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Feature Article 1

FEATURE ARTICLE

Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC tdebber@alum.mit.edu

It's Your Flight Review

Early in flight training, we learn that one of the requirements to act as pilot-in-command is to complete a Flight Review or other specified activity every two years.  The other activities include passing a practical test for an additional rating or pilot or instructor certificate.  Certainly if you're in the stage of your flying career where you're still earning ratings and certificates, you're probably pretty proficient at the end of each check ride!

There are two other options for satisfying the Flight Review requirement.  The first is completing one or more phases of an FAA-approved Pilot Proficiency Program.  The current version of this program is WINGS.  Through the WINGS program, you complete a variety of approved activities.  At the Basic Level for Private Pilot, this requires three knowledge, or ground, activities and three flight activities.

There are many ways to complete the ground activities.  These include taking online courses offered by AOPA, FAA, and others, webinars, and seminars.  The FAA's search tool is a little clumsy to use, but a little time with it will eventually yield usable results.  Examples of activities are course on Mountain Flying, Winter Weather, Risk Management, and Aging Aircraft.

The three flight activities are also available via the search.  To complete a flight activity, a pilot completes a number of tasks to Practical Test Standards.  Examples include airwork (slow flight and stalls), take-offs and landings, and airport operations.  Any instructor can evaluate the completion of a flight activity.  All three flight activities may be completed in one flight or spread out over multiple flights.  There is no minimum time requirement for the flight activities, just the completion of the activity to the required standard.

The WINGS program offers a few advantages over a traditional flight review: the topics covered can be more varied and perhaps more interesting than the ground portion of a flight review, they are often free, and can be done in any location and at any time.  For the flight portion, it's a bit easier to determine if the standards of each of the flight activities are met than to discuss whether a flight review is satisfactory or not.  Because the flight activities are standardized, it may be less stress to complete a WINGS phase with a new instructor than to complete a traditional Flight Review with a new instructor.  On the other hand, the Flight Activities are prescribed and so are a bit more rigid than the flying portion of the Flight Review.  If you're interested in going the WINGS route, ask your flight instructor if they are familiar with it.  Most should be.

The final option for completing the Flight Review requirement is the more traditional route.  The FARs prescribe a minimum of one hour of ground instruction, including a review of Part 91, and a minimum of one hour of flight instruction reviewing the maneuvers deemed by the person giving the review necessary to demonstrate the safe exercise of the privileges of the certificate.  This means there is a great deal of flexibility in this method.  

You can certainly complete this requirement by showing up, going through a review of the FARs for an hour, going to do some airwork and landings and being set for another two years.  However, given that you're going to be paying for at least two hours (and probably more) of an instructor's time, a little preparation and discussion with the reviewing instructor can make the experience much more valuable.  First, when you contact your reviewing instructor, initiate a dialog about what you'd like to cover in the review.  If it's been two years since you've practiced engine out and other emergency procedures, mention that you'd like to cover that.  If you haven't practiced a partial panel instrument approach in four years or recovery from unusual attitudes, let your instructor know.  If you usually do Bay Tours with friends but are thinking of doing a trip down to Santa Barbara, use the review to discuss flight planning and arrival into unknown airports.

Spending some time structuring the review with the instructor will mean that you're deriving greater value than just going and doing some airwork.  Additionally, your instructor will probably appreciate the interest you're showing in the review and work with you to expand your capabilities.

Whichever route you go, make the most of your Flight Review. 
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