Pilot Journal
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Designing Your Flight Review

Customizing your training will make you a safer, smoother and more efficient pilot

flight reviewLike many newly minted instructor pilots, my first “dual given” was a flight review. I didn’t know how to put together a review. At the time, the regulations gave almost no guidance and didn’t require a minimum amount of time on the ground or in the air (this has since changed)." />

Enhancement: Enhancement of your skills includes anything that makes you a more well-rounded pilot. Get a tailwheel checkout to improve your rudder work for better coordination in the plane you usually fly or for improved single-engine performance in a twin. Log a couple hours in a sailplane to better judge glide performance should your engine quit, and to get better at spot landings and energy management. Add a certificate or rating (which satisfies 61.56) to increase your options. Identify an area where you can add to your existing skills, and devise a flight-review that will help you reach that goal.

“At the end of the day, it improved my knowledge of my airplane. I also built some needed confidence.”—Steve Oxman, private/IFR

The greatest enhancement you can make, however, is to improve judgment through realistic decision-making exercises. Here’s where you find the difference between a run-of-the-mill flight instructor and a true aerial educator. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars attending simulator-based training to learn aeronautical decision-making (ADM). A well-employed simulation of any sort can sharpen your skills.

I’ve had it happen twice in just the last year—once in California and once in Oregon. I conducted a flight review with pilots flying retractable-gear airplanes. One of the items I include in my syllabus is a simulated in-flight electrical failure, including a discussion of its effect on landing-gear extension. It’s not in any of the handbooks, but battery power alone may not extend the landing gear fully into the downlocks, although it may get down far enough to illuminate the “down and locked” panel lights. An electrical failure, then, should be followed by reducing electrical load as much as possible, then diverting to a safe altitude long enough to complete the emergency gear extension checklist to get the wheels the rest of the way down.

In both cases, within a month of completing my flight review, the students e-mailed me that they’d experienced electrical failure in instrument conditions and, as a result of decision-making skills learned in the review, declined ATC’s offer of immediate landing and instead requested a vector and an altitude to complete gear extension, landing safely soon afterward. Realistic scenarios presented in a flight review can make decision-making easy when faced with the scenario “for real.”

Brief your instructor to present realistic scenarios. Have him/her turn off the GPS unannounced in flight and, when it “dies,” navigate the old-fashioned way. Ask your instructor to present an in-flight fuel-management problem—leave it to him/her, as a professional, to develop a realistic and safe scenario. Come with a list of emergencies to review, leaving it up to the instructor to spring one of them on you. Download some challenging weather data and flight-plan to avoid hazards, discussing and refining your go/no-go criteria. A couple hours later, look for the weather that actually developed, including any PIREPs for the route, and discuss whether you might have made different choices.


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