Last Friday I left the local airport with a smile, a fresh flight review sign off and a temporary airmen certification for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS, aka – Drones). It wasn’t my first flight review, but it was my first since I left active flight instruction and also the first since my flying has slowed down significantly.
Since moving to Florida, my time in the air has been limited due to a number of factors and at the end of June my flight review expired. Since moving to Florida, I’ve flown only a handful of times for less than two (2) hours total! Even with more than a thousand hours and hundreds as a flight instructor, I was, maybe not nervous, but interested to see how the flight review activity would go for me.
Over the years I have administered numerous flight reviews for pilots of varying experience levels and with various levels of recency. I was confident in my ability to fly, but since I first earned my pilot certificate in 2005, I had always flown frequently, so there was some unknown. It was an odd feeling.
Having just renewed my flight instructor certificate I was able to “skip” the ground portion using my CFI renewal in lieu of the ground time. I arrived at the airport about 15 minutes early for the appointment and was allowed to preflight the Cessna 172 while I waited for the instructor. As I approached the airplane it was as if all of my thoughts during the days and nights leading up to the flight were gone.I opened the cockpit door on the pilot side, such a weird feeling after spending so much time in the instructor seat. I set up the cockpit first, then ran through the cabin checklist before following the checklist I had written for the Cessna 172S aircraft I flew back in Massachusetts, rather than the full-page size checklist the flight school provided. The aircraft was in great shape, plenty of oil and fuel. Following the preflight I opened the windows, at 8am in Florida it was already approaching 90 degrees!
Back in the FBO I met the instructor, Taz, a young gentleman who had been instructing for about a year. Just as he was sizing me up for the review, I was doing the same. The flight review is an activity I am very familiar with, but the role of pilot (student) rather than instructor was strange.
We climbed into the Cessna, I started the aircraft up, listened to the weather and called the tower to taxi. All went well, I even mentioned to Taz how I noticed I was taxiing a little to quickly… I can critique myself just like I used to my students!
The takeoff went very well and we climbed out to the practice area. Taz had me use a higher climb speed than I was used to in the Cessna 172, but in the Florida heat, it made sense to keep the engine cool. Once we reached 3,500′ we did some clearing turns and then got right into maneuvers- slow flight with recoveries, steep turns, stalls with recoveries, simulated engine out to a go around, recoveries from unusual attitudes, etc… Then we spent some time working on navigations and the avionics in the Cessna, which was outfitted with a Garmin 530/430 combination.
We returned to the airport and did some takeoff and landings, including a no flap landing, which went well and we ended with a power off 180 (simulated engine out) approach and full stop landing that made me smile, and I critique to a very high standard! We taxied in and before I knew it, with 1.0 on the hobbs meter I had a fresh flight review endorsement and all of those thoughts about how I would do after not flying very much were put to rest.
That said, I understand that my personal minimums are not now what they were when I was an active flight instructor. While I have maintained the fundamental skills, flying really is like riding a bike in a lot of ways, I know that I’m not as sharp (good) as I once was, to quote Toby Keith, I think? I was happy to know I’m safe and I retained a lot, but now it is time to working on getting back to the pursuing perfection. An unattainable goal, but the pursuit keeps you sharp and skillful!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9