The pandemic has affected every part of our lives, especially in aviation. Fears brought on by a wave of cases in Florida made me return home to the Bahamas last March putting my flight training on hold for a year. I was on the cusp of an instrument rating. My end-of-course was signed off and awaiting a checkride date. The seriousness of what was happening became more apparent when multiple checkride dates I had scheduled were cancelled due to Pilot Examiners (DPEs) going into isolation. Luckily things have been turning around and the future is looking bright.
I felt safe returning to Wayman Academy since they introduced a thorough COVID protocol and guidelines were put in place to prevent and quickly detect any cases of COVID-19. This included regular professional sanitization of the school. Returning students need to have a negative COVID test, mandated masks, temperature checks when entering the premises, hand sanitizing stations in many places, encouraging students and personnel to avoid activities that may increase exposure. Most recently free COVID-19 tests are available on campus every Monday.
With the COVID protocols and guidelines in place and the good experience and rapport I had with my instructors, returning to Wayman Academy was an easy decision. Now that I’m back from not flying for a year, I’m preparing for the instrument checkride again. At this point in my flying experience knocking off the rust of regular maneuvers like stalls and steep turns are not as hard. The biggest challenge however is getting used to the task management and mental workload of instrument flying. You have to think much farther ahead of the airplane when flying IFR and consider more when preparing for the flight. Safe to say, the hardest part is mentally getting back into the IFR mindset. Thankfully, I have good instructors around me to ensure that I’m beyond proficient by the time I have my checkride.
"Now that I’m back from not flying for a year, I’m preparing for the instrument checkride again."
So far, I’ve flown once since being back and successfully completed another end of course oral. That first flight went a lot better than I initially thought it would. My instructor and I intercepted some radials, did slow flight, a power on and power off stall, a DME arc, a VOR hold and finished with a circling approach back at North Perry.
Personally, I felt I was decent on everything but I know I could’ve been better on my radio communications during the approach and that the overall flying could be smoother. But after not flying for a year, I flew a lot better than I thought I would. Good thing I was still studying on and off the year I wasn’t flying and often watched instrument flying videos on YouTube.
I still have another end of course flight to complete and then a checkride preparation flight to refine anything that may be needed. All in all I feel that much of the instrument skills did not deteriorate as much as expected. However, in my opinion, a pilot’s proficiency needs to be the foundation. There is always something that can be improved on and refined. I foresee many students returning to flight training in the near future. As the aviation industry continuously builds back up to its previous demand and restrictions are lifted in many countries, more pilots will be needed again. There has been more airplane availability and DPEs are easier to schedule again since the start of the pandemic.
Constant learning and studying is a daily habit for good pilots even when not flying every day. I am glad that I kept some amount of studying going while not flying for a year and I am looking forward to continuing my training to commercial-multi. I would recommend all the other student pilots waiting to continue training to keep studying, chair flying, watching aviation videos and to stay as positive as possible. We are now on the tail end of the pandemic!
How has the pandemic affected your flying? Leave a comment below!