What type of Safety Pilot are you?


At some point, every pilot needs a safety pilot. That is, if he or she is an instrument rated pilot. It is possible to complete the approaches and instrument procedures necessary to maintain currency of the instrument rating in a flight simulator. Although it is pragmatic to achieve this with a safety pilot in the right seat.

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It is fairly common for pilots seeking an instrument rating to fly with another pilot. To cut costs and achieve the 50 hours of cross country flight time required to apply for an instrument rating.  In order for the co-pilot to log pilot in command time (PIC), it is necessary for the pilot flying to wear a hood and fly solely by the aid of instruments.  FAR Part 61.65 clearly outlines the minimum requirements to obtain an instrument pilot rating and to maintain currency of that rating. After obtaining an instrument pilot rating, it is imperative that a pilot maintain currency every six months, in order to legally fly under instrument flight rules.

So at some point in time most pilots fly with a safety pilot. Since I obtained my private pilot license, I have had the opportunity to fly with another pilot in the right seat many times. Initially to gain confidence, save money and achieve the required 50 hrs cross  country flight time to obtain the instrument rating. And later, in order to maintain the currency requirements for the instrument rating. And later, to obtain the cross county flight time necessary for obtaining a commercial rating.

The experiences as a private pilot on a budget are different from a pilot attempting to maintain currency of an instrument rating. I had the distinct pleasure of flying with:

  • pilots like me who wanted to gain more confidence in cross country flying and less constrained with the cost of flying
  • to pilots on a budget whose goal was to achieve the maximum flight time at minimum cost, so they can move ahead towards their chosen goal of commercial flying for airlines;
  • to frugal pilots whose only goal was getting more flight time with low cost to themselves and
  • others whose only intent is to fly with no cost to themselves. 

In the air:

  • there are some, that relax, monitor and be exactly that: a safety pilot. Remind you of things you might be forgetting, check traffic and let you do your job
  • there are some that can’t sit still, fiddle with the knobs on their end, changing radios, GPS, nav radio, too swiftly to make sense or throw you off your course
  • there are some that are too aggressive, and want to start flying from the right seat leading to constant battling of who’s flying the aircraft
  • there are still other that all of sudden want to instruct you on how to fly, what not to do and what to do

In order to pick a safety pilot, you need to know the type of pilot you are:

  • If you are a pilot who loves to fly recreationally and improving your skills as a pilot are important to you for safety,  irrespective of the cost involved, it is best to fly with a certified flight instructor (CFI) or similar interest pilots.
  • If efficiency, time and cost are essential, since you are a pilot on a budget, interested in a career in airlines, then it is best to fly with like minded pilots.

When flying as a safety pilot, it is essential to know when to offer assistance and when to sit back and monitor traffic. If you have less faith in the ability of the pilot to fly, I say, don’t offer to fly safety pilot.

I have flown with some of the best and worst safety pilots. Being a recreational, instrument rated pilot enthusiastic,  passionate and ardent about flying, believe me, when I say that I don’t want my safety pilot taking control of my aircraft or flying from the right seat. Safety is an inherent goal to my flying adventures. I love to fly and most importantly I love to fly safely. So yeah if you are flying safety pilot to me, hands off!  I will ask you if I need help. And likewise to you, when I am flying right seat for you!

What type of safety pilot are you? Drop me a line and tell me about your experiences.

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