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Aviation Learning Center Document Conducting an Effective Flight Review
Author: FAA Date: August 2006
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Step 3 - Flight Activities
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To operate safely in the modern flight environment, the pilot needs solid skills in three distinct, but interrelated, areas. These include:

  • Physical Airplane Skills (i.e., basic stick-and-rudder proficiency);
  • Mental Airplane Skills (i.e., knowledge and proficiency in aircraft systems);
  • Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM) Skills (i.e., higher-order thinking skills).

Many flight reviews consist almost exclusively of airwork followed by multiple takeoffs and landings. These maneuvers can give you a very good snapshot of the pilot's "physical airplane" skills. They are also good for the pilot, who gets a safe opportunity to practice proficiency maneuvers that he or she may not have performed since the last flight review. Airwork alone, however, will tell you little about the pilot's "mental airplane" knowledge of avionics and other aircraft systems, and even less about the pilot's ability to make safe and appropriate decisions in real-world flying (ADM). Therefore, you need to structure the exercise to give you a clear picture of the pilot's skills with respect to each area.

Having the pilot fly the cross-country trip you assigned and discussed in the ground review is a good way to achieve this goal. One leg will involve flying from departure to destination, during which you ensure that the pilot encounters scenarios that let you evaluate the pilot's systems knowledge ("mental airplane") and decision-making skills, including risk management. The other leg (which can come first, depending on how you choose to organize the exercise) will focus more on airwork, which allows you to evaluate "physical airplane" skills.

Be sure to include a diversion. Remember the computer-generated flight plan discussed during the ground review portion? While you are en route to the planned destination, give the pilot a scenario that requires an immediate diversion (e.g., mechanical problem, unexpected weather). Ask the pilot to choose an alternate destination and, using all available and appropriate resources (e.g, chart, basic rules of thumb, "nearest" and "direct to" functions on the GPS) to calculate the approximate course, heading, distance, and time needed to reach the new destination. Proceed to that point and, if at all feasible, do some of the "physical airplane" pattern work at the unexpected alternate.

The diversion exercise has several benefits. First, it generates "teachable moments," which are defined as those times when the learner is most aware of the need for certain information or skills, and therefore most receptive to learning what you want to teach. Diverting to an airport surrounded by high terrain, for example, provides a "teachable moment" on the importance of obstacle awareness and terrain avoidance planning. Second, the diversion exercise quickly and efficiently reveals the pilot's level of skill in each of the three areas:

  • "Physical Airplane" Skills: Does the pilot maintain control of the aircraft when faced with a major distraction? For a satisfactory flight review, the pilot should be able to perform all maneuvers in accordance with the Practical Test Standards (PTS) for the pilot certificate that he or she holds.

  • "Mental Airplane" Skills: Does the pilot demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in using avionics, aircraft systems, and "bring-your-own-panel" handheld devices? Since many GA pilots use handheld GPS navigators, you will want to see whether the pilot can safely and appropriately operate the devices that will be used when you are not on board to monitor and serve as the ultimate safety net. Appropriate and proficient use of the autopilot is another "mental airplane" skill to evaluate in this exercise.

  • Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM) Skills: Give the pilot multiple opportunities to make decisions. Asking questions about those decisions is an excellent way to get the information you need to evaluate ADM skills, including risk management. For example, ask the pilot to explain why the alternate airport selected for the diversion exercise is a safe and appropriate choice. What are the possible hazards, and what can the pilot do to mitigate them? Be alert to the pilot's information and automation management skills as well. For example, does the pilot perform regular "common sense" cross-checks of what the GPS and/or the autopilot are doing?

For more ideas on generating scenarios that teach risk management, see the four pamphlets available online at www.faa.gov. (www.faa.gov/library/manuals/pilot_risk/)

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