Renewing your Pilot’s License

Often I am asked what type of process is involved in getting back into flying after a person has been away for 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years or more. The process is surprisingly practical and straight forward.  Unlike the initial certification process, this process is entirely based on proficiency.

Perhaps you may have noticed, US pilot licenses are issued without expiration. This is different from driver’s licenses and a source of confusion on the topic. Where as a driver’s license needs to be renewed every couple years, the pilot’s license does not need to be renewed, however the regulations do require the pilot to have had a flight review in the prior 24 months and be current in the category and class of aircraft in order to carry passengers. Additionally, a pilot is required to have a medical.

So as a flight instructor, how exactly do we help get a rusty pilot back into the air? Our strategy has always been to go back to reviewing the basics – we start just as we would start a new student. Straight and level, turns, climbs, descents. We move on to slow flight, stalls, ground reference maneuvers, and finally landings. Along the way, the communications skills come back naturally, as do navigation skills through the process of simply flying. On the ground we do a similar exercise, reviewing regulations, airspace, weather, performance, flight planning.

Ultimately the graduation from recurrent training occurs when the pilot has at a minimum demonstrated the basic skills we would expect from a freshly minted private pilot. We treat the final flight as a flight review consisting of 1 hour of ground and 1 hour of flight. As the instructor, we simply sign the logbook as a successful flight review and at that point the pilot is cleared for flight assuming they have also received a new medical.

The last element being currency in make and model is really not an impediment to flying, but rather a requirement for carrying passengers.  Technically speaking, a pilot can get a flight review in a single engine land airplane, even though they also have a multi-engine land rating on their license.  Where the currency becomes relevant is if the pilot who is considered current in single engine land wants to take passengers in the multi-engine airplane, then they must perform three landings in the last 90 days in the multi-engine airplane, and similarly, if the pilot wants to carry passengers at night then the landings must have been at night to full stop.

So there you have it. No written tests, no checkrides. Simply work at your own pace with an instructor until the skills return. I think you’ll be surprised as to how fast they come back.  In general I’ve found that getting a pilot back to currency and getting a review done requires 1.5-2 hours of ground and 1.5-2 hours of flight per year they have been away from flying.  So, a pilot who has not flown in 10 years will probably require between 15-20 hours of instruction in ground and air to return to currency.

If you would like to learn more about recurrent training to get back into the air please contact us. We operated from Eagle County Regional Airport and service the areas of Eagle, Vail, Glenwood Springs, Gypsum, Edwards, Avon, Minturn.