(Acknowledgements: AIR FACTS/John Zimmerman)

Admit it – you hate recurrent training! But you KNOW that regular training increases safety and confidence. It’s good for you, right up there with eating more vegetables and exercising daily. But we treat proficiency flights like a trip to the dentist.

This reluctance isn’t a sign of laziness. It’s also not primarily about the cost. A flight review isn’t too expensive, and simulators offer an even less expensive way to stay current.

The real reasons have a lot more to do with emotion, particularly fun and pride. Since most of us are in aviation for the fun, if it’s not fun why do it? The pride part is even more powerful, because most pilots are successful people. For an accomplished businessman or doctor to subject him/herself to judgment and possible embarrassment at the hands of a flight instructor is no small task. If you’re used to excelling at life, it’s hard to admit it when you fall short.

One obvious way to combat this mindset is to turn recurrent training into an ongoing process. To amplify the dentist analogy, most adults don’t dread brushing their teeth every day, because it’s both familiar and not subject to someone else’s judgment. We can approach flying in much the same way. 

If “recurrent” means a single event every two years it feels like a test. But if we view currency as a normal part of every flight, it becomes a habit. A good goal is to deliberately do something on every flight to maintain your flying skills. Track the centreline on the runway, use short field technique on your next landing, avoid the boring touch-and-go routine and make a short cross country flight that accomplishes the same thing. Fly to a nearby airport for lunch, practice an en-route diversion along the way, do a no-flap landing when you get there, and throw in some steep turns on the way home.

It’s also worth remembering that you don’t have to hire a CFI in order to evaluate your flying skills. There are plenty of ways to self-critique and avoid the pain of public embarrassment – if you’re willing to be honest with yourself. You can record your performance over time to see when you’re sharp and when you need more practice.

A GoPro video camera is relatively inexpensive, and records high quality video and audio. It’s a good way to revisit your flight and see how you did – a VFR pilot might focus outside the airplane, an IFR pilot might focus on the instruments, and both can listen to ATC communications. There’s a lot to learn here, and you can do it all on your own.

How we approach recurrent training determines what we get out of it. If we approach the currency check as a chance to learn something new, we’re more likely to have a positive experience than if we view it as a test (which it’s not – you can’t fail a flight review!).

It all comes down to attitude. Perhaps the most important difference between a professional and an amateur is whether you embrace continuous learning. Be a pro, even if you only fly 40 hours a year.
Season’s greetings!

Tony Birth