Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
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Recurrent Training
Biennial Flight Review (BFR)

by Darren Smith, ATP, CFII/MEI
from Darren's Flight Review Guide
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 Flight Reviews:  Recurrent Training | Intro to Flight Reviews | Common Problems | Darren's Flight Review Guide

What prompts me to write this page:  The FAA has recently published new guidance for flight instructors to conduct flight reviews.  This is a major 29 page addition to Advisory Circular 61-98A.  After reviewing the new document, its clear that the FAA is concerned about pilot performance and wants flight instructors to strengthen the review process.  Gone are the days of three trips around the pattern and you're signed off for another two years.   With a new mix of regulation, ADIZ & more complicated airspace, TFRs, and better accident stat reporting, it becomes clear that unqualified pilots in the airspace create problems. The FAA has made it clear to the CFI:  a BFR is an evaluation, not flight instruction.

 A flight review consists of a MINIMUM of 1 hour of flight instruction and 1 hour of ground instruction, and must include:
  • a review of the current general operating and flight rules of Part 91
  • a review of those maneuvers and procedures which, at the discretion of the person giving the review, are necessary for the pilot to demonstrate the safe exercise of the pilot certificate
  • Exception: A current CFI who satisfactorily completed a renewal of their certificate with a FIRC, need not accomplish the 1 hour ground.
  • You may accomplish the flight review requirements in combination with the recent flight experience requirements at the discretion of the instructor conducting the review.
The typical flight review is not only a checkup, but a chance to remediate skills.  The goal of course is to return a pilot's skills back to the Practical Test Standards for the certificate/ratings they hold.  The rules state a minimum of 1 hour ground and 1 hour flight is required and it may well be adequate for the pilot that flies upwards of 300 hours per year.  For those that do not fly as often, it will certainly take longer.  Often, pilots think that a successful flight review is measured by time logged but it couldn't be more wrong.  A successful flight review is measured by how a pilot meets the Practical Test Standards for the certificate/ratings they hold.

How Long Does a BFR Take?

Its hard to say because regardless of certificates held or flight time, the student must demonstrate proficiency in the topics below.  The FAA is expecting Flight Instructors to provide additional training on certain emphasis areas.  Those areas include collision avoidance, airspace & TFRs, runway incursions, and inadvertent IFR.  Pilots should be realistic about their skills and realize it make take extra time if they are not current.  In all cases, BFR candidates must meet the standards for the rating held to be successful.  The PTS is the gold standard for whether a pilot is successful in their attempt.  Good Flight Instructors will also provide the FAA Pilot Proficiency "Wings" Award with their endorsement for a BFR.

Pre-Flight Briefing

Before beginning the review a CFI should interview the pilot to determine the nature of his flying and operating requirements including:
  • Type of equipment most often flown
    • Light twin vs. Single engine
    • Conventional vs. Tricycle gear
    • Most complex
    • Possibly more than one category/class
  • Nature of flight operations
    • Long distance vs. Local area
    • Class B airspace airports
    • IFR vs. VFR
  • Amount and recency of flight experience
    • Review logbook for total time and last flight
    • Type of flight experience
    • Upgrade to faster, more complex aircraft
  • Agreement on conduct of review
    • Reach understanding on how review will be conducted
    • Suggest reading materials for study prior to review
    • What equipment is required for review
    • Criteria for satisfactory completion of review

The Ground Portion

  • Tailored review of the General operating and
  • Flight Rules of FAR Part 91, Subparts A & B
  • Visual Flight Rules, Subpart B
  • Night Flight Rules, part 61 & 91
  • Instrument Flight Rules,  (if rated)
  • Equipment, Instrument, and Certification Requirements, Subpart C
  • Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance and Alterations, Subpart E
  • Airman's Information Manual
  • Aircraft Operating Handbook
    • Limitations
    • Airspeeds for Safe Operation
    • Systems Operation
    • Emergency Procedures
  • Review of the Aircraft Logbooks and maintenance records
  • Weight and Balance calculation 
  • Calculating required runway lengths 
  • Weather reports and forecast
    • Wind shear and Wake Turbulence
    • Convective Activity
  • Cross-Country Flight Plan Assignment
    • How do I know that the computer-generated information is correct?
    • Does the computer-generated information pass the “common sense” test?
    • Does this plan include all the information I am required to consider?
    • Does this plan keep me out of trouble?
    • What will I do if I cannot complete the flight according to this plan?
  • Review of aviation security including TFR & preflight briefings
  • Risk Management & Personal Minimums
  • Preflight Inspection Procedures

The Flight Portion

  • Physical Airplane Skills - At least those maneuvers considered critical for safe flight:
    • Stalls
    • Slow Flight
    • Takeoffs and Landings
    • Emergency Procedures
    • Instrument Competency
    • Navigation Procedures
  • Mental Airplane Skills - knowledge of systems, avionics installed
  • Aeronautical Decision-Making
  • Scenario - cross country flight
    • a diversion
  • Based upon in-flight assessment of skills, the instructor may:
    • Add any maneuver from the Practical Test Standards (PTS) for certificates you hold
  • Provide additional instruction on weak areas, based upon pre review plan
    • may defer to a follow-up flight
    • satisfactory completion


  • What was the most important thing you learned today?
  • What part of the session was easiest for you? What part was hardest?
  • Did anything make you uncomfortable? If so, when did it occur?
  • How would you assess your performance and your decisions?
  • Did you perform in accordance with the Practical Test Standards?
  • Personal Minimums Checklist
  • Personal Proficiency Practice Plan
  • Training Plan (if needed)
  • If the pilot did not perform to PTS standards, he is NOT eligible for a flight review endorsement.  In that case, additional training should be planned to help the pilot meet the standard.  Its likely that the completion of the FAA "Wings" Pilot Proficiency Award, a three hour flight training plan might go a long way to helping a pilot achieve the flight review.  If performance is consistently below PTS standards, CFI will log dual time but not provide endorsement
    • Further dual instruction may be required
    • Pilot can continue to fly if within the 24 month period
    • If pilot is dissatisfied, he may seek flight review from another instructor.
    • If successful, endorsement will be provided in accordance with the current issue of AC61-65.
Pilot Resources:
AOPA Online - Pilots' Guide to Getting Back Into Flying
AOPA ASF Pilot's Guide to the Flight Review (download)
The FAA has developed new flight review guidance for CFIs to conduct BFRs.
FAA Advisory Circular AC61-98A Conducting a flight review - backup site

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