There are a number of things any pilot can do to help prepare for their upcoming flight review. Flying regularly is first and foremost in addition to some of the other “usual” things such as paying attention to industry news on regulatory changes. But there are a couple other things that often go overlooked that will likely help you be successful with your next flight review and maybe even reduce that amount of time you have to spend during the ground portion of the instructional event… Remember a flight review is just that, a review or learning experience. It is not a testing event.
I tell pilots that I’m more than happy to provide flight reviews, but buckle up because it is going to take a while… Longer if you’re a commercial pilot! There’s more to talk about, of course… I always tell pilots there are a couple of things you can do to help prepare you for your next flight review, whether it is next week or next month…
- Attend an FAA Safety Team Seminar
At the outset of each flight review I provide, I ask the pilot if they have attended any FAASTeam seminars over the previous two years. The answer goes a long way into shaping how I (and other CFI’s based on my sampling) will conduct the flight review.
If the pilot says that they have not attended a seminar I often follow up to find out why they have not… This is more out of curiosity. But, if the pilot didn’t know these events exist then it is something I want them to know about. FAASTeam events are a great source of aeronautical knowledge with ample benefits. In addition to the content of the seminar there are usually like-minded pilots to meet and talk with. You never know these could be your new flying friends, some familiar faces at the airport to fly with! Often, there are prizes you may luck into just for showing up and at very least, coffee and snacks are usually provided for attendees.
Some pilots choose not to attend these free events, and I understand that occasionally things come up, but I think a free educational event is a worthwhile use of any pilot’s time!
Alternatively, if the pilot responds that they do attend these types of events, I know right off the bat that the pilot is interested in advancing their aeronautical knowledge and wants to learn more on a variety of aviation related subjects. It is no coincidence that pilots who do attend FAASTeam seminars are more sharp and better with the classroom or “ground” portion of their flight reviews than pilots who do not attend these events.
- When you schedule your flight review, ask the instructor their weight and what they plan to bring along for the session…
Asking this question in advance will show the flight instructor that you are conscious of the FAA special emphasis areas, such as weight and balance. Further, it illustrates that you mean business and believe in ample preparation, the trait of a good pilot! Back when you were earning your pilot certificate your flight instructor (likely) told you that you better do good clearing turns because that’s what you’ll do first on your checkride, before any air work and if those clearing turns are solid, crisp and spot-on it sets a good tone for the checkride! The same concept is true for leading up to your flight review…
I believe that weight and balance is a vitally important subject and while most pilots that fly one or only a couple types of aircraft are able to develops a sense of what does and what does not work… Each and every pilot I provide a flight review for completes a weight and balance for our flight to demonstrate we are flying safely. The math can be done in advance or while we sit in the classroom, but either way I need to verify that the pilot understands the importance of the subject!
Remember, think of the weight and balance computation as setting the tone for your flight review, simply asking the question will almost certainly impress the instructor. Whether or not the instructor wants you to do the calculation, having it done and prepared in advance will show you care about flight safety. This illustrates to the instructor that you are taking your flying seriously and you possess a fundamental understand of flight.
- Bring your documents!
This one I don’t think I should have to say, but nevertheless… It is vitally important that you bring your documents including your pilot certificate, medical certificate and logbook with you for your flight review. Asking a flight instructor to sign a piece of paper saying they have completed a flight review without allowing them to review the documents, in my opinion, is like asking someone to buy a house they’ve never seen.
A good flight review is tailored to the pilot, typically covering items that the pilot does not regularly encounter. For example, if I provide a flight review to a pilot that commonly flies long distances for airport restaurant meals, this person is less likely to spend a lot of time navigating and completing airspace work during the flight portion of their review with me and more likely to spend the majority of the time doing maneuvers they do not commonly do (ie- stalls, steep turns, etc…). Similarly, if I’m doing a flight review for a fellow flight instructor, I know they spend copious time doing maneuvers with students, so I’m more likely to have them do more navigation and airspace work, things they don’t do as often…
How do I determine how to shape the flight review? Good question! I ask the pilot about their flying and specifically if there is anything they don’t like doing and then I review their logbook and see what they’ve been up to in the sky. A while back I had an aircraft owner pilot admit he didn’t enjoy power on stalls. During his training they were violent and unnerving… We discussed them on the ground in detail and then proceeded to spend probably 20 minutes performing the maneuver in a variety of ways. By the end of the flight review the pilot was much more confident with power on stalls and I believe a more competent pilot, because for the first time he really allowed himself to experience the maneuver and proper recovery as opposed to focusing on wanting the maneuver to be over… That’s not to say the gentleman wasn’t a good pilot before, he was. But, I think he was much more comfortable thanks to a better understanding of the maneuver. To me, that is what a flight review is all about- the pilot! Thus, having your logbook, which tells your flying story is vitally important if you want to get the most out of your flight review!
Lastly, be honest… Remember, a flight review is NOT a test, it is an instructional event. Granted the instructor must ensure you are safe, but it isn’t pass/fail. It is pass/train some more… If there is something you are not fond of, talk with the instructor about it and ask for help understanding the topic. That is the point. Too many pilots look at flight reviews as an unneeded requirement, whereas they could be better viewed as an opportunity (every 24 calendar months) to improve ourselves as pilots!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9