I managed to check off all the required boxes for another two years. With a fresh eye exam and two new pair of glasses I headed to the AME for my FAA Class III medical. That went smoothly – with the admonition that I need to get off my butt and get more exercise. That was not at all unexpected.
I mentioned in my last post that I had purchased the Sporty’s Flight Review iPad app for my review. I completed it – an hour and 40 minutes of short videos covering the required ground items. It was OK, but not something I will do in the future. It was much too easy to let my mind wander while the videos played – putting in the time, but not really having the information sink in. I guess it depends upon your motivation/dedication to complete the review – and if it’s really a review or seems like new information.
I also said that I was going to try the FAA online course again. I did do that ( Course ALC-25 at FAASafety.gov ). It is a free, self-paced course with a quiz at the end. Successful completion of the course material and quiz permits you to print out a completion certificate and earns you an hour of ground training in the FAA Wings Program. Since the course is self-paced you can complete it as quickly as you want. The time it takes is directly related to how much of the supplemental material you access and study. There are multiple links in each section to relevant online Regulations, sections of the AIM and other manuals/advisory circulars. I actually enjoyed this course more than the iPad version – mainly because I could easily access and study more relevant information if I desired – which, as usual, led to links to more information that sounded interesting, etc, etc. Rabbit holes everywhere…
After running through the two courses I was able to arrange to spend enough time with an instructor to assure him that I know enough to fly competently and safely. The ground part of the official Flight Review was pretty straight forward though I have one area that always irritates me.
Students are taught (and flight reviews reinforce) the memorization of what in my opinion is aviation trivia. Things like the daytime VFR visibility and cloud clearances in Class E airspace above 1200′ AGL and below 10,000′ MSL. Every student can spout those numbers and virtually every CFI asks the question on each Flight Review. Can anyone gauge accurately those distances while in flight traveling at 2 or 3 miles a minute? Does anyone address the fact that those are the absolute minimums that are specified by the FAA and that if you are flying VFR in those conditions it does not register a very high score in the judgement block? Just because those numbers are published does not mean that you should be flying by them. Yes, I’ve flown VFR at, and probably below, the published minimums because of my errors in judgement. I have been lucky and survived without hurting myself or an airplane but the experience has taught me that there is no reason to do it again. You have a pilot certificate – set your own VFR minimums according to your abilities and the capabilities of the aircraft you are flying. Is it legal to take off VFR from your home airport in Class G airspace with 1 mile visibility? Yes. Is it smart? Not even close. I know, you have to know the numbers to pass the written and oral exams for the various pilot certificates. There has to be a knowledge starting point of some sort that can be evaluated. But the general aviation accident rate doesn’t relate to rote memory of trivia, it relates to poor aeronautical judgement – judgement that says that one mile visibility is legal so I can go ahead and take off.
I chose to do the flying part of my Flight Review in the instructor’s airplane for a change of pace from my normal flying. He has a Piper PA-28-180 in the form of a Cherokee Challenger based in Carson City (KCXP). Yeah, I had to look that one up, too. It is the predecessor to the Piper Archer – four-place, fixed gear, Hershey-bar wing. It is a nice-flying, stable aircraft even if it does have the little wheel on the wrong end. We accomplished all the standard Flight Review maneuvers and then for fun flew over to Reno and requested vectors to the ILS for Runway 32 at Stead. A Garmin 430 had been installed in the plane recently and it was a good way to check it out. There is also a basic autopilot installed in the plane but I elected to hand-fly the approach for practice and because my philosophy has always been that if you don’t know exactly how the autopilot works you shouldn’t be using it. Having an autopilot do something that you are not expecting and then trying to figure out what is going on is an excellent way to totally screw up an instrument approach. The approach went well (in perfect VFR conditions) and the experience got me interested in getting my IFR currency back again. Going through the hoops of passing an IPC would probably be a fun challenge. The hitch would then be in trying to maintain the currency. My Swift only has a communicaitons radio and a transponder so maintaining IFR currency would require renting another plane – an added expense that is not in the budget. I might reconsider should I elect to upgrade the panel enough to comply with the ADS-B mandate in 2020 but that is a long way (and three physicals) in the future. Who knows what will happen by then…