I have:

  • a US PPL issued circa 1980 (for about $1600.00 total cost)
  • 120 hours ASEL pilot in command
  • last flight in 1987
  • type rated for Cessna 150/152/172/172RGII
  • 30 hours of IFR instruction and flight/hood time
  • passed IFR course way back then but don't recall taking the test

My pilot log is in another state so I can't confirm test. Not much validity towards IFR rating now? Then my wife somehow got pregnant, more than once. End of money to fly on. I want to fly again...

Considering how different the aviation world has become (complex rules) or otherwise changed, I'm wondering how much ground and how many hours of recurrency might be in order just to re-certify my PPL VFR? I realize everyone has a different learning curve. And I am in no way as sharp as I was 35 years ago. You senior folks will understand that completely.

Flying/controlling the airplane itself, I believe would not be an issue. But just thinking about all the updated learning of new rules makes me wonder how much it may cost just to be VFR PPL certified again. If I get complex time in a 172 Cutlass does that make me recurrent in 150 thru 172 also?

Looking for thoughts by those who have done it or have taught it to old guys now able to spend on flying again. I would be looking to join a club in SW FL at some point after training. Thanks for any feedback.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The short answer is that you just need to get a medical and get a CFI to sign off on a BFR. How long it takes the CFI to feel comfortable doing that is the question. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Nov 10, 2021 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim, and that's a legit answer. Everything else is advice and opinion, which this site frowns on... $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2021 at 2:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Cessna's don't have a type rating... $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Nov 10, 2021 at 3:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think, going from my somewhat spotty memory of FAA paperwork, that you will also need to jump through some hoops to get an updated physical certificate. Nothing to do with flying, though: just more "Real ID" stupidity :-( $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Nov 10, 2021 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! We have a couple of related questions that you might find interesting: here, here $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Nov 10, 2021 at 16:35

3 Answers 3


As noted in the comments the only legal things you need to take care of are getting a valid medical and a BFR sign off. AOPA has lots of info on getting back into it. There are a few more things to note:

Type rated for Cessna 150/152/172/172RGII

Also as noted in the comments the Cessna's you have listed here dont require a type rating so your license is likely issued for single engine land which allows you to fly other aircraft like the PA-28. You dont need to look specifically for these Cessna's to do your new training in, aside from the fact you may be comfortable with them there is no legal requirement for it.

If I get complex time in a 172 Cutlass does that make me recurrent in 150 thru 172 also

If you are current (BFR + Medical + 3 takeoffs and landings) you are legal to fly single engine land aircraft. Having recent experience in a 172 might might get you legal currency but it does not make you proficient to fly all other Cessna singles.

Passed IFR course way back then but don't recall taking the test

If you never sat for the check ride/written/oral then you don't have an instrument rating but the FAA has digitized most of their records for you to check.

The last thing to consider is that a lot has changed since the 80's. GPS has become a large part of flying and a huge part of IFR flying so you will need to get up to speed on that if you want to get back into instrument flying.


If you hold an FAA issued PPL from that era, it’s is not subject to any expiration dates or limitations per §61.7 and §61.11. If you need to check the status of your airman certificate, you may do so using the the FAA’s online airman database. If you need a replacement airman certificate, you can contact the FAA and request one online for very little charge.

As for legal requirements, you will have to obtain at a minimum a flight review per §61.2(b), §61.56. The amount of time required to become proficient again as a pilot and satisfactorily pass a flight review varies from person to person, but, as a general rule, anticipate at least one (1) hour of ground and one (1) hour of flight training for every year since you have last exercised pilot in command privileges aboard an airplane. You will also need to meet the currency requirements to carry passengers aboard your airplane, if you intend to do so per §61.57.

You will also need to obtain at least a new Third Class Medical Certificate. Unfortunately the time since your last medical certificate expired does not qualify you for use of BasicMed under Part 68. You can find an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) here to schedule your flight physical with.

Your old logbook is not required in order to resume flying or work on a flight review, provided your PPL is valid, but it would be indispensable if you’re ever looking to obtain new ratings. Technically pilots are only required to log hours used toward obtaining new ratings or certificates. If you do intend to work on an instrument rating, and your old logbook does contain instrument flight hours log dual with a CFII, it would behoove you to obtain that old logbook ASAP.

