Earlier this summer I wrote in AOPA Pilot that if all pilots consistently flew to the practical test standards the accident rate would plummet faster than a piano in a Laurel and Hardy movie. The problem, as I see it, is not the standard on the practical test, but more with maintenance of pilot skills and abilities. Decades ago the Biennial Flight Review was put into the regs to address this issue. Nobody could spell “Biennial” so it has since become just the Flight Review (FR) even though still required every two years.
Over the last several decades of flying, I’ve fallen into the habit of an Instrument Proficiency Check every 6 months and a flight review about every 18 months depending on how much flying I’ve been doing. This week, it was time to take the Foundation’s well-loved Piper Archer aloft to see whether I was able to walk the walk. It also got me to thinking, in light of the article, what should be on a typical FR.
A situational approach seems to work best in the reviews that I’ve given. Knowing the pilot in advance often helped the decision on whether to double down on the life insurance or breathe a little easier knowing that this aviator was a good stick. Most importantly, the review could be more effectively tailored to the needs of the individual.
My review, given by the Air Safety Institute’s Chief Flight Instructor, JJ Greenway was appropriately thorough. We did stalls, slow flight, some basic VFR navigation, two simulated forced landings (one of which was a spot landing). There was a light crosswind that necessitated a little bit of footwork and some towered airport procedures. If the pilot is really used to the airport where the review starts – go someplace else. There should be no home court advantage! It was sufficient to demonstrate that, had this been an FAA VFR practical test, I would have passed.
But what should be included? Here are my thoughts and we’d welcome yours.
- Stall series and slow flight
- At least one or two forced landing scenarios
- A cross wind landing or two – if you can arrange it
- A go-around
- Plan and start a cross country flight – or actually take one if the pilot doesn’t do much of that
- For VFR only pilots, a reasonable review of extracting yourself from IMC by reference to instruments.
- Some ATC procedures, if that’s convenient.
For ground discussion, a review of airspace and runway signage and markings is a good starting point. Pilots can take the programs in advance and bring the completion certificates to the CFI to show they’ve completed the program and are prepped. A sampling of accident case studies will help to facilitate the discussion on things not to do. Check out ASI’s Cross-Country Crisis, VFR into IMC and Airframe Icing courses.