fly by the seat of one's pants
- (idiomatic) To pilot an aircraft without the aid of instruments and without a flight plan, using only instinct, visual observation, and practical judgment.
- 1955 Feb. 21, "Planes for Pleasure," Time:
- Between world wars, when Douglas Bader was a cocky, teen-age R.A.F. cadet . . . a man could navigate by eye and the nearest railroad track and fly by the seat of his pants.
- (idiomatic, by extension) To use one's judgment, initiative, and perceptions as events unfold in order to improvise a course of action without a predetermined plan.
- 2010 Jan. 14, Jacob Heilbrunn, "Election Confidential," New York Times (retrieved 25 June 2011):
- “Unlike Obama and his methodical process, McCain was flying by the seat of his pants,” the authors observe.