The New Flight Review is Coming Your Way

For decades, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has required that pilots complete a biennial flight review in order to exercise the privileges of their airman certificates.  In years past it was known at the BFR, and now simply as the Flight Review.  The requirements of the Flight Review are found in 14 C.F.R § 61.56, which generally state: “. . . a flight review consists of a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training.”  14 C.F.R. § 61.56(a).

The review was designed to be flexible, i.e., basically up to the Certified Flight Instructor.  The only regulatory guidance is the requirement that the flight review include: (1) a review of operating and flight rules of 14 C.F.R. Part 91; and (2) a review of those maneuvers and procedures that, at the discretion of the person giving the review, are necessary for the pilot to demonstrate the safe exercise of the privileges of the pilot certificate.  Id. 

Pilots are exempt from the Flight Review, if, for example, they have completed a pilot proficiency check or practical test conducted by an examiner, an approved pilot check airman, or a U.S. Armed Force, for a pilot certificate, rating, or operating privilege, or a practical test conducted by an examiner for the issuance of a flight instructor certificate.  An additional rating on a flight instructor certificate, renewal of a flight instructor certificate, or reinstatement of a flight instructor certificate also qualifies.  Finally, a pilot completing one or more phases of an FAA-sponsored pilot proficiency award program is also exempt.  14 C.F.R. § 61.56(d) .

Due to an increased need in pilot proficiency in the general aviation community, especially in the areas of Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM) and Single Pilot Cockpit Resource Management (SRM), the FAA has published a new guide for the Flight Review on October 14, 2015.  The guide is entitled, “Conducting an Effective Flight Review” and is meant to augment Advisory Circular (AC) 61-98B (a previous AC on conducting flight reviews). [1]

The publication, available at the FAA’s website (, provides a very detailed approach to the Flight Review and has several valuable appendices. 

Importantly, the publication provides a five-step outline as to how the Flight Review should be conducted according to the FAA.  This is a fundamental shift because Certified Flight Instructors may well be called to task if the form is not followed should the pilot’s records be examined:

Step 1: Preparation

  • Managing Expectations
  • Assignments

Step 2: Ground Review

  • Regulatory Review
  • Cross-Country Flight Plan Review
  • Weather Decision-Making
  • Risk Management & Personal Minimums
  • General Aviation Security Issues

Step 3: Flight Activities

  • Physical Airplane (Basic Skills)
  • Mental Airplane (Systems Knowledge)
  • Aeronautical Decision-Making

Step 4: Post flight Debriefing


Step 5: Aeronautical Health Maintenance & Improvement

  • Personal Minimums Checklist
  • Personal Proficiency Practice Plan
  • Training Plan


  1. CFI’s Flight Review Checklist
  2. Pilot’s Aeronautical History
  3. Regulatory Review Guide
  4. Pilot’s Cross-Country Checklist
  5. Three-P Risk Management Process
  6. GA Security Checklist
  7. Personal Minimums
  8. Personal Proficiency Practice Plan
  9. Personal Training Plan
  10. Resources


Turning now to the guide itself, the Flight Review is compared as the aeronautical equivalent of a regular medical checkup and ongoing health improvement program.  “Like a physical exam, a flight review may have certain ‘standard’ features (e.g., review of specific regulations and maneuvers).  However, just as the physician should tailor the exam and follow-up to the individual’s characteristics and needs, the Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) should tailor both the flight review and any follow-up plan for training and proficiency to each pilot’s skill, experience, aircraft, and personal flying goals.”  Id.

There are several practical recommendations.  In Step 1, Preparation, one of the goals is to manage expectations, noting that there should not be a “minimum time” for the flight review, but rather, the flight review should reflect “the total time, type of flying, (e.g., local leisure flying, or cross-country flying for personal transportation) and recent flight experience.”  This requires a detailed assessment by the CFI and the guide provides a form in its Appendix 2.  Id.

