Saturday, September 19, 2015

Biennial Flight Review

BFR ground review with pilot Debbie.
As a private pilot, I require a formal review (previously known as a BFR), every other year, by a certified flight instructor (CFI). The purpose of the flight review is to ensure a pilot is safe and competent to fly. The key tell is that the pilot stays ahead of the aircraft meaning they're prepared for what comes next. For example, when approaching an airport to land, the pilot should have already set up the ground frequencies so, after they taxi off the runway all they need to do is push a button, instead of looking up the ground control frequency, dialing it in, and switching over to it. Since private pilots, like myself, are not required to fly a minimum number of hours it means a private pilot could go almost two years without flying and still legally fly an airplane. After becoming a pilot, I was surprised how much flying I had to "force" myself to do so I felt comfortable at the controls. Commercial pilots, on the other hand, have more frequent checks mandated by the airline, so they're skills are fresh and spot-on.

Yesterday, I had a college classmate, who's also a CFI and commercial airline pilot, take a flight with me for my BFR. We spent time on the ground, going over the fundamentals of aviation and planning, before taking to the skies. She also shared with me the detailed, structured, environment of her daily life as a commercial pilot for United Airlines. Suffice to say, the processes and procedures of the airlines are thorough and detailed.

Passing by Scripps Pier on our way to Carlsbad.
When I first bought my plane, I was surprised how many fighter pilots and commercial pilots wanted to go flying with me. Cruising speed in my Cessna-182 is slower than a jet can typically fly without falling out of the sky. It turns out that these jet jockeys love the freedom (and low flying altitude) of a small, single engine plane. A commercial airline pilot has to file an instrument flight plan and stay exactly on course, or as an air traffic controller directs. While I do the same thing on my cross country flights, I usually find myself flying much shorter distances, in clear Southern California weather, using a less formal procedure known as visual flight rules (VFR). The difference between flying under instrument flight rules (IFR) and visual flight rules is the difference between standing in line at the DMV and walking, willy-nilly, through the mall. Just like in the mall, VFR literally uses the same procedure to prevent collisions: "See and avoid."

I'm happy to report I passed my BFR without any problems and even received a complement, "I like how methodical you fly and do your checklists!"

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