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When Do You Need Your Next Flight Review?

When is your next flight review? Here's what you need to know about the FAA's requirements, and if you might be exempt...

Why Do "Flight Reviews" Exist?

To exercise your privileges to fly as pilot in command, you need to complete a flight review every 24 calendar months. They used to be called BFRs, or "biennial flight reviews," by the FAA. However, they removed the word "biennial", because they want to encourage pilots to train with a CFI more often than once every 2 years, which is a good idea for any GA pilot.

Flight reviews are an easy, low-cost way for the FAA to ensure pilots maintain a safe level of currency and proficiency. They're not "pass or fail", and they can be conducted by any current flight instructor. Flight Reviews serve as a good way to brush-up on skills, maneuvers, and procedures that you don't use in your normal day-to-day flying.

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Flight Review Requirements

FAR 61.56 lays the groundwork for flight reviews. The minimum criteria for a flight review consists of a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training. The review must include:

  • A review of the current general operating and flight rules of CFR 14 Part 91.
  • 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.

That second requirement might sound a bit broad or vague, and it's designed to be that way for a good reason. The FAA leaves most flight review criteria up to the individual instructor.

Your instructor should talk with you about your normal flying habits and experiences. From there, they'll set up the flight review to cover things you might not do regularly (and that you're probably a little rusty on).

For instance, if you fly a lot of cross-countries in your airplane, you might not have done steep turns or stalls in awhile. On the other hand, if you do lots of local flying, an instructor might ask you to plan a cross country and use the opportunity to brush up your pilotage, dead reckoning, and navigation systems knowledge.

You Can't "Fail" A Flight Review

At the end of your flight review, your instructor will endorse your logbook with the following...

I certify that (First name, MI, Last name), (pilot certificate type), (certificate number), has satisfactorily completed a flight review of section 61.56(a) on (date).

(Instructor Signature) [date] J. J. Jones 987654321CFI Exp. 12-31-05

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No logbook entry is required which reflects unsatisfactory performance on a Flight Review.

If your flying is a little rough around the edges, your instructor might just log the flight as dual-given and say there are some areas you need to work on together. Don't take it personally if this happens! Use the flight review as a learning experience and move on.

When Can Flight Simulators Be Used?

A flight simulator or flight training device can be used to meet Flight Review requirements under the following conditions...

  • The flight simulator or flight training device must be used in accordance with an approved course conducted by a training center certificated under part 142 of this chapter.
  • Unless the flight review is undertaken in a flight simulator that is approved for landings, the applicant must meet the takeoff and landing requirements of FAR 61.57(a) or FAR 61.57(b).
  • The flight simulator or flight training device used must represent an aircraft or set of aircraft for which the pilot is rated.

There are some other exemptions to flight reviews as well...

Exemption 1: Proficiency Checks and Practical Tests

You don't need to complete a 24 month flight review if you've passed a practical test or pilot proficiency check conducted by an examiner, an approved pilot check airman, or a U.S. Armed Force, for a pilot certificate, rating, or operating privilege.

Here are a just few examples of applicable exemptions:

  • Passing a recurrent checkride under Part 135/121.
  • Adding a type rating to your pilot certificate.
  • Passing a practical test for a new pilot certificate (private pilot, commercial pilot, etc.).
  • Adding a multi-engine or instrument rating to your pilot certificate.

Each of these exemptions renews your 24 calendar month currency. After this, you need to complete a flight review, or fall under a new exemption to maintain currency.

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Exemption 2: Flight Instructors

When you pass 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, you do not need to complete a flight review.

Additionally, if you hold a flight instructor certificate, and within the period specified in FAR 61.56(c), satisfactorily completed a renewal of a flight instructor certificate under the provisions in FAR 61.197, you do need not accomplish the one hour of ground training specified in FAR 61.56(a).

Each of these exemptions renews your 24 calendar month currency. After this, you need to complete a flight review, or fall under a new exemption to maintain currency.

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Exemption 3: FAA Pilot Proficiency Programs

If you've accomplished one or more phases of an FAA-sponsored pilot proficiency award program in the past 24 calendar months, you do not need to complete a flight review.

The most common pilot proficiency program you'll use is FAA WINGS. Completion of any Phase of WINGS satisfies the requirement for a flight review. You will complete a review of common weak areas that have led accidents, and end up with a flight review too!

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Note: glider pilots may substitute a minimum of three instructional flights in a glider, each of which includes a flight to traffic pattern altitude, in lieu of the 1 hour of flight training.

The FAA Just Updated Their Guidance On Flight Reviews

The FAA just released AC 61-98D to help beef up what pilots and instructors cover in their flight reviews. While it doesn't change the regulation and minimum training requirement of FAR 61.56, it does recommend where pilots should spend their time in the review, in an effort to lower accident rates.

Click here to learn everything you need to know about the new changes.

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What did you cover on your last flight review? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. In addition to multi-engine and instrument ratings, he holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525). He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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