Doubts aside, IFR currency rule unchanged

January 6, 2012

An instrument pilot checks his logbook and discovers that he no longer can act as pilot in command under IFR because his recent experience prescribed for instrument currency is out of date. What must he do?

Rumors to the contrary aside, the answer is the same now as it was before the FAA made a recent technical clarification to several portions of FAR 61.57.

Simply stated, if the pilot’s currency lapsed, but did so less than six calendar months ago, the pilot may reestablish currency, without taking an instrument proficiency check.

If currency expired more than six months ago, it’s time to set up an instrument proficiency check.
In either case, once currency is regained, the pilot has until six months past the next expiration of currency to reestablish it without an IPC. If the pilot is unable to maintain currency—and is also unable to regain it within six months after it lapses—it is time for another IPC.

All that is just as it was before.

Sometimes a timeline beats a narrative for explaining a complicated rule—and when it comes to instrument pilots and their currency requirements, understanding how to regain currency in the six months after it has lapsed, and how to do so thereafter, has always been confusing.

AOPA has received a number of inquiries about the recent technical update to FAR 61.57 and its effect on instrument currency requirements. The technical amendment sought to make it clear “that a pilot who has failed to maintain instrument currency for more than six calendar months may not serve as pilot in command under IFR or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR until completing an instrument proficiency check. A pilot whose instrument currency has been lapsed for less than six months may continue to reestablish instrument currency by performing the tasks and maneuvers required in paragraph (c).”

“AOPA has studied the recent amendment, has spoken with the FAA, and consulted with aviation attorneys for good measure, and verified that no change to the procedures for maintaining or re-establishing instrument currency has been made,” said Kristine Hartzell, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs.

Despite concerns expressed by some pilots, the clarification did not change the long-standing procedures that instrument pilots must use to regain currency, she said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.