This article covers and includes the new IFR currency requirements that took effect in late 2018.
While many pilots fear the worse when the FAA changes regulations (hello 1,500-hour rule), this time the changes were very much welcomed.
New IFR Currency Requirements
The biggest change the FAA made was to do with using Aviation Training Devices (ATD).
This change now makes it far simpler, and more cost-effective for pilots who need to maintain their currency rating.
IFR Currency and Simulators
ATD’s can be used to maintain currency, and there is no longer any need to have an instructor present while using the device either. All that is required is for you to log the time and tasks that you accomplished when using the ATD.
This includes all the tasks you would have attempted on actual flight, such as approaches and holds with a safety pilot in visual meteorological conditions (VMC), or in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).
While this is a very welcome change, saving pilots the cost of aircraft rental and the need for a flight instructor to observe the flight, note that your home cockpit PC-based cockpit won’t cut it. Clearly, X-Plane or Microsoft Flight Simulator, can’t be used.
But with ATDs from Redbird and other companies costing as little as $5,000 – and far less than Full Flight Simulators (FFS) or Flight Training Devices (FTD) – meeting the requirements for an IFR currency rating in the comfort of your own home is now within the reach of many pilots.
Refer to AC 61-136B – FAA Approval of Aviation Training Devices and Their Use for Training and Experience, to see a list of ATDs that can be used.
IFR Currency Grace Period
There has been a slight change to the IFR currency requirements grace period.
The standard six-month grace period must now be counted as to end in the month before you plan to intend to fly (“Within the 6 calendar months preceding the month of the flight”, according to FAR 61.57 Regulations).
This can be confusing, so refer to an IFR currency calculator if you can.
Maintaining IFR Currency
Changes to the regulations did not affect the tasks that must be completed to maintain IFR currency.
According to IFR Currency 61.57 regulations:
“A pilot whose currency has been lapsed for less than six months may continue to reestablish instrument currency by performing the tasks and maneuvers required in paragraph (c).”
These tasks and maneuvers include “six instrument approaches, holding procedures and tasks, and intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems.”
These should be logged identically as they are in an airplane if you were to use an ATD, FTD or FFS instead.
After the Grace Period
If 6 months have passed, you have a further 6 months to maintain currency. If not, you must complete an instrument proficiency check (IPC).
In other words, you have 12 months since you first became current until you need an IPC.
The IPC must be conducted by a Certified Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII), not just a designated pilot examiner (DPE).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I file IFR if not current?
If you are not acting as pilot in command, filing IFR is perfectly fine. If you are, then you will not be able to file IFR.
This leads to the next question…
Can I fly if not current?
No, you can not act as pilot in command and fly under IFR if you are not current.
Are the IFR currency requirements cumulative?
Yes, the requirements are cumulative. So if you logged 2 approaches one month, and 4 another month, this counts as the required 6 approaches. Your grace period will reset upon completion of the sixth approach.