On Final: A Little Rusty

On Final: A Little Rusty

How often should we fly to maintain our skills? Certainly more often than our regulatory landing or instrument currency requirements. But, how often? For me, I prefer at least once a week, but that is not always possible. After two weeks, my personal corrosion starts to show. And recently, I had to wait 28 days for the next takeoff and landing. Maintenance, grandkids, weather, you name it. I had lots of excuses. So, on this particular morning, I was not entirely comfortable during my long-delayed preflight. To compound matters, I was departing from a new hanger and FBO ramp, as my airplane’s address had changed during the downtime.
My walk-around was a little more thorough on this morning. Every door secured? All fluids just right? Then, I checked them a second time. I filed for my frequent short hop to KSHV (Shreveport, LA) in good VFR weather. Did I mention that the airplane just came out of maintenance? Nothing major, but it involved a half-dozen small things that could change my departure routine if they weren’t quite right and needed attention after takeoff. I took my time to make sure that the mechanics did not leave a switch or two in different positions than I had them. Sure enough, I found a couple of breakers that needed to be reset.
Departing to the south out of KADS (Addison, TX) can be challenging, including an immediate 100-degree heading change, a power reduction , and a level off at 2,000 feet in a high traffic area. I verbally briefed the departure and call-outs with more emphasis than usual. I made a mental note of any quick return I might have to make if lights, bells, and whistles unexpectedly rang. All the stuff I am supposed to do on any takeoff. But today, I paid a little more attention.
Of course, all went well with no real surprises. But I did notice some corrosion in my skills. For instance:
FMS fumble fingering. It’s not just like riding a bicycle. Taking a month off from programming the box can cause some moments of confusion.
My scan was slow. I took too long to notice that the two PFD’s had differing altimeter settings.
My reaction time to entering an unexpected arrival in the FMS was too long.
The actual flying part was very much like riding a bicycle. But, feeling comfortable with the automation was not. I also found that I couldn’t stay very far ahead of the airplane, since I had to focus on “here and now” activities. I was glad I waited for a CAVU day, with no passengers to attend to. Finally, headed for a visual back home, I relaxed for a minute.
“November 1865 Charlie cleared direct KEFDE on the RNAV 33 approach,” came the approach controller’s clearance.
What? Why? Where is that? More finger-fumbling ensued. Finally, I got KEFDE entered into the FMS.
Nice landing. Now, I feel like I am ready for anything.
But, did I forget to disconnect the battery?
Fly Safe.

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