Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: Flight Review

All Set for Another 2 Years

Piper Cherokee similar to the one I flew for the Flight Review. Photo Credit: Lau Svensson, Flickr:CC

Piper Cherokee similar to the one I flew for the Flight Review. Photo Credit: Lau Svensson, Flickr:CC

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 ). 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…

Everything Is Due

Swift Hangar

Swift back in the hangar after our flight.

When the calendar switched over to November I found all sorts of warnings blaring at me – well,  notices in my calendar that I set up myself. I just never noticed that everything seemed to be coming due within a 60-day period.

First was my flight physical, but by the end of October. That required finding a new AME. The doctor that most of the area pilots used had passed away suddenly about a year ago.  I chose to go to the doctor who took over my previous AME’s practice. It was a good choice. So, I checked off that block with a fresh Class III medical and the first  non-Class I that I had applied for in twenty-some years. There is just no reason to go through the more stringent requirements of the higher class medicals for the type of flying that I do now.

The next notices I received were that I was now in the zone to re-register the Swift.  I have until the end of March next year to complete the process and until the end of January to re-register via the Internet. As I understand, the registration is effective in the month you do the renewal, so I’ll make it one of my New Year’s projects after the holidays.

Next I found that the Swift annual inspection is due the last day of November. But before I could start on that I had to take care of the last of my notices – my Flight Review, due by the end of November.  I didn’t want to start taking the Swift apart for the inspection and potentially find something that would prevent me from flying the plane before the end of the month.  I’m sure that you recall that in order to act as pilot-in-command of an aircraft you must satisfactorily complete a Flight Review each 24 months.

There are several flight instructors on the airport who could administer the Review and I’m sure most would jump at a chance to fly the Swift.  I thought about it for a while and decided to try one of the instructors who I knew had a similar background to mine. He retired from the military, had been a KC-10 pilot, has considerable flight time, built his own RV-9A and is qualified to instruct in the RV for aircraft checkouts by fellow homebuilders.

My first step in completing the Review was to complete FAA Course ALC-25 on the FAA Safety website – Flight Review Prep Guide. It is a good review of flight operations for the Flight Review.

Once I completed the course and printed out the certificate we scheduled some time to get together.

We discussed the material in the FAA course and then reviewed the different types of airspace and the requirements to fly through them by using some practical examples on the West coast.

Next we went over all the paperwork on the airplane, noting the required inspections had been completed and that the aircraft was airworthy and that the weight and balance would allow the planned flight. Then we did a thorough preflight and I explained the unique preflight requirements of the Swift.

With the ground portion of the Review completed we pulled the plane out of the hangar, went through the passenger briefing and emergency equipment and headed for the runway. The flight consisted of a good cross section of Private and Commercial flight maneuvers and different types of landings when we returned to the traffic pattern. By then the winds were blowing about 18 knots a bit off the runway heading, so it was a good test of traffic pattern procedures. We were in the pattern by ourselves and I fly a very close pattern, so the landings were completed in short order.

Overall I believe it was a good review – it had been a long time since I had accomplished some of those training maneuvers as specific maneuvers rather than doing them as a natural extension of the normal flight maneuvers that we all do.

Now I can get to work on the aircraft annual inspection and not have to worry about how long it might take to complete it – except for the inability to fly next month if it isn’t finished.

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