Importantly, the guide is emphasizing the fact that the regulatory minimum of an hour of ground instruction and an hour of flight instruction may be inadequate.  Consider the pilot that rarely flies or that has been away from flying.  The guide suggests that “[f]or pilots who have not flown at all for several years, a useful ‘rule of thumb’ is to plan one hour of ground training and one hour of flight training for every year the pilot has been out of the cockpit.”  Id.

The guide also addresses the required Review of 14 C.F.R. Part 91 (and the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)).  In Step 2, Ground Review, the CFI is instructed to have the pilot complete the Flight Review Preparation Course, now available in the Aviation Learning Center at, in advance of the Flight Review session and to bring a copy of the completion certificate to the Flight Review. The on-line course lets the pilot review material at his or her own pace and focus attention on areas of particular interest.  Alternatively, the CFI can provide a copy of the list in Appendix 3 of the publication as a self-study guide.  Id.

For the cross-country flight plan assignment, a short cross-country (i.e., 30-50 miles from the home airport) is suggested as an excellent way to refresh the pilot’s flight planning skills (ideally to one that the pilot has not previously visited).  This is an excellent opportunity to review consideration of runway lengths, weather, expected aircraft performance, alternatives, length of runways to be used, traffic delays, fuel requirements, terrain avoidance strategies, and NOTAM/TFR information.  Id.

In Step 3, Flight Activities, emphasis is placed on core skills: “1. ‘Physical Airplane’ Skills (i.e., basic stick-and-rudder proficiency); 2. ‘Mental Airplane’ Skills (i.e., knowledge and proficiency in aircraft systems); and 3. Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM) Skills (i.e., higher-order thinking skills)”.  Id.  Mere maneuvers, landings, and the traffic pattern alone will no longer be adequate; rather, cross-country planning with a diversion exercise, knowledge of avionics and aircraft systems, and ADM are emphasized.

Proficiency in weight and balance calculations is noted to be critical as well. This should not come as a surprise to any pilot as a minimum requirement to operate an aircraft is a review of the runway length and weight and balance for the flight. [2]

A more careful analysis is required to ascertain what tools the pilot uses to accomplish these tasks.  Many older pilots learned to fly with E6B flight computers (which resemble a giant slide rule for the young readers out there!), using a plotter on a sectional chart.  Today most pilots use tablet-based applications (“apps”) and on-line flight planning software for basic information and calculations. “Appropriate use of these tools can enhance safety in several ways: they provide precise course and heading information; the convenience may encourage more consistent use of a flight plan; and automating manual calculations leaves more time to consider weather, performance, terrain, alternatives, and other aspects of the flight.” [3]    

The advantages and the potential pitfalls of technology also need to be assessed:

  1. How do I know that the computer-generated information is correct? (Not all online flight planning and flight information tools are the same. Some provide real-time updates; others may be as dangerous as an out-of-date chart.)
  2. Does the computer-generated information pass the “common sense” test? (Garbage-in, garbage-out is a fundamental principle in any kind of automation. If a pilot headed for Augusta, Georgia (KAGS) mistakenly asks for KAUG, the resulting flight plan will go to Augusta, Maine instead.)
  3. Does this plan include all the information I am required to consider? (Some planning tools compute only course and distance, without regard to wind, terrain, performance, and other factors in a safety-focused flight plan).
  4. Does this plan keep me out of trouble? (What if the computer-proposed course takes you through high terrain in high density altitude conditions?)
  5. What will I do if I cannot complete the flight according to this plan? (Weather can always interfere, but pilots should also understand that flight planning software does not always generate ATC-preferred routes for IFR flying.)


Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) and the Three-P Risk Management Process or the “3-P” method is also emphasized.  The 3-P method directs the pilot to Perceive hazards, Process risk level, and Perform risk management by asking a series of questions about various aspects of the flight. Appendix 5 is provided in the guide to explain it.  Id.  It should be noted, however, the FAA has a dedicated publication on ADM. [4]  The FAA ADM’s publication is very thorough and should be considered to augment the guide and Appendix 5.  It delves into a bit more detail on identifying personal attitudes concerning flying, behavior modifications, and recognizing and coping with stress.  ADM can be defined as the use of all available resources.  The Flight Review is an excellent opportunity to discuss operations pitfalls; get-there-it is; scud running; loss of situational control; flying outside the envelope; continuing visual flight rules (VFR) into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), etc.  Id.

