Understanding the difference between currency and proficiency is something the FAA has been trying to convey to newly certified pilots over the years, particularly as it relates to risk management. The establishment of regulatory requirements to meet recency of experience responds to a “minimum proficiency” requirement. Yet, guidance pertaining to those rules remains vague, relegating the majority of the responsibility to the authorized flight instructor conducting the check. Instructors must develop their own plan of action to ensure the pilot is proficient to carry passengers, or in the event of instrument currency, operate under an IFR flight plan as PIC.
As the pilot subject to the currency test (such as an instrument proficiency check [IPC], or a Flight Review), you traditionally prepare yourself with all available resources such as FAA handbooks and manuals. You might even review older notes you took during initial training. Yet, you may remain unsure about the specific topics and knowledge areas the instructor will focus on, obscuring the preparation process. Thus, it is imperative you communicate to the instructor your purpose of regaining currency, along with the intended operation you plan to pursue. For example, if you only plan to be flying occasionally in the local area, the review shall focus on local aerospace operations, as well as ATC local procedures. On the contrary, if you plan to utilize your certificate for more extensive operations, the plan of action should be adjusted accordingly to become more comprehensive and detailed. In any scenario, a one-size-fits-all approach is contraindicated. The plan must be individually tailored to the applicant’s goals and needs, including any areas the pilot perceives as weak.
As the pilot undergoing currency, a great tool to start the study preparation is the FAA Airman Certification Standards (ACS). The ACS will refresh your memory of the different knowledge areas pertaining to your level of certification, along with listing FAA approved handbooks and manuals. Make note of any questions and unclear items, in order to request further clarification from the authorized instructor. Currency tests are not intended to revoke your certificate. On the contrary, they are meant to further your expertise, review special emphasis areas, and ensure you are proficient to safely operate within the privileges of your certificate. Although it is natural to be nervous, value the experience as a rewarding time to expand your skills. Once satisfactory performance is achieved, your flight instructor will issue an endorsement indicating you have met the FAA-mandated recency requirements. Ensure to keep all endorsements and safeguard them, as they may prove valuable during an FAA inspection.
Two valuable resources titled “Conducting an Effective Flight Review” and “Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) Guidance”, are available online, free of cost through the FAA Safety website. Both documents, created with the assistance of the FAA and industry experts, serve as basic templates for the suggested topic areas to be covered. They also provide a structure of how each examination should be conducted. Particularly as an applicant undergoing your first flight review or IPC, these will be extremely valuable to provide clear insight into what to expect.
Reviewing for a currency examination event should not be a last-minute struggle, rather an ongoing process. As professional pilots, it is imperative we continuously improve both technical skills and expertise. Educational courses available through the FAA Safety website include wings courses, webinars and seminars, all of which serve the purpose and respond to the premise of building a safer sky through education.