This article originally appeared in Aviation Safety, May 2006.One of the few drawbacks to getting and using the Instrument rating is the regulatory and practical need to maintain currency. If you fly a lot and in all kinds of weather, you may be lucky enough to accumulate the required experience in the allotted time. Most of us, however, either don't fly that much or, when we do fly, the weather isn't bad enough to count. Even if it is, the visual or contact approaches are much more common -- and more convenient for operators and for ATC -- than doing the full procedure. In any event, the result is that the vast majority of people bopping around on an IFR flight plan probably don't meet the letter of the law when it comes to maintaining IFR currency. While we don't advocate busting regs, the simple truth is that, for most IFR operations in personally flown aircraft, failure to meet the letter of FAR 61.57 isn't a big deal. Most of the time. The "problem" of maintaining instrument currency is particularly acute for those lucky enough to live in areas where the weather is usually good. Hawaii and the southwest U.S. come to mind, as does Florida and the Caribbean. Those lucky souls often consider themselves cursed if they are forced to file IFR more than once or twice a year. For the rest of us, filing is often a reflexive thing: If there is any cloud cover in the forecast or the visibility is less than, say, six miles, we file. One of the obvious results is that those of us living in "bad-weather" areas tend to look at filing and flying IFR as the norm; we tend to get a bit nervous when the transponder is reading 1200 and there's no one telling us where to go. Another result is that Instrument-rated pilots living in "good-weather" areas often have to struggle to maintain currency. Sometimes they simply don't comply with the letter of the law. Or with its spirit.
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