The flight review guide is also an opportune time to cover Single-Pilot Cockpit Resource Management (SRM).  Once again, the pilot should be directed to the FAA’s publications concerning SRM.  One method of SRM is to apply the 5-P (Five-P Checklist) model (the FAA apparently likes this letter), which consists of the Plan, the Plane, the Pilot, the Passengers, and the Programming.  The “Plan” is essentially the mission. “It contains the basic elements of cross-country planning, weather, route, fuel, publications currency, etc.  The “Plan” should be reviewed and updated several times during the course of the flight.  A delayed takeoff due to maintenance, fast moving weather, and a short notice TFR may all radically alter the plan. The “plan” is not only about the flight plan, but also all the events that surround the flight and allow the pilot to accomplish the mission.  The plan is always being updated and modified and is especially responsive to changes in the other four remaining Ps” (i.e. the mission – where are you going and/or the purpose of the flight). [5]

The Plane “consists of the usual array of mechanical and cosmetic issues that every aircraft pilot, owner, or operator can identify.  With the advent of advanced avionics, the ‘plane’ has expanded to include database currency, automation status, and emergency backup systems that were unknown a few years ago.”

The Pilot requires an individual self-assessment.  The traditional “IMSAFE” checklist is recommended:

  1. Illness - Am I sick?  Illness is an obvious pilot risk.
  2. Medication - Am I taking any medications that might affect my judgment or make me drowsy?
  3. Stress - Am I under psychological pressure from the job?  Do I have money, health, or family problems?  Stress causes concentration and performance problems.  While the regulations list medical conditions that require grounding, stress is not among them.  The pilot should consider the effects of stress on performance.
  4. Alcohol - Have I been drinking within 8 hours? Within 24 hours?  As little as one ounce of liquor, one bottle of beer, or four ounces of wine can impair flying skills.  Alcohol also renders a pilot more susceptible to disorientation and hypoxia.
  5. Fatigue - Am I tired and not adequately rested? Fatigue continues to be one of the most insidious hazards to flight safety, as it may not be apparent to a pilot until serious errors are made.
  6. Eating - Have I eaten enough of the proper foods to keep adequately nourished during the entire flight?[6]

The type of flying, VFR vs. IFR, day vs. night, currency, experience, and altitude, etc. all factor into the pilot’s capability of executing the “Plan.”

The Passengers factor into SRM in several ways.  Certain questions may come to mind.  Is this a new experience in a small aircraft?  Is the passenger a pilot?  Will pilot duties be shared?  What about turbulence?  What about schedules?  “The desire of the passengers to make airline connections or important business meetings easily enters into this pilot’s decision-making loop.”  Id.

The Programing.  With all the modern capabilities of apps and modern global positioning system (GPS) units, the programming of the units is an essential part of SRM.  Is the unit current?  What about deviations?  Are there core functions that can be used in an emergency? Id.

Step 4, Post Flight, consists of the de-brief (Replay, Reconstruct and Reflect), leading to teachable moments, and importantly, to Step 5, “Aeronautical Health” Maintenance & Improvement (Personal Minimums Checklist, Personal Proficiency Practice Plan, and a Training Plan). [7]

Turning now to the Appendices, one can see that the FAA is expecting that the forms be used and reviewed by the instructor as part of the preflight assessment for the review.  Appendix 2 (below) sets forth a detailed questionnaire on the pilot’s history:

Appendix 2 - Pilot’s Aeronautical History for Flight Review

Pilot’s Name:_____________________________ CFI:____________________________________


Phone(s):________________________________ E-mail:__________________________________

Type of Pilot Certificate(s):

Private______ Commercial_____ ATP_______                                                         Flight Instructor_______


Instrument__________ Multiengine ___________

Experience (Pilot):

Total time__________ Last 6 months__________                                                                                                                                       Avg hours/month__________________________

