By Scott Sherer, FAA Master Pilot, author and COO Aviation Director
It’s flight review time, again. That time, like when income tax is due, that feels so good when it’s done! I’ll admit that I enjoy it while it’s going on but secretly, I wish I never had to do it. The word “stress” comes to mind and perhaps you feel the same way. So, it’s here again and time to get ready!
The time for procrastination is over and it’s time to get my back end in gear. So, what’s different this year, I hear you ask? After 30 years of flying twins, I’m back to a single engine. Things I’ve taken for granted all this time don’t apply to me anymore. To be specific, engine out in the twin was an exercise in pushing levers, switches, valves and rudder pedals in the right order and nothing more than that. In the single it’s suddenly much more serious. So here it is one week from my flight review and I have an appointment lined up with my flight instructor Gene. We’ll see how it goes this year.
Every two years, for a very long time, I have had the same routine. And it’s true that I always wait until one week before the review to actually get ready. I have a review plan that has proven to work well for me with a minimum of fuss and effort. At the same time my preparation accomplishes what it’s supposed to accomplish — a review of my flight skills and a general dusting off of the accumulated aviation dust from the last two years. So, here’s my two-part plan. Part one is the intellectual or ground school plan and part two is the flight skill plan. The FAA says that each part is to take no less than one hour with an instructor.
A little brush up for the flight review
Part one for me has two learning references that I keep on hand for studying. The first is a book that I picked up from the Aviation Supplies and Academics Inc., (ASA) booth at EAA AirVenture some years back. ASA is a major publisher of everything and anything to do with aviation training. They publish a small, non-intimidating digest size book entitled Guide to the Flight Review, by Jackie Spanitz, and costs a mere $12.95. Now in its seventh version, the book is short, to the point and spot on for a review.
The book is 176 small pages of just review of the important stuff. It contains introductory information about what the flight review is and what its purpose is, for those that haven’t had a flight review before. The main focus of the book is a chapter aptly named, Ground Instruction Requirement. This right-on-target chapter is concise and a very easy read.
While all of this sounds intimidating, each section is only a page or two. It is quite concise and to the point. Actually, reading this doesn’t take long at all, perhaps an hour or two at the most. In addition, there are some other resources in the book which you may find useful. More specifically, the Flight Review: Private and Commercial chapter gives a list of maneuvers that you may do during the flight portion of your flight review. I give this book an A rating for helping me get through the flight review with a minimum of stress.
Always have a Plan B
The second part of part one is what my attorney would call “Belt and Suspenders.” That is, a Plan B. Many of us don’t learn as well as we should from reading the printed word and learn better from pictorial or video displays of information. I’m one of those people. So, my no-muss learning plan has a video component in addition to the book above. If you really have trouble reading and want to skip the book, go right to this solution and you’ll be fine.
Sporty’s, the Batavia, Ohio all-things-to-aviation giant that dominates the retail and learning end of general aviation produces a video that is nothing short of outstanding. Let me define outstanding for you. They have a DVD entitled “Flight Review,” which is but a couple of hours in duration. The video presentation is simple, clear, concise and fast moving. There are six chapters that can be watched from beginning to end or restarted or skipped at any time. The entire video is similar to the ASA book above accept that it’s spoon-fed to you at a relatively high speed in a visually compelling format.
This DVD is FAA Wings accepted just in case you’re involved with the FAA’s Wings program. This DVD gets an A rating in my opinion as being an effective learning tool for the flight review. This DVD costs $34.99 and is available from Sporty’s.
Time to stall
Phase two of my flight review plan uses Chapter 4 of the ASA book discussed above. Chapter 4 is entitled Flight Instruction Requirement and has separate maneuvers tables for both Private and Commercial licenses. As I’m a Commercial Pilot I’m only interested in the Commercial Pilot page of this section. You are invited to reference the page in the book that applies to your license. Having looked at this page I can see what I need to practice before my flight review. In my personal case, I take my plane up one day before my flight review and practice slow flight and stalls. Arrival and departure stalls are where, in my opinion, the highest risk is. Of course, life isn’t like that in reality but a flight review isn’t reality anyway. The other maneuver that I practice is steep turns around a point. Frankly, I used to find this difficult to impossible and I can still remember my private flight test in 1968 and struggling with this. When I got my Commercial two years ago, I was motivated to get this right. When I practice these maneuvers the day before my flight review, my actual flight review is quick, easy and stress free.
So that’s my plan and it’s worked well for many years. As I sit here this afternoon and write the rest of this article, I have just completed my review this morning. My instructor, Gene, said I did a good job and that my preparation was much more than most of his students do. He appreciated that and was able to keep my review to a minimum as a result. Thanks Gene!
The learning tools that I use and am happy with as outlined above are not the only learning tools out there. There are other sources for outstanding flight review learning tools, and I’ll list them here. So, here’s a list of other places to find effective and useful flight review information.
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Cessna Owner magazine.