Every pilot should be familiar with requirements for a Flight Review (often called the Biennial Flight Review or BFR); the requirements are in 14 CFR 61.56. Basically, a pilot needs a flight review every 24 calendar months – pass your checkride or have a flight review on 4/10/16 and you need a flight review by 4/30/18.
A flight review is performed by a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and can be done in any of the category/class/type of aircraft for which you are rated – if you are an airplane (SEL), helicopter, and glider pilot, you can do a flight review in any of them. The specific requirements are rather terse:
“… a flight review consists of a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training. The review must include:
A review of the current general operating and flight rules of part 91 of this chapter and
A review of those maneuvers and procedures that, at the discretion of the person giving the review, are necessary for the pilot to demonstrate the safe exercise of the privileges of the pilot certificate.
As a CFI, the bottom line is that the pilot has to show me they are safe enough for me to put my signature on the the endorsement line. That means that it can often take more than the 1 hour ground + 1 hour flight minimum specified by the FAA.
Pilot’s should be clear it’s a review, not a test. This means you never fail a Flight Review. At worst, we reach the end of our scheduled time with the (hopefully mutual) understanding that some more time is needed to reach the level of performance needed for the completion of the Flight Review.
If you’d like another take on the Flight Review, I recommend AOPA’s Pilot’s Guide to the Flight Review.
Tailoring the Flight Review
I believe Flight Reviews should be tailored to the pilot. If the Flight Review is with a pilot I already know, that may be easier than a pilot I have never flown with or fly with infrequently. I ask that each pilot answer a few short questions when we schedule the review:
- How long have you been a pilot?
- What aircraft are you checked out to fly in, and what do you fly most often?
- How many hours have you flown in the last year? In the last 90 days?
- Are you instrument rated? Instrument current?
- What is your typical flight? Do you just take friends up for short tours, do pattern work, fly for a $100 hamburger, fly on pleasure cross country flights, or fly for business? Do you fly IFR or get flight following on trips?
- What tools do you use for weather briefings – apps, web sites, phone?
- Do you use an app in flight and if so, which one? (e.g. Foreflight or FlightPlan Go). How proficient are you in its use?
- Are there any areas (knowledge or maneuvers) that you feel need work or with which you are uncomfortable? (weather in SoCal, stalls, and crosswinds are common answers). What things keep you from making flights you would like to make.
- Is there anything you’d like to combine with your flight review, such as a checkout in a new aircraft, a new destination (Catalina, Big Bear, class C or B airport, challenging small airport), an IPC, night currency, or maybe an introduction for the next step (IFR or commercial)?
Making a plan
Based on the answers to the above questions, we’ll come up with a plan of action, which will often include some assignments to prepare ahead of us meeting. In almost every case, we’ll start with ground time before moving on to flight. There are a few topics and maneuvers I consider mandatory as part of any flight review:
- Weather – getting a full picture of conditions and risks
- Airspace – types and requirements
- Recent changes (airspace, procedures, rules)
- Emergency procedures
- Steep turns
- Slow flight (minimum controllable airspeed)
- Power off precision landing
- Hood work (if not instrument current)
- 3 takeoffs and landings (to help reset currency) – including short and soft
- Go around
Our club also has an Annual Proficiency Check (APC) requirement. This means that club members will need an APC in one year and a combination APC/Flight Review the next year. From my perspective, the flight portion of a Flight Review and an APC are identical for VFR pilots (no ground requirement for an APC), though the club requires it be done in the most complex aircraft they wish to fly (no 152 APCs for pilot’s who want to fly the 182RG). For instrument rated pilots who want to be able to fly IFR, the APC adds the requirement to do some approaches. For pilots who are out of instrument currency, or coming close to that, I recommend we do the number of approaches necessary for currency; otherwise, plan on 3 approaches (1 precision + 2 non-precision). The club also requires that all pilots update their Flight Proficiency Form (FPF) every year – I recommend you fill that out and send to the secretary right after completing your APC/BFR (even if that’s not the due date, it will help get everything lined up as intended).
Alternate methods of meeting the requirement
There are also several ways of meeting the Flight Review requirement without actually doing a Flight Review:
- Get another rating – Always been interested in being a glider pilot or getting your seaplane (ASES) rating? Passing a checkride can substitute for the Flight Review requirement and resets the 24 calendar month counter.
- Complete a FAA Wings phase. To do this, you will need to do a combination of attending talks or completing online courses and flying with an instructor to complete a number of maneuvers over several flight. In effect, this spreads the topics and maneuvers of the Flight Review over the 24 months in a way that may help pilots maintain proficiency.
- Be a military or commercial pilot who gets more frequent formal flight checks as a part of his/her job [yes – professional pilots generally have a greater requirement for ongoing training and checks; that should make you think…]
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What if I go 25+ months since my last Flight Review?
A: There is no penalty, but once you pass the 24 calendar month window, you are no longer legal to act as PIC. [As opposed to the penalty of needing an IPC for instrument pilots who go past their 12 month currency window.]
Q: How does this relate to my passenger carrying currency?
A: A Flight Review doesn’t automatically make you current to carry passengers, so that’s why I try to make sure we do 3 takeoffs and landings to help reset your currency
Q: Should I go practice in advance of my flight review?
A: If you are safe and legal to fly PIC, but feel you’d benefit from some practice, sure.