A Cessna 172RG does not require a type rating in order to fly, but does require a complex airplane endorsement from a flight instructor. This would most likely be in your old logbook. If you cannot obtain one, they are relatively easy to get from a new flight instructor per §61.31(e). Your old pilot certificate most likely contains an airplane, single engine land category and class rating on the back of it, which, in conjunction, with a complex endorsement, would allow you to act as PIC aboard an C172RG or similar aircraft.

As for things that have changed since the last time you flew an airplane, Very few new air frames have entered the general aviation market, but onboard systems and avionics have changed quite a bit since the 1980s. Regulations on flight operations as well as surface movement, runway incursion avoidance, etc. have changed quite a bit since then. If operating around the Washington DC metro area, you will require additional training prior to flight ops in or around the DC SFRA, which can be done online.

Your best bet would be to contact a competent flight instructor and talk with them about this situation so the two of you can formulate a good game plan to regaining your flight currency. It’s not a test or a pass/fail situation but it will take some time and study on your part. if you like you can contact me (I’m a current CFI/CFII) and I can offer additional help and give you access to my info archives to better assist you.


The first answer is a perfect answer. Assuming you have your physical license in your possession, you need a new Medical plus a Flight Review from a CFI, who will decide how much training is required to get you to being proficient and safe.

The flight review also includes an hour of ground time where the CFI will check your knowledge on subject areas that you need to be up to date on to be safe (as opposed to being like a checkride oral where you are quizzed on everything). You can get a jump-start on the knowledge section by reviewing regulations (pilot currency, etc.), aerodynamics if you are rusty on it (especially stall/spin awareness/avoidance/recovery), performance: practice calculating weight and balance and runway lengths required, weather, weather products (like METARS, TAFs, etc.), airspace (since much has changed).

Check out www.aviationweather.gov and always check tfr.gov before every flight (click on the button that makes it show you a map of all the current TFRs so you don't have to read the list).

You can download FAA books like the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and others for free in pdf form from FAA.gov

The FAA has a "WINGS program", which is online learning that counts toward the ground time requirement for a Flight Review. https://www.faasafety.gov/WINGS/pub/learn_more.aspx

However, it's been so long since you've been current that the WINGS online learning won't satisfy the 1 hour of ground required for the Flight Review for this first one. It's been so long that you'll be doing some training- not just a flight review (as you know).

Regarding the aircraft types, as has been said, from a regulatory standpoint little Cessnas don't have type ratings. You should train in whatever type you are most comfortable in. If that is a C172, use that. Then if you want to fly something more complex, the FBO you rent if from will give you a checkout on that airplane.

Since you are in Florida (as you already know), you'll want to hit the weather and weather products knowledge hard because of the thunderstorms and all the other nasty stuff associated with that warm unpredictable unstable air down there.

Regarding the instrument rating, your CFI will probably have you start from scratch in order to find out where you are with that, and then fast-forward through whatever you are competent on. However, even more than VFR skills, the instrument scan really suffers from disuse, so you'll have plenty of time to work on it. Your CFI will also make sure you understand disorientation, unusual attitudes, and how your vestibular system works (more stuff you can review). You'll want to learn how GPS works. Lots of new cool stuff there with WAAS and GPS approaches.

I don't know what it's like in Florida, but new C172s have been equipped with Garmin G1000 (glass) avionics for so many years now (since 2005) you are going to encounter a lot of those. of course, there are TONS of 1980s and 1990s and early 2000s Cessnas out there with conventional instruments to fly. It just depends on what the flight school has of course.

I learned on Piper Seminoles with conventional instruments and then instructed at a school that had a bunch of new Diamond DA40 and DA42s with G1000. The G1000 is fantastic for instrument flying.

For VFR, you should be constantly looking outside for traffic avoidance so it doesn't matter too much what is inside the cockpit if you want to get a lower rental rate on an airplane.

Make sure the CFI makes sure that you get actual crosswind landing and takeoff practice (review the proper flight control inputs, including during taxi).

If you ever have an engine failure right after takeoff, never turn back. Land straight ahead. Maintain best glide speed and don't pull up to go up because you'll just stall (as you already know). Don't do continued VFR flight into IFR conditions (the most common cause of GA accidents). Make sure you understand stall and spin avoidance and recovery techniques.

There's no pressure. Look at it all as training, not a test.


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