mechanism and allows the gears and needles to settle into their new position. Then sometimes you have to twiddle the knob a little to dial in the airport altitude or after selecting a new baro pressure in the Kollsman window that you got over the radio. Tap, tap. Even if you have a really expensive altimeter, you’ll see a little re-adjustment and have to dial it in again. Then tap, tap to zero in on what you want.

This is such a habit of mine that even when I am flying with a glass panel, I still tap the glass—and hope that no one sees me do it! I’ve been doing this for as long as I have been flying glass, whether it is an air or space craft. Of course it makes no difference if you tap on the screen. It doesn’t do a thing on an EFIS. But it doesn’t hurt. It is just the sign of an old aviator who has a little habit he can’t break.

Tap all you want. The EFIS doesn’t care or respond to mechanical prodding.

It’s only embarrassing when someone sees you.

Previous articleFirst Flight Experiences
Next articleTip Tips
Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


  1. I have a friend who threatens violence on anyone leaving fingerprints on his flight instruments. Hard to argue with that sentiment, especially for an insignificant, or no change with glass, to indicated altitude. If you insist, tap the case.

    One of the best things about flying your own airplane? There’s never fingerprints on the flight instruments.

    Do you know how to tell if a guy was a DC-8 flight engineer? He taps his watch every time he checks the time. Now, that is understandable.

    Enjoy the holidays, Paul.

  2. Noooo.

    I was once flying a 757 to Mombasa for a week on the beach. My first officer tapped the glass on his altimeter and it broke. We lost our trip as they didn’t have a replacement in time and a standby crew went to Mombasa.

    If you MUST tap, tap the panel NEXT to the altimeter. Same effect but no jeopardy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.