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6 Answers


Asked by: 4614 views Private Pilot

I'm wondering what standard practice is for private pilots who have not flown in a while and are a getting rusty.

I'm a 120 hour private pilot.  My last flight was two months ago and prior to that there was a three month lapse.  (Winter sucks here in Minnesota).  

I'm not worried about flying and I am obviously legal to carry passengers and am considered current, but is there a time period after which it would be adviseable to go back up with an instructor?  

I think I am just getting used to a more realistic schedule after being used to flying a few times a week while training.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

6 Answers

  1. Jim Foley on Apr 09, 2011

    As you stated, you are legal to fly.  It’s up to personal preference.  I, for one, have not flown in about 4 months, and although I can land just fine in a simulator, I would not feel comfortable flying unless I did a circut or two with an instructor.

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  2. Earl Kessler on Apr 09, 2011

    Hi Christopher,
    Insurance companies consider you at greatest risk until you have about 250 hours.  The reason is you are at a peak learning period and lacking enough experience to be safe.  So a little vigilance is in order.  A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you would feel comfortable flying your beloved family members with your current level of proficiency.  If not, do a circuit or 2 with a CFI. There is a huge difference between currency and proficiency.  For instance for instrument flight you need to fly 6 approaches within 6 months with holding, intercepting and tracking.  You need to ask yourself if you did only this after waiting 5 months and 29 days, would just flying to these requirements make you proficient to fly your family members in a cloud down to minimums (say 200 ft. from the ground in a cloud)?  The law says you are current, but I doubt that most are proficient with such a long layoff.  So set your personal minimums to a higher standard until you are more proficient.  The FAA dropped the term BIENNIAL Flight Review (BFR) in favor of Flight Review.  The idea is that they encourage you to do them more frequently than every 2 years to remain proficient instead or just barely legally current.  So spend some time with the CFI and discuss what you both would consider your personal minimums at your current level of proficiency.

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  3. Matthew Waugh on Apr 10, 2011

    There is no “standard practice”. I’ve flown with people with plenty of hours and full currency and recent experience and they scared the beejezus out of me. On the other hand I’ve flown with people who hadn’t been in a plane in 10 years who slipped right back into it.
    In your case, I would recommend taking an instructor for a quick flight. Tell the instructor your situation and tell them that you are looking to evaluate yourself through your eyes as well as the instructors view. You’ll know pretty quickly how comfortable you are, as will the instructor. Now you’ll have a data point for your recent experience and how it relates to you jumping back into a plane.
    It’s good to be cautious – you only get one opportunity to make a mistake, so if you have any doubts take an instructor flying – see how you feel.

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  4. Kent Shook on Apr 10, 2011

    What Matthew said – And I would add that this is one of the times where you should be exercising your best judgement as PIC, a skill which you’re still learning. I would say that since you asked, you do have some doubts and you should probably take a CFI up. Over time, you will learn what it takes you to keep from being rusty and you’ll have a better idea of when it would be a good idea to take a CFI up.
    Finally, when in doubt – Just take the CFI. Better to take them and not need them than the other way around. They don’t have to be just meat in the seat for a couple trips around the patch either – Take advantage of their presence to practice some emergency procedures, for example. You’ll get better value from the flight and it might save your bacon.

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  5. Ryan Harvey on Apr 14, 2011

    I’m in the same general boat as the pilot who asked the question.  I’ve got about 80 hours total time, and only 25 as PIC.  I got my private certificate about a year ago, but since I live in the pacific northwest, weather makes maintaining proficiency over the long winter months difficult.
    My personal minimum for whether to call my old instructor is 3 months.  I figure, if the FAA says it’s a good idea for me to have flown to three full-stop landings within 90 days in order to carry passengers, it’s a good idea even if I’m flying myself.
    I do my very best to at least make a few rounds around the pattern at least once a month.  But if I haven’t flown in three months, I insist to myself on having a CFI in the right seat. 
    That may be too long for some and not enough time for others, but for me it feels right.

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  6. Richard Hages on Apr 17, 2011

    As many of the other posters have mentioned, it’s all about personal minimums and the difference betwee currency and proficiency. I just wanted to add a link to the FAA’s official “Personal Minimums Checklist”. This is a document that I use with all of my students and I think is very helpful in helping determine things like when you should re-familiarize yourself with the plane. Recent landings are just one thing that it mentions, but it will cover many other aspects of personal minimums.
    Here’s the link for the Personal Minimums Checklist
    Also, check out my blog “The Art of Flying” you might find something helpful there as well. Thanks.

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