Recurrent Training Article
We all forget things: The value of recurrent training
By Ron Zasadzinski
A few years ago, I took a six-month break from flying. When I returned, my first flight was
to take my mom flying in Southern California. I learned to fly there, but this flight was
originating from an unfamiliar airport, and my planned route was into marginally familiar
territory skirting some Class C airspace (then an ARSA). I thought my planning was reasonable,
having drawn a course-line on the sectional, written down the headings I would be flying and
frequencies I would need. I decided not to get flight-following or talk to approach control
as I hadn't done it in a while and besides, I wanted to be able to talk to my passengers.
Not long into the flight the landmarks didn't look quite right and I soon figured out I was
inside the Class C airspace I was hoping to avoid. How did that happen?! I turned to fly out
of it quickly, but was embarrassed and nervous.
I didn't get into trouble, but I had made a mistake: I forgot all about magnetic variation.
In that part of the world variation is 14 degrees East, and so my carefully planned course
to graze the edge of Class C actually took me on a shallow path right into it.
Presently, I am a full-time flight instructor and fly at least five days out of every seven.
Most people would say I am as current as a pilot can be. Last month I took two weeks off from
my usual routine, though I did fly some for pleasure. My first day back I called for a weather
briefing to fly from Fort Collins to Cheyenne. I gave them the information I thought I needed
to. When I finished, the briefer asked for my tail number! How funny, I had forgotten to give
it to him at the beginning! I also forgot to bring the paperwork I fill out for each student
every time I instruct.
The point of these two stories is obvious; we all forget things. This usually starts with
details that may not be crucial (giving a briefer your tail number, paperwork), progresses
to details that are
important (magnetic variation), and eventually to crucial safety issues like emergency
procedures and comfort during stressful events like landing in gusty crosswinds. Forgetting
those details can take as little as just a week or two of non-flying time. Sure, we don't
forget how to fly the plane. But what if something goes wrong? Are we really prepared when
the unexpected presents itself?
This is why recurrent training is so important. An experienced flight instructor can not
only make sure bad habits are being addressed, but can show you some new techniques for
maneuvers you already know how to do, and can show you some new maneuvers too. There is so
much to know about flying, no one was taught everything during their training for any rating.
We all have more to learn.
Recurrent training makes us safer, in fact a lot safer. It is also fun to be doing and
learning new things. And it doesn't have to be expensive. Reading magazines, attending safety
seminars, or getting a group of pilot-friends together for a tour a nearby control tower costs
very little. Flying with a CFI is also important, and the amount of time you spend can be
tailored to your individual budget. There are many, many avenues to keep learning more
about flying. For a list of some things you might try, read farther down this web page.
I have flown with hundreds of pilots of all skill levels. What makes the best
ones who they are is a desire to learn new things, a recognition that regular
practice and recurrent training are necessary, and just enough perfectionism to
want to get it right.