14 CFR 61.57 (d) describes the requirements for an instrument proficiency check (IPC), and includes a description of when an IPC is necessary. While certain exceptions apply, a pilot may reestablish instrument currency that has been lapsed for more than 6 months only through obtaining an IPC. On December 16, 2011, the FAA issued a technical correction to section 61.57 (d) in order to clarify the meaning of the regulation. This clarification was simply just that, a clarification, and no change to the application of the rule was intended. As the FAA explained in that technical correction (emphasis added):
The revised language makes it clear that a pilot who has failed to maintain instrument currency for more than six calendar months may not serve as pilot in command under IFR or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR until completing an instrument proficiency check. A pilot whose instrument 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).
Notwithstanding the exceptions on 61.57 (e), the following timeline illustrates the correct application of 61.57 (d):
January 31, 2012: A pilot is no longer instrument current because they no longer meet the recent experience requirements found in 61.57 (c). This pilot may no longer act as pilot-in-command (PIC) of an aircraft operating under IFR or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR.
February 1, 2012 to July 31, 2012: The pilot has between these dates in order to obtain the recent experience requirements found in 61.57 (c). This experience may be obtained through instruction, the use of a safety pilot, or through a simulator / training device.
August 1, 2012: If by this date the pilot had not regained instrument currency, the only method by which a pilot may become instrument current again is by obtaining an IPC.
The FAA has become aware of some recent blogs, emails, and website comments that contain confusion about the technical correction and the current meaning of the rule. This FAAST Blast will hopefully alleviate that confusion. For additional information, please review the latest technical correction to 61.57 at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-16/pdf/2011-32333.pdf.