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Flight Review – Myths and Facts

What’s wrong with the following statement?

“Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations requires that a pilot must take a bi-annual flight review  within the past two years to act as pilot in command.”

Answer: Most of the statement is incorrect. Several pilots and flight instructors refer to the flight review as the bi-annual flight review. The term bi-annual means twice a year. Biennial means every two years, which is closer to the correct meaning. The FAA used to call the Flight Review a Biennial Flight Review, or BFR. The BFR was not required within the past two years, but rather within the past 24 calendar months. If you took a BFR on March 2, 2016, it would expire at midnight on March 31, 2018.

Several years ago, the FAA changed this rule to an Annual Flight Review or AFR, requiring a Flight Review within the past 12 calendar months. This change lasted for just one year. The Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) protested this move, citing that it put an unnecessary financial burden on pilots. AOPA asked for relevant accident data justifying this change. The FAA quickly reversed this decision, but kept the option open to quickly change the required number of months between flight reviews in the future as they saw fit. To stress the temporary nature of the 24 month time requirement, the FAA renamed the BFR and currently refers to it simply as a Flight Review. Also, a pilot doesn’t just take a flight review. Instead, the pilot must satisfactorily complete the Flight Review. In FAR Part 61, other options are offered to meet the requirement of the Flight Review as well.

There are some major similarities and differences between a Flight Review and an Airman Certification Test (FAA check ride).


Part 61 requires that the pilot performance is up to same level of knowledge and skill that is required on the check ride for the grade of pilot certificate held, which is the level being evaluated. If a pilot holds a Commercial Pilot certificate, then the pilot must be evaluated as a Commercial Pilot and perform to the Commercial Pilot level, or the Flight Review cannot be considered to be satisfactorily completed. Both ground ( 1 hour minimum ) and flight (1 hour minimum) evaluations are required. The satisfactory completion must be certified. For the flight review, an endorsement of satisfactory completion is made in the logbook.


On the Flight Review, a pilot can practice, receive training and make repeated attempts on any of the items reviewed and tested. This is not allowed on an FAA check ride during testing. The flight review includes having the instructor review information and procedures with the pilot in addition to the evaluation. This is also not allowed on an FAA check ride. The Flight Review is usually given by a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). The FAA check ride, in most cases, must be given by an FAA-Designated Pilot Examiner or FAA Inspector. The FAA checkride is a pass-fail event. The Flight Review is either completed satisfactorily and endorsed as such in the logbook, or it is recorded as a flight lesson if the pilot failed to perform satisfactorily. If the pilot didn’t complete the Flight Review satisfactorily, the pilot must continue training and evaluation until satisfactory performance is demonstrated.

Specific Areas of Emphasis

The FAA released their latest version of an advisory circular in November 2015, that gives the specific requirements of how the Flight Review is to be conducted and completed. This advisory circular, AC 61-98C, also stresses the need for regular proficiency training and review and evaluation of skills needed to prevent loss of control (LOC) in flight and on the ground. The Advisory Circular also lists other options on meeting the Flight Review requirement. Also, the FAA online publication “Conducting an Effective Flight Review”, provides valuable guidance to flight instructors on this topic. If you are a flight instructor conducting a flight review, you should study both of these publications thoroughly. Flight instructors should also refer to the latest version of the Airmen Certification Standards (formerly the Practical Test Standard) for the certificate held by the pilot taking the Flight Review. As a flight instructor, remember that you must have an aircraft rating appropriate to the category and class of aircraft you are conducting the Flight Review in. Be sure you and the student discuss and agree on the satisfactory completion standards before conducting the Flight Review. An instructor should keep a record of each flight review given. The flight and ground time for the Flight Review should also be recorded in the pilot’s logbook. A good flight review should be fun, educational and should include a proper assessment of the pilot’s proficiency. When done correctly and completely, a flight review can be another effective way of preventing accidents.

Posted 06-08-2016 by Steve Shaner


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