Blog Book: Getting Back In The Game


I’ve been in and out (mostly out) of currency for a few years. OK, more than a few. But in the post-COVID environment, I committed myself to re-upping with a VFR flight review (mission accomplished!) and inching my way toward an instrument proficiency check (work in progress). My long-term goal is to get comfortable with flying “gentleman’s IFR” on trips around the Northeast, with the opening of possible longer, more challenging trips as I get more into the swing.

Of course, that strategy doesn’t go very far if there isn’t an airplane available. Finances forced the sale of my V-tail Bonanza several years ago and rental aircraft are seldom, if ever, available for overnight trips, let alone multi-day missions. I asked Steve Parker, the third-generation owner/manager of Somerset Air Service at my home base—Somerset Airport (KSMQ)—about possibilities for airplanes that might need exercise. He connected me with the owner of a highly rejuvenated 1970 Cherokee with some up-to-date, exciting avionics. The engine is freshly overhauled, and even if it’s not as fast as the Bonanza, it certainly has the performance and the range to be a practical IFR cruiser. So, the evil plot has begun to take shape.

The owner did some extensive homework and came up with a comprehensive plan for sharing his pride and joy. It’s essentially a flying club with monthly dues and fixed hourly rates for using the airplane. Right now, there are three of us, and the chances are good that our schedules and missions ought to interlock well. That is always a wild card, as people’s needs and wants are wont to change. But for now, it’s looking like a promising prospect.

As for my approach to resurrecting my flying game, I have tried to focus on regaining some of the old muscle memory, and the comfort level and confidence that goes with that. So far, so good. My plan is to start by getting comfortable with stick-and-rudder skills again, then move into relearning the basics of instrument flying as performed in the 21st century.

The weather yesterday was a bit daunting for practicing instrument work, but some pattern practice with a good instructor had me feeling like this might be headed in the right direction. One step at a time. I’ll keep you posted.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Persistence pays off. Sounds like you’re on your way to your goal in no time. Say “hello” to Steve for me. Good luck and happy flying!

  2. Being out of currency. That’s something I have never let happen to me. It was such a long hard fought battle to get my ticket, I won’t let it go.

    I even went up a day or so before major surgery, to reset the clock. I told people this before. I would rather be a rental pilot and actually get up, than an owner that couldn’t afford too.

  3. Good luck, Mark. Keep pushing. It will all come back. Try and find your way over to N40 for lunch one day. I’ll refresh your memory flying a V tail Bo.

  4. Currency is the minimum.
    Being technically legal is not enough.
    Proficiency involves the continuous pursuit of excellence in both skill and knowledge.
    Current and proficient is the best way.

    • In fact, technically legal is the very definition of “good enough.” Pilots essentially virtue signaling by deriding the concept of “good enough” has long been an irritant to me. Everyone thinks they don’t sound committed enough, or whatever enough if they don’t want to overdo. I realize that most of us here are Americans, but overdoing when not necessary is a pointless waste of resources. There’s a reason good enough is called that – because it is good enough. As long as I don’t kill anyone and the plane is reusable – that’s good enough. And it’s all we ought to require. If you need to do more to feel good about yourself, go for it. But let’s understand this is a function we’re talking about. The license is about function – not “excellence.” Besides there’s as many different definitions of “excellence” as there are humans. As long as a person can be successful, that’s good enough. Let’s not keep changing the definition of good enough just because some folks want to feel important.

      Note – Mr. Sierra, please understand this is in no way intended to be personal. I’ve just heard this from so many quarters that it finally reached a figurative “critical mass” in my psyche. The human desire to feel “better than” has always been a thing with me and for some reason I just thought this time I needed to say something. I apologize to you and all the nice readers. But I am right. The concept of “good enough” exists.

      • Good enough has to be good enough for when bad things happen. I personally don’t believe the bare legal minimum is enough to have enough tools in the toolbox available for when you need them.

        That being said your mileage may vary and some pilots need less practice than others. However whatever level you are, making the commitment to fly accurately is a choice. If you have the discipline to do that skill fade becomes obvious and should trigger some directed practice.

      • Bill, thank you for the kind note. Here is my position.

        I believe that aviation safety hinges on the dynamic interplay between legal currency and proficiency. A pilot who keeps learning, practicing, and, as a result, experiencing, will most likely stand a chance of survival than one who simply meets regulatory requirements.

        Legal currency, exemplified by FAA Two-year Flight Reviews, ensures compliance at a specific point in time. True proficiency, however, demands continuous involvement. Regular and thorough training is the essence of growth and sustained competence.

        Another thought: whether approached as a serious profession or a cherished hobby, flying demands a proficient skillset and knowledge base. This expands safety margins in the ever-evolving environment of airspace, weather, avionics, communication, and aircraft control.

        There’s no substitute for proficient flying. Stay safe, stay sharp!

  5. Raf, I totally agree with you. But either way, I’m going to either stay current and legal, or give up fly altogether. I’m not going to become an owner, only to let an aircraft sit. Like far too many airplanes do.