When are pilots the most dangerous? This is a topic of discussion at many flight schools and anytime you get a group of seasoned CFIs together. Based on anecdotal evidence, there appear to be a few times in their aviation careers where pilots might get a little too complacent, or too cocky and overconfident, resulting in an accident or incident.
50 Hours After Private Certification
An experienced CFI once told me: “They are at their sharpest when you sign them off.” I share this knowledge with my learners, and I caution them to work hard to maintain their skills. It is not uncommon for the private pilot—as they gain more hours and experience—to become more relaxed, and procedurally, they may start to get sloppy. It starts slowly. Maybe it’s forgetting to use the checklist during the preflight inspection or engine run-up. Or maybe it’s using the “look out the window” technique to check the weather.
For the pilots that don’t pursue additional certificates or fly on a regular basis, their skills and attention to detail may wane until just before their first flight review. That’s when they practice again with great intensity with the purpose to pass the review.
It can be alarming when they realize how much their skills and knowledge have degraded. I encourage these pilots to make a list of their soft spots and the things they want to work on and bring those to their flight review. You can’t fail a flight review, but you can practice things until both you and the CFI are satisfied you are flying to the level of your certificate.
Losing Your Landings
Sometimes working toward an additional certificate can create soft spots in other areas. For example, the learners’ procedural skills increase during their training for the instrument rating because they have to stay two steps ahead of the aircraft. However, their landings may suffer because most instrument approaches are practice approaches followed by missed approaches. You just don’t…