Staying proficient goes beyond maintaining the guidelines set forth in the regulations, and having a current flight review does not necessarily mean you are up to speed. As pilots we need to be honest with ourselves about how often we fly, and whether we need some dual if we haven't flown in some time.
On August 7, 2002, the pilot of a Beechcraft Baron was killed when he crashed on approach to Runway 36 at the Festus Memorial Airport in Festus, Missouri.
The pilot departed at about 10 a.m. for some trips around the traffic pattern. On the last pattern, the pilot radioed that he had turned through final (left traffic), and was making a right turn to enter the final approach for Runway 36. Pilots at the airport saw the Baron make a steep 90-degree turn to the right shortly before it descended below the tree line. Witnesses off the airport then saw the plane pitch up in a nose-high attitude, decelerate, and roll to the left before it hit the ground.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for single-engine and multiengine airplanes. According to the pilot's logbook, he completed a flight review on December 1, 2001, and had flown once between the review and the day of the accident. The pilot had about 235 hours total time, 120 hours of which were in the Baron.
According to one of the pilot's flight instructors, he had counseled the pilot about flying more often to maintain proficiency in the Baron. He also noted that the pilot had a tendency to make steep turns in the traffic pattern.
The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the pilot's lack of recent experience and his failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which resulted in a stall.
Regulations don't specify what it takes for a pilot to be proficient because it varies from pilot to pilot. The standards outlined by the FARs, such as a flight review once every 24 calendar months, should be considered the minimum. Pilots can be proactive about proficiency by working with their flight instructors and outlining a plan to maintain currency. Then stick to it.
For more information, visit the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Safety Hot Spot, Pilot Proficiency and the Flight Review , which is an online collection of foundation and AOPA resources geared toward helping pilots stay proficient.
Accident reports can be found in ASF's accident database.
Return to the ePilot accident report main page.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.