Back in the Saddle

I’ve always said that flying is one of the easiest things in
the world not to do. For those of us who fly purely recreationally — no matter
how deeply we love it, or how central it is to who we are — we inevitably go
through dry spells. If either or both of those two vital resources — time and
money — are tight, flying becomes a little harder to justify and a lot easier
to sacrifice. Toss in a harsh winter and suddenly “I haven’t flown in a week or
so” turns into “I’m not even current!”

Whatever the reason, when you’ve been away from it for a
little while, getting back in the left seat (or front or back) takes a little
bit of patience and planning. Some of it might be a little harder than you
expect, but overall, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly it all comes

If you’re lucky, your return to flight will coincide with
the need for a flight review, so you’ll be sure to fly with an instructor
before trying to blow the dust off yourself. If you’re smart, you’ll fly with
an instructor anyway. It might be legal not to, but given the choice, safe is
better than legal — every single time.

Only your experience will tell you where you’ll struggle,
but in my experience, it tends to be the little things that you can’t possibly
believe you’d miss until just after you do. Pulling the carb heat on late on
downwind, fumbling the readback of a taxi clearance, taxiing with flaps down,
that sort of thing. Nothing catastrophic, just enough rookie mistakes to remind
you to pay attention, and to give you some things to think about as you
mentally debrief the flight.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that things like
instinct and muscle memory work together to help you blow the rust off, and 95
percent of what you need to know is there waiting. In other words, you might
taxi a couple of feet with the parking brake on because you missed it on the
checklist, but you’re not going to find yourself panicking on short final
because you forgot how to land.

Once you’re current again, you’ll laugh quietly at the small
mistakes and celebrate the lack of any big ones as you wonder just why it is
that you waited so long. Flying is easy not to do, but it’s always — always —
easier to get back into than you think it will be.

If you really want to go deeper on this topic, listen to the “Returning to Flight” episode of The Green Dot podcast we recorded with local CFI and EAA Sport Aviation magazine columnist Steve Krog.

If it’s not you but your airplane that’s been on the ground
too long, check out “Haven’t
Flown in a While?”
Lisa Turner’s Airworthy column in the November
2018 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.

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