There is an element of all pilot’s skill set that we sometimes forget about until they come back to bite us where we sit. That element is…rust.
I’m like many private pilots, flying only enough to be dangerous. Lately, the time between flights has lengthened due to demands of my real job and my screenplay project, and yesterday on an insurance checkout flight at my new flying club, I found out just how rusty one’s skills can become:
My log book shows just under 300 hours in 10 years, but I have not had any significant dual instruction in years. The bi-annual flight reviews I received during that period were simple “trips around the patch” affairs…nobody got killed=logbook gets endorsed for two more years.So yesterday with my new CFI (who happens to be one of a handful of “Master” CFIs in the USA), I found out that I had developed very poor form in the pattern and on my approaches. I’ve never done well with check rides, and it is always double bad when you are up for a new CFI for the first time. I can write off 25% of my sloppy flying to nerves, but the rest was…rust.
I flew well enough to get my insurance endorsement at the new club, but Dorothy at TakeWING Flying Club exposed a flaw in my training that if not corrected may have resulted one day in twisted Skyhawk and reams of NTSB paperwork.
My recommendation: Never assume the skills you learned years ago are still fresh today. Utilize the FAA’s WINGS program to stay current and fresh, and make sure you go up at least once a year with your CFI so she can bust you for the sloppy flying skills we part-time aviators all eventually develop.
It may be the best decision you will ever make.