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BFR: The Ethical Question

A pilot certificate (except for the student and flight instructor certificate) is issued without an expiration date, but there are things you must do -- and many more that you should do -- to maintain the privileges provided by that certificate.A pilot certificate (except for the student and flight instructor certificate) is issued without an expiration date, but there are things you must do -- and many more that you should do -- to maintain the privileges provided by that certificate. After becoming a Private Pilot, you will always be a Private Pilot, but that does not mean that you are always 'current' to fly ... legally, or otherwise.

CURRENCY AND THE BFR
To fly without passengers, we must hold both an FAA Medical Certificate and have “passed” a Biennial Flight Review within the preceding 24 months. So, how do you know if your last Flight Review was adequate? Legally, the answer is simple...

FAR 61.56 -- The Flight Review must consist of at least one hour of ground instruction and one hour of flight training. Note: these are minimum times – most pilots need more! The review must be conducted by a CFI and must cover two broad areas.

  1. You must discuss the general operating and flight rules of FAR part 91.
  2. You must demonstrate 'maneuvers and procedures that, at the discretion of the person giving the review, are necessary for the pilot to demonstrate the *safe* exercise of the privileges of the pilot certificate.'
Notes: A review is not a flight test. The CFI does *not* have the authority to 'fail' you. BUT, the instructor can refuse to sign the endorsement if, in his/her judgement, you are unable to demonstrate 'safe exercise” -- and you can not legally fly without a current BFR endorsement in your logbook.

OPTIONS -- There are other ways to maintain a current BFR:

  • Any practical test that you ever take with an examiner or inspector will count as a flight review, as well. Example: You get your instrument rating fewer than 24 months after getting your private certificate.
  • Participation in the FAA Pilot Proficiency Awards program, sometimes called the Wings Program, through any stage to completion.
THE ETHICAL FACTOR
Finding a young CFI that will assume your competence based on your logbook or a personal relationship is easy -- finding one that will work with you to ensure that your abilities reflect your flight hours and ratings, and advance your skills through a thorough test of your knowledge/abilities is not. Caution: Thinking you’re a competent pilot doesn’t help make you one.

BOTTOM LINE: We can all stand a little learning and once every two years isn’t asking much. It is your responsibility to make sure you are challenged at each BFR! Approach the BFR as an opportunity to learn, not a formality to get out of the way every 24 months.

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About This Author:
Paul A. Craig is a Gold Seal Multiengine and Instrument Flight Instructor. He currently holds a total of 11 Flight Certificates including his ATP. Craig is a previous winner of the North Carolina and Tennessee Flight Instructor of the Year award, the NCVT Outstanding Teacher award and has served as the regional representative of the National Air and Space Museum. Craig is an FAA Aviation Safety Counselor and the author of eight books, including Pilot In Command, The Killing Zone: How and Why Pilots Die, and Controlling Pilot Error: Situational Awareness (all from McGraw Hill).
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