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Winging It! With Dr. Paul

Recurrency Training

"Who needs recurrency training?" I asked Ron when the subject came up. "Certainly not me! I've had this plane for seven years, fly it nearly every weekend, and know it better than the factory that built it. You can't get more current than that."

Ron flies widebodies for a major air carrier. And a Cessna 140 for fun. He allowed as how I was probably a reasonably safe flier, but went on to tell me that he flies the same route maybe four times a week, for five hours at a stretch, and yet his company still requires that his flying be evaluated every six months. "Now I'll admit", he said, "that I carry a bigger load than you. But if recurrency training keeps me safe, it can do the same for you. And from the pilot's perspective, is an accident in a single any less significant than one in a big jet?"

He had a point there, so I asked Ron what a recurrency session should consist of. "Anything you don't do in the course of your normal flying," was his response. "What do you normally do when you fly?"

"Oh, the usual. Fly up to Jonsey's for a steak, or down to Harris Ranch, or over to Half Moon Bay for breakfast. Maybe bump around the pattern for an hour. Sometimes, just bore holes in the sky. Sure keeps me current!"

"Maybe not," he replied. "How often do you mush along on the verge of a stall, feeling just where the edge of the power curve is, and what it's like to be behind it? Tried a stall series lately? Or maybe a steep spiral, simulating a 'get down quick' with an engine fire? I'll bet there are a whole host of emergency maneuvers which you haven't reviewed since your last check ride, and you certainly don't try out when you're just boring holes in the sky."

"Now wait a minute," I responded. "I went through all that on my last Biennial, and that was only three years ago!"

"Yes, the Biennial Flight Review is one valid form of recurrency training. But how did you feel when your instructor chopped the throttle at 400 feet on takeoff?"

"Shaky," I admitted, "and more than a bit rusty."

"There you are! Maybe a little more often than once every three years wouldn't hurt at all."

I agreed to try out spins and unusual attitudes under the hood on my very next Sunday flight. "Don't forget to bring a flight instructor along for the ride," my friend reminded me.

"Can't afford one," I answered. "Would you come along as my safety pilot?"

"Nope, I'm not all that familiar with your bird. Whoever you take along as a safety pilot, make sure he knows your plane at least as well as you do, and is legal to act as pilot in command. Ask some of the guys down at that grass patch you call an airport. There are some pretty fine fliers among that bunch."

And I had to agree. My last question was, "Who, exactly, needs recurrency training?"

"Only two kinds of pilots," the pro responded. "Those who fly regularly and frequently, and those who fly irregularly and infrequently."

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