Safety: Knock Off the Rust

Happy New Year! The busy holiday season is behind us, and it’s time to set goals and resolutions for 2020. Between family obligations and winter weather, you might not have been able to fly as much as you wanted over the last couple of months. Now is a great opportunity to assess your currency vs. proficiency, and to take a hard look at areas where you can improve your overall piloting skills and make an aviation plan for the year to come.

Maintaining currency is a building block of safe flying. Set realistic currency goals for each month and write down expiration date reminders for yourself. How many landings and approaches do you need? Are you night current? How many hours do you plan to fly? Just like with any new year’s goals or resolutions, success is more likely if you take baby steps. If you want to fly more, create incremental goals. Saying you’ll fly for 25 hours in a month when you normally fly 5 is an admirable aspiration, but is it doable? Setting yourself up for failure can be discouraging and you might end up abandoning your new goal entirely.

Currency is one thing, proficiency is another. Would you really feel comfortable taking loved ones in actual instrument conditions if you flew your six approaches five and a half months ago? Probably not. After you establish currency, seek to develop and maintain proficiency in all aspects of flight. Recognize that just because something is legal, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the safest action for you.

A great way to find weak spots is by flying with an instructor or with a pilot you trust. By observing someone else and their resource management, you may learn new methods to improve your own efficiency aloft. You might also notice mistakes they’re making, which can make you more aware of small errors you might also make in flight. Flying with an instructor will give you an accurate assessment of areas you can improve—dual received is not just for flight reviews.

As a club, consider creating proficiency-based “challenges.” See how many members can fly to a new-to-them airport once a month. Who will fly the most landings or approaches? Will anyone fly to a new state, or even a new country? A little healthy competition can encourage everyone to spend more time in an airplane. The more you fly, the more proficient you are; the more proficient you are, the safer your flights.   

AOPA Air Safety Institute staff

AOPA Air Safety Institute Staff members share a deep passion for aviation safety. As compassionate pilots, we bring together safety research, analysis, and knowledge in creative ways to share aviation safety education with you—with the ultimate goal of one day having zero fatal accidents in GA.

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