If you have been flying for an appreciable amount of time, you likely understand the difference between being current, which simply means that you have met the minimum requirements for legal flight under a given set of conditions (VFR, IFR, 90-day landing currency, etc.), and being proficient. Proficiency is slightly more subjective than currency, in that it becomes evident in the small details of the flight. The pilot who rolls smoothly onto final during a traffic pattern, not under or over-shooting final, while maintaining airspeed and perfect coordination is only as current as the pilt who did his first three landings in 6 months yesterday, and is barely cobbling together a safe traffic pattern operation today. However, ride in the right seat as an instructor (or passenger) with both of these pilots and compare them, and it will be quickly apparent which one is proficient as well as current.
The current pilot meets the requirements, while the proficient pilot ties all of his practiced skills together and applies them to consistently exceed the basic requirements of each flight. The minimum standard for compliance and legality is far below what the proficient pilot would consider acceptable performance. The bare minimum is easily exceeded by the proficient pilot, and tasks which require the focus and concentration of the rusty pilot to complete safely come naturally and smoothly, almost effortlessly. Those of us who have flown with truly practiced, proficient, and professional aviators can attest to the difference, and admire the studied and precise approach to flying displayed by those pilots who are truly on their game.
One of the most common and most underutilized tools for staying both current and proficient is the Flight Review. By being evaluated at least once every 24 months on your ground knowledge and flight skills, aviation’s system of checks and balances can help identify pilots’ weak areas to shore up, and strengths to maintain. Being often crafty folks, however, some pilots view the flight review as an adversarial event; once in which a CFI with overly high expectations tries to put them through the wringer, nit pick their flying skills and catch them with tricky questions about obscure and arcane FARs.
This really should not be the attitude when approaching the Flight Review; instead, it can be an excellent opportunity to enhance your skills and knowledge, ensure that you are staying proficient enough to not just meet the minimum requirements, but to exceed them regularly. An effective flight review is akin to a good workout with a personal trainer. While you might work out on your own regularly, having someone to hold you accountable, measure your performance objectively (without the internal justifications we all put into play in order to minimize our own failings and inflate our good qualities), and provide meaningful critique and review is an invaluable tool toward making sure we are performing at our best.
To that end, we would like to announce the launch of our Flight Review ground course. This course will cover the ground instruction required by FAR 61.56(a), including a review of Part 91 regulations, airport signs & markings, airspace, aeronautical decision making, the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), and Tips & Tricks. While no online course can specifically cover everything your flight instructor may want to focus on for your specific Flight Review, our ground school will provide an excellent base to work from, and help you go into your flight review prepared. Satisfactory completion of all the required segments, as well as the quizzes will earn you a certificate showing that you have completed the ground portion of your Flight Review. The course is only $24.00, and is a great step toward making sure that you become and remain not just current, but proficient.