Flight Reviews and Safety

The overall goal of a flight review is safety. Most assuredly such was in the minds of the legislators when 61.56 was written. The thing is, if one just looks to the regs, things dont work out too well, and in some cases, they can be counterproductive.

Safe operations are not guaranteed by the minimum 1 hour of dual and 1 hour of ground every couple years. Rather safety is a function of pilot skill and judgment on each and every flight. The flight review is an opportunity for a pilot to gain greater awareness as to how they might handle future flight ops safely. Most assuredly, even the best CFI in the world is not going to uncover every area of weakness, or hazardous attitude in a couple hours, or even 10 hours for that matter.

If a flight review was a CFI personally guaranteed signoff that one was good to go for the next two years, flight reviews would become very long, and very evil in short order. We’ve all heard of or experienced the checkride from a warm spot near the center of the earth. Ie, where in the pilot being evaluated is put in the pressure cooker, and is exposed to every possible emergency ever, all occurring at the same time, all the while being grilled on everything in the PTS, and every distraction known to man kind is then piled on top for good measure.

Granted, there are times and places where such may be appropriate. While a prep course for a 709 ride as a confidence builder comes to mind, such an approach to a flight review is counter productive. The reason being, is in almost any other case, going too hard core becomes a motivation killer, which then often leads to less recurrent training, which then leads to a less than safe pilot. The same can be said when it comes to sending students down rabbit trails for the part 91 portion of a flight review.

By the same token, an untailored 1 hour ground, 1 hour flight canned approach to a flight review is neither adequate nor appropriate. Sure, it might pick up a weak area here or there… but its like most anything. If you dont have a clue where a problem lies before you get started, its like searching for a needle in a haystack. You likely wont find it, and even if you do, it could well be the wrong one.

The FAA preaches tailoring the flight review based upon an initial interview. Likewise, they suggest the time frames be what they may. Ie, short of an already very proficient pilot, the 1 hour ground/1 hour airwork aspect is too short a time slot. Some pilots on the other hand, often view any attempt to go beyond the minimums as a way to bilk them out of money and a total waste of time.

In the past, when one determined such on the initial interview, it was common practice to advocate for the Wings programs, rather than a flight review. Today, being Wings is proficiency based, rather than time, it still may be more aligned with a students expectations than a flight review, but it is critical to be upfront in that regard. There will always be some pilots who will squak, no matter how much you preach safety or the benefits of training to a given level of proficiency.

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