Currency vs. Proficiency – How Do You Set Your Personal Proficiency Minimums?

You remember the FAA Private Pilot Knowledge Test Questions about pilot currency?

Today is May 3rd, 2020. Your last flight was your private pilot practical test on May 15, 2018 in a Cessna 152. Are you current to fly a 400 nm solo cross-country your Piper Archer today?

The shocking answer is of course: Yes!

What the example teaches us is that the Federal Aviation Regulations are a terrible guide to determine if we are proficient enough for a flight. The FAA is counting on us, pilots, to make prudent decisions and wants us to be experts in Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM). Hopefully, we would not be tempted to make the above flight. But not all situations are this extreme and the answer on whether we should consider ourselves proficient. We would do well setting proficiency minimums as part of our Personal Minimums Contract, but a useful universal metric to measure our proficiency seems to be missing.

In an upcoming article series on proficiency, we will explore ways to set proficiency goals and minimums, and make go/no-go decisions based on objective proficiency measures. Topics of exploration will include:

  • What are some of the resources available to support proficiency planning and decision making?
  • What areas of proficiency will deteriorate over time if not maintained?
  • What metrics can we use to determine whether our proficiency is below or above our ‘minimum’?
  • How should our proficiency level impact our go/no-go decision for a specific flight?
  • What activities are most efficient in re-building our proficiency?
  • How to we create a proficiency plan to help us determine what to do when to stay proficient?

The challenge with measuring proficiency is that it is extremely personal and situational. Some people may start to feel rusty in ATC communications, but are otherwise maintaining ability to stay ahead of the airplane. Others lose their ability to estimate distance and height above terrain, but have no problem with ATC. Also, the pilot flying their own plane around mostly around the airport will have different proficiency requirements than the pilot hand flying single pilot IFR in multiple complex makes/models. One size definitely does not fit all. Also, flying a ‘routine’ flight may require a different level of proficiency than a flight that stretches someone’s comfort zone.

As we explore this topic of pilot proficiency, we will iteratively develop a ‘Proficiency Center’, which will support pilots in defining their personal proficiency minimums, proficiency plans and proficiency based go/no-go decisions.

Your input to this is invaluable, and constructive comments are requested and welcome. Let’s have the discussion.

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