A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Biennial flight review

April 20, 2014
Emilie Phillips

It has been two years since I received my pilots licence, so it was time for a flight review, commonly called a BFR (Biennial Flight Review). This review is given just by an instructor, not an FAA examiner. I decided to look for a new instructor so that I could get a different perspective from my primary instructor. I get the impression that there are a number of “tailgate” instructors around, but those are hard to find on Google. After a few emails back and forth, I stopped by one of the smaller flight schools at Nashua on a Saturday to check out their instructors and planes. Overall the flight school had a wide range of expertise — standard private pilot in a Cessna 172, instrument flight (IFR) in a 172, tailwheel endorsement, aerobatic training, and banner towing with their Citabrias, and air charter in a twin engine Dutchess. So from that aspect, they seemed good. Then there was the question of picking an instructor. Their instructors varied widely from a junior instructor trying to make a living of it, to old retired guys who had seen everything, done everything, and really just wanted to hang around and tell stories. I spent a while trying to decide which instructor to use. The older instructors would presumably have more experience and interesting things to teach, but I ended up going with the junior guy because of availability and personality.

This being my first flight review I was not quite sure what to expect. I intended to study up lots beforehand, but I didn’t have time, so I just showed up. For the ground portion we reviewed airspace, weather, required equipment onboard the aircraft, and in flight services. I had forgotten some of the required equipment. And, I always just use the internet for weather and flight planning so the in flight services are a bit of a mystery to me.

I returned for the flight portion a week later. For the fun of it, I flew over rather than drive the 30 minutes. There, I decided to use one of the Cessna 172’s because they are less similar to my RV-4 than the Citabria. The flight review was a lot less rigorous than the initial check ride I had to take to get the license. It seems like as long as you are actively flying, it’s not a big deal. By the end of the review, I felt fairly confident in the 172. I did not have all the speeds, RPMs and flap settings memorized, but I had the general gist and finished with a nice short landing. Since the review was at Nashua, I had to talk to ground and the tower. That I did less well on. In particular, I had troubles understanding what the air traffic controller was saying. When I asked him to repeat, he spoke much clearer, but it is kind of embarrassing to have to make that request over the radio. The instructor had one additional suggestion which was to make more check lists and refer to them, especially for emergency procedures or ones I perform infrequently.

I offered my instructor a ride in my RV-4 afterwards. He doesn’t have his tailwheel endorsement yet, so it would have just been a ride. He said it would be fun, but he had another student showing up shortly.


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