Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flight Review

Non-cognoscenti find it amazing that the only requirement for recurrent qualification imposed on the holder of a Private Pilot License is the accomplishment every 24 months of a Flight Review to be administered by a CFI. The regulations define the Flight Review, in 14CFR61.56(a), thus:

"...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."

For a long time, I took advantage of a waiver to this requirement that was incorporated in the WINGs Program. The enabling document said, in a nutshell, that if you spent three hours flying with a CFI and attended one FAA-recognized aviation safety event within two years your Flight Review requirement would be considered fulfilled and you'd get a nifty little pin for your hat.

A little more than three years ago the FAA destroyed the WINGs program by making participation much more complicated and adding onerous verification requirements. It just became easier to go get a Flight Review.

Last summer I did just that, with my friend and long-time instructor Bob Parks. I'm not required to do it again until next summer...but I like the idea of applying some Quality Control to my aviating a bit more often so I decided to get another Flight Review this summer. But that presented a problem - with whom? My pal Bob became ill (and recently "went West") so I needed a new instructor.

Starting a relationship with a new CFI is just about as challenging as getting acclimated to a new barber. Styles and approaches differ, and as much as the FAA would like to claim that instruction and evaluation are standardized, personal characteristics matter. I've gotten to know a young (compared to me) instructor at Three Wing Flying Services named Jared. He's easy to talk to and seems pretty pragmatic in his approach to things so I asked him if he'd do a Flight Review with me and he agreed.

Jared and I started with the hour of ground instruction and we finished up the Flight Review on Tuesday evening with an hour aloft in N631S. It was fun to scrape the rust off of some neglected "stick-and-rudder" skills with steep turns, stall series, simulated emergencies and pattern work. (I do wish I could take back one landing. I'm again grateful for Cessna's hell-for-stout landing gear.) Jared proved to be as calm and good-natured in the aircraft as he is in the hangar. I will happily fly with him any time.

I surely do miss Bob Parks. But life goes on. I suspect Jared and I will be doing another Flight Review in a year.

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