What’s the Difference Between Currency and Proficiency?

The FAA establishes one metric, and you determine the other.

Question: I have just returned to flying after a several-year gap. I know the FAA has rules about what pilots need to do to establish VFR and IFR currency but haven’t been able to find any information on how proficiency is established. Does the FAA have rules on what a pilot needs to work on?

Answer: In a manner of speaking, the metrics for proficiency are found in the airman certification standards. The ACS lists the tasks and knowledge required for airman certification.

For example, if you hold a commercial or private certificate, you are expected to maintain traffic pattern altitude plus/minus 100 feet and the appropriate airspeed within 10 knots. These are minimum standards. It takes practice to do this.

You can do three takeoffs and landings and be off altitude and off speed and you will still regain currency. But if you find yourself constantly high on downwind and playing “chase the airspeed” all the way down, you are not proficient. The FAA doesn’t have a recommendation on how much time we need to regain proficiency. That is left up to each individual pilot.


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