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Aviation Learning Center Document Conducting an Effective Flight Review
Author: FAA Date: August 2006
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Step 2 - Ground Review
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The regulations (14 CFR 61.56) specify only that the ground portion of the flight review must include "a review of the current general operating and flight rules of Part 91." This section offers guidance on conducting that review. It also provides guidance on additional topics that you should address. These include:

  • Review and discussion of the pre-assigned cross-country (XC) flight plan, with special emphasis on weather and weather decision-making; risk management and individual personal minimums; and
  • General aviation security (TFRs, aircraft security, and airport security).

Regulatory Review

Since most GA pilots do not read rules on a regular basis, this review is an important way to refresh the pilot's knowledge of information critical to aviation safety, as well as to ensure that he or she stays up to date on changes since the last flight review or formal aviation training session. If the pilot has completed the online flight review course in advance, you will want to review the results and focus primarily on those questions the pilot answered incorrectly. If the pilot has done nothing to prepare, the chart in Appendix 3 is one way to guide your discussion. You might also organize the rules as they relate to the pre-assigned cross-country flight plan that you will discuss. The important thing is to put the rules and operating procedures into a context that is relevant and meaningful to the pilot, as opposed to the sequential approach that encourages rote memorization rather than higher levels of understanding.

Flight Plan Review

At the most basic level, you are reviewing the pre-assigned flight plan for accuracy and completeness (i.e., are the calculations correct? Did the pilot show understanding of the 14 CFR 91.103 requirement to become familiar with "all" available information?) You may want to use the Cross-Country Checklist in Appendix 4 as a guide for checking the completeness of the pre-assigned plan.

If the pilot used automated tools to develop the flight plan, here are some questions and issues that you should teach him or her to ask about the computer-generated package:

  • 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.)
  • 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.)
  • 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).
  • Does this plan keep me out of trouble? (What if the computer-proposed course takes you through high terrain in high density altitude conditions?)
  • 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.)

Each of these questions is directed to a critical point that you should emphasize: automated flight planning tools can be enormously helpful, but the pilot must always review the information with a critical eye, frequently supplement the computer's plan with additional information, and never simply assume that the computer-generated package must be okay because the machine is smarter.

Asking these kinds of questions is key to critical thinking, which is in turn the secret to good aeronautical decision-making (ADM) and risk management. There are many models for ADM, including charts that provide quantitative assessment and generate a numerical score that pilots can use in evaluating the level of risk. Although these tools can be useful, you may want to present the "3-P" method developed by the FAA Aviation Safety Program. This model encourages the pilot to Perceive hazards, Process risk level, and Perform risk management by asking a series of questions about various aspects of the flight. The handout in Appendix 5 explains this method in detail.

Since statistics show that weather is still the factor most likely to result in accidents with fatalities, the XC flight plan assignment also provides an important opportunity to discuss weather and weather decision-making. The GA Pilot's Guide to Preflight Weather Planning, Weather Self-Briefings, and Weather Decision-Making, (http://www.faa.gov/pilots/safety/media/ga_weather_decision_making.pdf) which uses the 3-P method as a framework for weather decision-making, might be helpful in this discussion. If the pilot flies VFR at night, be sure to talk about night flying considerations, especially in overcast or no moon conditions.

GA Security

In the post-September 11 security environment, any security incident involving general aviation pilots, aircraft, and airports can prompt calls for new restrictions. As a flight instructor, you have a special responsibility to ensure that your clients know and follow basic security procedures. These include not only respect for temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), but also for the importance of securing your aircraft against unauthorized use. Pilots should never leave the aircraft unlocked or, worse, unattended with the keys inside.

In addition, be sure that the pilot knows about the Airport Watch Program, which was developed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Airport Watch relies upon the nation's pilots to observe and report suspicious activity. The Airport Watch Program is supported by a government-provided toll free hotline (1-866-GA-SECURE) and system for reporting and acting on information provided by general aviation pilots. A checklist of what to look for is in Appendix 6. For detailed information on GA security, see TSA's GA security website (http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/ga/editorial_1214.shtm) and AOPA's online GA security resources (http://www.aopa.org/security.html) page.

For specific information on flying in security-restricted airspace, including the Washington DC metropolitan area Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), direct pilots to the FAA's online ADIZ-TFR training course and to the Air Safety Foundation's online airspace training courses.

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