Staying proficient


New Member
This applies more to those out there, like myself, that due to non-aviation related feduciary responsibilities combined with a miniscule income are able only to get out to fly on a sparingly, non-routine basis. I'm talking maybe 2-3 times/month. What's the best way to keep the skills up, getting up so little? My goal is to try to improve continuously, but is that possible flying so little? Also, just curious, for the renters out there, what is the average amt of hours people fly per year?
Also, just curious, for the renters out there, what is the average amt of hours people fly per year?

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According to ALPA the national average for GA pilots (non-commercial - just flying for pleasure) is 3 hours per month for a total of 36 hours per year.
I am not one who flies frequenty (1-2 hours a month), and rather then going on a cross country once a month, I tend to stay in the pattern, local flights down the coast, and sometimes just a short cross country and go every week.
I find the pattern to be the best, it is cheap, covers the finer aspects of flying, etc. I also really enjoy the pattern, it is just fun!
If you have a friend who flies, go with them as a passenger. Not only is it fun, it will also be beneficial to you.
My limiting factor right now is time, with working 50 hours a week, and then spending the weekends playing polo, I can really only go flying Sunday mornings, or afterwork so keeping my flights short is pretty essential. If I had more time on the weekends I might be fly 1.5-2.0 hour trip each week, however right now I just like keep it local, short - I just enjoy flying, and the views and do not have a desire to go far.
My limiting factor right now is time, with working 50 hours a week, and then spending the weekends playing polo....

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Polo??? Which Orange County do you live in? Didn't realize the one in SoCal was so hoidy-toidy...

Water polo, yeah; on horseback with Prince Andrew, dubious at best!
When I got my private, I only flew 65 hours over 18 months. Seemed like about every other weekend I could get some time. This may help you: When you actually do have time to go to the airport to fly, go a little early and "Chair Fly" in the plane (or a similiar one on the ramp). If you have no idea what I am talking about, I mean reacclimating yourself with the location of knobs, buttons, handles, etc. You can go through your flows without turning the a/c on. If you only fly a couple hours a week, then this will be an invaluable too (in my opinion) and will help you avoid stumbling around the cockpit when it is time to actually run it up, do maneuvers, or run through simulated emergency checklists. This familiararity with the aircraft will allow you to spend your time Learning instead of RElearning what you already know. Your goal is to become a better pilot on every flight, right? Well keep your nose in the books and make sure you don't forget what you have already learned, coupled with chair flying, and I am sure you will become better once the hobbs is running.

Good luck.
I was in your position last year, trying to finish school and save some $$$. I only flew once or twice a month, totalling sometimes as little as 3hrs / month or less. It's a challenge for sure, and it's sometimes frustrating to get into an airplane feeling less than 100% comfortable.

I always keep a pad of paper on which I write down things I want to improve upon the next time. That way I can spend some time thinking about it before the flight, and after the flight I sit somewhere quiet and just think about what I could have done better.

Sims can help too. If the flight's IFR, I fly it in FS in the RJ at 300kts with random instrument failures on. That way when I get in the 172 @ 110kts and everything works it's not hard at all. If the flight's VFR, the sim still helps by letting me practice the navigation part before hand.

Another thing that helps is to go up evey few months with a specific training flight in mind. You don't need an instructor (too expensive, unless you're pals with one!). Just write down some things you want to work on, like steeps, MCA, stalls, etc. and go do them.
One of the best ways is to buddy up with another pilot, invest in a view limiting device, and do some serious legitimate simulated Instrument Flying!!! It helps you build instrument time...that you are going to need for future ratings, and if you do it right, you get some great skills!!!! Fly a leg, make it a cross country, finish up with a practive approach or 2. Then swap seats, and do the same thing on the way home!! Practice a hold on the way....make it more interesting. In the end, you can both log most of the time, and you got to fly twice as long for the same dollar amount!