Time logged since last flight review____________                                                                                                                                    Since last IPC______________________________

Experience (Aircraft):

Aircraft type(s) you fly__________________

Aircraft used most often_________________

For this aircraft:

Total time__________ Last 6 months__________                                                                                                                                       Avg hours/month___________________________

Experience (Flight environment):

Since your last flight review, approximately how many hours have you logged in:

Day VFR________ Day IFR________ IMC_________                                              Night VFR________Night IFR____________________                                       Mountainous terrain_______________                                                                      Overwater flying__________________                                                                           Airport with control tower___________                                                                        Airport w/o control tower____________

Type of Flying (External factors):

What percentage of your flying is for:                                                          Pleasure_________ Business_________                                                  Local____________ XC______________

Personal Skills Assessment:

What are your strengths as a pilot?_____________________________

What do you most want to practice/improve?_________________

What are your aviation goals?_____________________________ [8]

Appendix 8 provides a sample of what the “Personal Proficiency Practice Plan” might resemble:

Appendix 8 - Personal Proficiency Practice Plan

Pilot’s Name:__________________________ CFI:_________________________________ Date:________________________________                                                        Review Date:__________________________

VFR Flight Profile – Every 4-6 Weeks:

Preflight (include 3-P Risk Management Process)

Normal taxi, takeoff, departure to practice area.

CHAPS (before each maneuver):                    

Clear the area                                                                                                             Heading established & noted                                                                                    Altitude established (at least 3,000 AGL)                                                                      Position near a suitable emergency landing area                                                          Set power and aircraft configuration

Steep turns (both directions), maintaining altitude w/i 100’ and airspeed w/i 10 knots.

Power-off stalls (approach to landing) & recovery.

Power-on stalls (takeoff/departure) & recovery.

Ground reference maneuvers.

Pattern practice:                                                                                                          Normal landing (full flaps)                                                                                                 Short-field takeoff and landing over a 50’ obstacle                                                      Soft-field takeoff and landing                                                                                   Secure the aircraft.

Review your performance. [9]

Appendix 9 provides a sample of “Personal Aeronautical Goals:”

Appendix 9 - Personal Aeronautical Goals

Pilot’s Name:_________________ CFI:_______________________ Date:________________________Review Date:________________

Training Goals

Certificate Level (Private, Commercial, ATP)                                                              Ratings (Instrument, AMEL, ASES, AMES, etc.)                                           Endorsements (high performance, complex, tailwheel, high altitude)                                                                                                                      Phase in Pilot Proficiency (WINGS) Program                                                         Instructor Qualifications (CFI, CFI-I, MEI, AGI, IGI)                                                   Other: _________________________________

Proficiency Goals

_______ Lower personal minimums to:                            

              _________ Ceiling

             __________ Visibility

             __________ Winds

             __________ Precision Approach Minimums

            __________ Non-Precision Approach Minimums

_______ Fly at least:

          __________ Times per month

         __________ Hours per month

         __________ Hours per year

         __________ XC flights per year

         __________ Night hours per month

_______ Make a XC trip to: ____________________                                               Other: ________________________________

Aeronautical Training Plan


So expect in your next Flight Review to use the format and Appendices found in “Conducting an Effective Flight Review.”  Fly Safe and remember the incredible on-line resources discussed in this article at

William J. Cass, Esq., CFI, AGI


[1] Federal Aviation Administration, “Conducting an Effective Flight Review” (Rev. October 2015),

[2] 14 C.F.R. § 91.103

[3] Federal Aviation Administration, “Conducting an Effective Flight Review” (Rev. October 2015),

[4]  Federal Aviation Administration, Aeronautical Decision-Making, FAA-P-8740-69 · AFS-8 (2008),[hi-res]%20branded.pdf

[5] Federal Aviation Administration, The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, FAA-H-8023-25A (2008),

[6] Federal Aviation Administration, The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, FAA-H-8023-25A (2008),

[7] Federal Aviation Administration, “Conducting an Effective Flight Review” (Rev. October 2015),

[8] Id.

[9]  Id.

[10] Id.