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I have heard the terms pilot "recency", "recurrent checks", and "qualifications" but they seem kinda fuzzy to me. How do these terms relate to each other?

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I think to be clear, a lot of terms are used relatively casually and the strict legal terms might differ. But, to try and give a layman overview:

  1. Recency (Otherwise known as Currency)

The idea is that skills fade over time - as such, most pilots will need to fly a certain number of hours in a certain timeframe. For example, in order to take passengers in the UK you MUST have conducted 3 landings and take offs in the last 90 days. If you haven't, you're "out of currency" and can't take passengers flying until you do. Beyond that, insurers, employers, flying clubs etc might impose stricter requirements. For example - they might request you take a flight check with an instructor if you don't fly 1 hour each month.

These requirements are based on your hours logged - they aren't usually formalised in terms of needing to fill in a form. You just need to, when asked, be able to demonstrate your "currency"

  1. Recurrent Checks / Training / Reviews

This would describe a flight with an instructor or examiner (Depending on who can approve what) to maintain an existing rating or privilege. You aren't getting anything NEW for doing it, but it's a formalised check of your ability. You can think of them as mini flight tests if you like - you have to book it, it'll be signed off and they're usually legal requirements. Though, again, companies may have their own policies too on top of that.

  1. Qualifications

This is very broad, and I suspect means different things to different people. I would say a qualification is any privilege that you specifically hold - whether that be your licence, your rating, endorsements or anything else.

  1. Licences

Broadly, your pilots licence is split into two parts. You have a "Licence" of some description, and this describes what kind of pilot you could be. For example "Private", "Commercial", and "Airline Transport".

They do not describe the TYPES of planes you can fly - just that if you did so, you could exercise the privileges of either a Private Pilot, a Commercial Pilot or an Airline Transport Pilot.

Here in the UK, your licence is granted for life - once you have a PPL you are a private pilot forever. But that doesn't mean you can fly, because the second half is Ratings, and they can expire (as above, with lack of currency):

  1. Ratings

Ratings describe aircraft you are trained on. Most jurisdictions start with a simple "Single Engine Piston" rating which covers you to fly any light aircraft, with a single piston engine. This is what you receive when you get your first pilots licence and it's this "rating" which actually lets you fly. Beyond that, ratings tend to fall into two further groups:

  • Type Ratings - To cover specific aircraft. I.e., you would need to train and receive a "type rating" on a Boeing 747 in order to fly a 747.
  • Class Ratings - To cover a specific configuration of aircraft. For example - instrument, multi engine, multi crew, single engine turbine. I.e., you would also need a "multi crew" and "multi engine" class rating, to fly your 747 on top of your type rating
  1. Endorsements

Endorsements are a bit of an "other" category and are handled differently in different jurisdictions. You can think of them as being "signed off" to do something - but there's usually not a formal examination. This is generally only seen in private flying and will include things like high performance aircraft, complex aircraft (retractable undercarriage, adjustable prop) and taildraggers

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot! Your answer clarifies the terminology a lot! $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2021 at 12:04

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