Preparing for return to flight as a GA pilot

Anyone else noticed those lucky chaps and chapettes flying around outside? I know, me too, but it won’t be long now until us club renters and students alike will be able to once again leave this horrible, solid stuff we call the ground.

So we have a date, and if, like me, you are eagerly watching every second tick, tick, tick by in anticipation you may also be wondering how rusty you might be. Dust off that logbook and take a look at when your last flight was. It may have been quite some time. As Matt has already mentioned in his YouTube updates the team is hard at work looking at how to get us all back in the air asap and while we wait there are a few things we can all be doing to prepare too.

We all need to consider the fact that we may just be a little rusty, no matter how much we may not want to admit that. So, we’ve put together a blog containing some ideas and resources that will help you prepare for the return to flight in April that will enable us to do so quickly and safely.

Hit the books

It’s a good idea to revisit the study books. Remember, there are several available from the AirBourne pilot shop of course, but I’m sure you still have one or two books about from you were training? I would say the most important topics are air law and meteorology. Have a read through those chapters or sections and refresh your mind.

There are lots of resources online resources you can use, here are some other blogs here that you may find useful too:

The CAA has also published CAP 1925 which is a briefing on ‘return to flight’ for GA pilots. You can find it in PDF from the CAA website.

CAP 1925 Return to Flight

Talking of the CAA, they also have a podcast, within which they have one called “Safety advice and tips for pilots returning to GA flying post COVID-19”. Like several of these resources, this was produced in preparation for the first, ‘return to flight’ we had last year, around May time. So although last year’s material, it is still valid. I found it on Sound Cloud but I’m sure it is probably available elsewhere too.

Blindfold procedure practice

Something I like to do is take a few moments to imagine I’m sitting in the cockpit and go through various checks and procedures. If you have one, it’s handy to have a copy of the checklist. If you need a copy, log in to the members area and you can access all the aircraft documentation you need from there. With this, imagine flying a few circuits, from walking up to the aircraft to landing and walking away from the aircraft. This is a really great way to reimagine the process and will certainly help when it comes to getting back to flying.

Once you have done that a few times, imagine you are now going on a flight out of the circuit, keeping local and practice some emergency procedures. Keep reference material handy to remind you if you forget and if you do, that’s fine, that is the whole point of this! Hopefully, the knowledge will come flooding back but if you find there is something you’re not sure about, keep a note of it. Bring those notes with you when you are back at the airfield so when we complete our initial check flights, you can ask the instructor specifically about them.

Noting information from LARS

Prepare your software and hardware

I have a tablet I use specifically for flying. Having not been flying for some time it will need to do the usual 10 million updates. Get your kit turned on and updated regularly so it’s not something you suddenly remember to do, just before you hop into the cockpit! If you subscribe to anything like SkyDemon, make sure your subscription is up to date too and you have the latest version installed. Check any camera equipment is still working okay (if like me you regularly record your flights. If you don’t check out another blog about how to record your flights for less than ¬£100).

Check your paperwork

Is your licence still valid? Are you due your two-yearly checkout with an instructor? How are you doing on hours? Is your medical still valid? Check all these things properly, now is a good time to do so.

You also need to check your paper maps. Yep, the last lot is nearly out of date, and by the time we got back to flying there will be new editions available, and legally, we need them when we’re flying. Here are the edition numbers:

  • The previous edition of 1:500k: Edition 46 (new edition is 47 available 25th March)
  • The previous edition of 1:250k: Edition 24 (new edition 25 available 20th May 2021)

There are several pre-order savings to be had including a 15% discount from Flight Store.

Read about the rules

You can also find lots of useful information on the Sky Wise website. There’s an accompanying app you can sign up for the latest updates from the CAA which can be useful. There is a host of information on this website applicable to us generally too not just return to flight.

If you have not seen it before there is also the Skyway Code which is a super, printable, guide in PDF for all the UK rules of the air. Also known as CAP1535P, this is an excellent resource and one I would recommend having a look through to refresh the mind on rules and procedures. I went so far as to download it and send it off to a printing and binding company! It is full of illustrations and clear guidance all condensed into one location.

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) has an interesting guide/checklist for returning to flight post COVID too. Although possibly a little overkill for us microlight pilots, nonetheless, there are some good prompts and things to think about.

Consider your first flights

Once Matt and AirBourne’s team of instructors are happy that you are airworthy you will be free once again to take off. It’s worth continuing to be vigilant though about your own capabilities. Think about where and what you are going to do when you get your freedom back. Everyone who can, will want to go flying as much as possible as soon as possible. It’s likely to be very busy up there and if it’s great weather, even more so. Consider where you are going to go, what it will be like when you get there, and if you really are confident and competent enough, at the moment, to handle it. There’s no shame in keeping things local and short to rebuild your confidence.

Disclaimer: This article was written for information only and was up to date at the time of writing. Please always ask a qualified instructor for more information and discuss airfield operations and the use of aircraft equipment with a suitably qualified person.