Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Designing Your Flight Review
Customizing your training will make you a safer, smoother and more efficient pilot
Like 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)." />
“Most pilots need only a little brushing up on their stick-and-rudder skills, but it’s decision-making skills that kill many of our fellow pilots every year. Being able to make difficult decisions, not repetitive stalls, will make aviation safer—so that should be the primary emphasis of the flight review.”—Dr. Paul Craig
The best reviews are those that improve decision-making skills in realistic scenario-based training. These are the tools you need to stay alive. Discussing regulations for an hour and flying the same maneuvers you always do may satisfy the regulations, but to be effective, a flight review needs to help you actually learn something. Chances are, a flight review done right will be fun, too.
Piston Flight Reviews For Turbine Pilots
In addition to the highly structured emergency and line-oriented flight training (LOFT) that are staples of most turbine-recurrent training, there’s a lot to be learned by a return to the basics. For instance, it’s become commonplace for large corporate flight departments and ab initio programs—who recognize the value of experience beyond type-specific training—to train pilots on upset maneuvers in aerobatic airplanes.
Recurrent work is especially important for the jet pilot who also flies piston planes. The only student I taught in a piston twin simulator who couldn’t pass even a VFR-only check was a current Air Force KC-135 commander—he couldn’t handle single-pilot workload or engine-out scenarios without a crew and the power of three remaining turbofans. I also flew with a B-52 pilot who, on short final in a C172, pushed hard on the controls to get the sight picture he expected from the Boeing, while at the same time, ramming the throttle forward to prevent altitude loss.
While both these examples are extremes, they highlight two truths for all pilots: (1) fly the plane you’re flying, not the one you have the most time in; and (2) training is as important moving down in aircraft performance as it is in type or moving up.
What We Can All Learn About Flight Reviews
“My best flight reviews were the tough ones—those that took me to the edge of my comfort and skill zone and I learned something. The ones that made the checkride look easy. I want to reinforce the basics and grow the skill sets. The worst ones were where we went through the motions and all I heard was I did a good job and here’s the sign off.”—Stephen Blythe, private/IFR
There’s a prevalent attitude that we take flight instruction in large doses to pass a checkride, then as little as possible every two years. Just as we should repair maintenance discrepancies immediately and leave annual inspections to detect the unknowns, however, we should continuously correct pilot performance issues through practice or instruction and use the opportunity of the flight review to retain skills, customize technique and enhance our capabilities. Sport pilot to ATP, ultralight to jet, it’s up to you to design your next flight review.
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