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Back to the Skies: Your 5-Step Guide for a Safe Return to Flying

Back to the Skies: Your 5-Step Guide for a Safe Return to Flying

Jul 14, 2021

Perhaps you took a break for the winter season, or maybe the COVID restrictions kept you grounded. In either case, warmer weather and easing health restrictions mean your dreams for a return to the airfield can now become a welcome reality. As you anticipate your first day back, today is the perfect time to plan those logistics and brush up on your piloting skills.

Read on for your quick 5-step guide to returning to flying as a lapsed pilot or after a break in flying.

Step 1: Ensure your medical is current or renew if needed

While you were grounded, your medical certificate may have expired. The FAA extended the deadlines for currency requirements, medical certificates, and knowledge tests, but those extensions have since expired. If your medical is lapsed, you will need to get it renewed. If you are a general aviation pilot needing to renew a third-class medical certificate, this is also a good time to learn about BasicMed and whether this alternative medical certification program is a good fit for you.

Review FAR/AIM & update your charts

Step 2: Review FAR/AIM & update your charts

Refresh yourself on the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). It is especially important to familiarize yourself with any changes or additions since the last time you flew.

This is also the perfect time to update your aeronautical charts. Whether you fly with digital or paper charts, if you have not flown in a while, odds are that at least some of your charts will no longer be current. Study the current charts for airspace and airfields you frequently spend time in. Notice what changes may have occurred while you were down.

Step 3: Study and practice skills with online and simulator training

Before you even step foot on the tarmac, there is plenty you can do to cultivate the pilot mindset. If you are a general aviation pilot, log into your FAA WINGS account and complete some refresher courses. These courses are designed to cover the topics that are most relevant to improving pilot safety. They also count toward the ground portion of your flight review. If you are unfamiliar, here is everything you need to know about the FAA WINGS program.

Members of AOPA can also take advantage of attending a free-to-members Rusty Pilots webinar or self-paced online course. These courses each earn you two FAA WINGS credits, and the webinar also counts for two hours of ground training toward you Flight Review.

Worried you are going to flub up your radio communications? PlaneEnglish has you covered with our ARSim Aviation Radio Simulator app. Created by pilots for pilots, we designed this app to provide the easy route to aviation radio proficiency.

While it is great for new pilots, ARSim is also an excellent way for experienced pilots to practice ATC comms from outside of the cockpit. Review thousands of scenarios that cover all phases of VFR and IFR flight across over 200 airports and airspaces. The sophisticated app analyzes your speech rate and offers phraseology corrections as well as a radio proficiency scoring. It is the perfect simple and effective way to get the rust out of your radio skills without even leaving the house.

Find the ARSim app on Google Play, the Apple App Store and our dedicated ARSim website.

Study and practice skills with online and simulator training

Step 4: Pass your flight review and update your currencies, but don’t stop there

A flight review every twenty-four months is an FAA requirement, so if you are due or overdue, schedule a review with a certified flight instructor (CFI). Your CFI can also help check your currencies and put together a checklist and plan for ensuring you are current and legal.

Even after you complete your flight review, remember the adage that “legal doesn’t equal safe.” You can legally get back in the air with just your current medical, a flight review, and any other currency minimums required for your pilot certificate level.

Of course, we all know that just because you can, that does not mean that you should. Piloting proficiency and safety, especially during emergency situations and other stressful conditions is not something that can be gained and maintained solely by meeting the minimum legal requirements.

Step 5: Log time with a CFI

Ask your CFI to help you do an honest assessment of what skills and procedures you should practice to up your game from legal back to safe. Consider the AOPA’s list of 10 places where your skills will slip first. Sign up for flight instruction time to polish your weaker skillsets and to practice emergency procedures.


Getting back into flying after a break may sound intimidating, but with the right plan and tools, all you need to do is follow the steps and put in the time. Remember to continue supplementing your flight time with ground-based tools like online courses and simulators that will get you back to your A-game.

PlaneEnglish is ready to help. We have VFR, IFR, and combined VFR+IFR app access pricing plans providing everything from one to twelve months of access to our ARSim app so you can choose the plan that fits your needs. Plans start as low as $4.99 per month. Not sure if ARSim is right for you? Check out our app features and watch a demo to learn more. Our companion manual, The Easy Route to Aviation Radio Proficiency, is also available either in PDF or hard copy format. Use it in conjunction with the app to get the most out of both tools.

A little refresher and review now will have you confident and ready to slide back into the left seat when the time comes. Welcome back!