Checklist: Steps To Take Following A Long Absence From Flying

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Even the most experienced and healthy professional pilots may find themselves in periods when flying goes from a daily or frequent norm to non-existent.

This could be for a variety of reasons that life throws their way, but regardless of experience level, proficiency is bound to suffer. Flying an aircraft is nothing like riding a bike, and independent of the proficiency of flying an aircraft itself, there are a whole set of rules that need must be met before setting foot back into the cockpit.

Here is a guide to requirements that must be met before flying again professionally. 

Medical Certificates

The rest of the items on this checklist are of little use unless your medical certificate is valid. As a reminder, a medical certificate’s validity is dependent upon the class level and the airman’s age. A first-class medical is valid for ATP privileges for 12 months for pilots under the age of 40, and six months for pilots over the age of 40.

Further information regarding medical certifications can be found in 14 CFR 61.23, along with ICAO Annex 1 if flying internationally.

Flight Proficiency

Do you meet the day and night takeoff and landing requirements? A pilot should also consider instrument requirements, both of which can be found in 14 CFR 61.57. This is the section of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) for airline transport pilots. There are similar sections for commercial and private pilots as well.

Company Specifications

Do you meet the training and currency requirements of the company you fly for? There is a good chance these policies may differ from the minimum requirements outlined in the FARs. It’s also important to check the requirements specified in FAA authorizations, such as any Letters of Authorization or Operations Specifications. Be sure to consult company manuals or review them with company personnel.

Training Requirements

Some aircraft operations require regular training that can end up prohibiting those operations if lapsed. Depending on the missions, you may need additional training for practices including Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) to touchdown and roll out, Required Navigation Performance (RNP) Authorization Required (AR), Data Link, North Atlantic (NAT) High Latitude Airspace (HLA), Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM), and possibly even use of a Minimum Equipment List (MEL).


It is a good idea to call your insurance company to make sure you satisfy their requirements as well. A nonproficient pilot may not be authorized to act as Pilot in Command (PIC) or even fly at all depending on the insurance company or policy. It is also important to make sure your policy has not expired.


All checklist items that precede this last item are requirements imposed on you by someone else, however, a professional pilot should always have personal requirements. If you don’t feel ready despite meeting all the requirements mentioned above, don’t carry through with anything further.

It is always a good idea to keep up with your continuous learning and to quiz yourself on all memory items and aircraft limitations. Even chair flying can reveal any discrepancies that have escaped your brain with time away from the cockpit. There should always be time to keep up with your studies.

Apart from the proficiency that comes with studying and spending time in the simulator or aircraft, this checklist should provide the assurance that when the time comes to fly again, you are prepared and legal to do so.