With bad winter weather coming for much of the country, now is a good time to review instrument currency requirements. Here's what you need to know to be legal under 14 CFR 61.57(c):
To fly under instrument flight rules (even filing an IFR flight plan in VMC or IMC, for example) or in weather conditions below VFR weather minimums, you need to have logged in the previous six months at least six instrument approaches, holding procedures, and intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigation systems. These maneuvers can be done under simulated or actual instrument conditions, or in a flight simulator or flight training device of the same aircraft category that you're seeking to be current in.
If six months have passed and you haven't met the currency requirements, you have another six-month period to do so but may not act as PIC in actual instrument conditions until you become IFR current again. If it's been a year since you've met the requirements, then it's time to schedule an instrument proficiency check (IPC) with an instrument instructor.
It is also a good idea to remember that the regulations set the minimum standards for pilots. If you don't feel comfortable in instrument conditions, extra training is never a bad idea.
For more information, see Kathy Yodice's "Legal Briefing" column from AOPA Flight Training and check out the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's free online courses " Single-Pilot IFR" and " IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By."
December 1, 2005