Reprinted with permission from Fall 2020 On Approach Newsletter from Avemco, Submitted by PFCWPA Treasurer & CFI George Futas
One of my responsibilities as the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Avemco Insurance Company is to review our claims reports each month. I’ve seen a trend of accidents over the past several weeks, that can be traced back to pilots who are starting to fly again after long periods of inactivity due to the pandemic. Many pilots don’t realize how far their skills have deteriorated until it’s too late. I asked a friend of Avemco’s to share his story of how he is regaining and maintaining his proficiency while adding purpose to his flying. Jim Gorman is a 2,000- hour pilot and a Bonanza owner and advertising agency CEO.
I’m not a CFI, or a professional pilot. I’m just a guy who, like you, loves to fly. And possibly, like you, doesn’t do enough of it even when a pandemic hasn’t turned the world upside down. Perhaps my experience can provide some suggestions to help give you a smoother re-entry into the cockpit than I had.
Between a particularly nasty Michigan winter, an airplane that was down for refurbishment, and a coronavirus lockdown that lasted for-gosh-darn-ever, I hadn’t flown for more than six months when I climbed back into the plane this past June. I knew I wasn’t ready (or legal) to fly an IFR approach, but I also wasn’t ready for the shock of just how rusty I had become. It was a beautiful day with light winds, so I certainly didn’t think I needed an instructor to remind me how to fly. And, frankly, I didn’t want anyone sitting so close to me anyway. There is no worse place to social distance than the cabin of a small plane. The ventilation is crummy, and you’re nose- to- nose with somebody 18” away.
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Reality is a harsh teacher. I couldn’t remember how to program the GPS. I was confused about which HSI knob-controlled heading and which was course. I caught myself reaching for the mixture instead of the throttle. Those distractions caused me to miss a radio call and dial in the wrong heading. I was very happy to get back on the ground with a truly lousy landing that fortunately only damaged my pride and nothing else. I really didn’t think I’d lost my edge to the extent I had. That’s when I reversed my decision and called my CFI.
The important thing is to realize that flying a plane is not like riding a bicycle. It’s not going to all come flowing back to you the moment you climb into the left seat. And the consequences can be a lot more severe than a skinned knee. The reason most of us took up flying in the first place is that we thought it would be fun. And I think you’ll agree that flying is a lot more fun when you can keep the airplane…and yourself…all in one piece.
Jim Gorman is an instrument-rated commercial pilot with glider and seaplane ratings and more than 2,000 hours in the air. He flies a Beechcraft F33-A Bonanza and is the owner of Gorman360, Inc., an advertising agency. When not busy making sure his plane is in tip-top shape, he volunteers for Pilots N Paws and other humanitarian organizations.