Here’s What You Need to Know About the New Flight Review Rules

3 min read
Jan 14, 2016

The always helpful FAA has released a new version of its Advisory Circular, Currency Requirements and Guidance for the Flight Review and Instrument Proficiency Check (AC 61-98C). This AC was updated to address changes in technology, emphasize key areas for reducing accidents, and adds information about recent flight experience and instrument proficiency checks (IPC). While a thorough review of this AC is recommended for any CFI, here is a quick breakdown of key points and new items to consider adding into your flight review and IPC action plan.  

1. Talk to your client about loss of control accidents, specifically, where and why they occur. 
Loss of control was the number one cause of GA fatalities between 2001 and 2010. Sadly, findings from the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) show that these very preventable accidents usually occur when a pilot lacks proficiency in a few common situations where a high workload can lead to distraction. The updated AC lists traffic pattern operations, stabilized approaches, and maneuvering in IMC as areas where pilots should continue to enhance skills and competency. Talk with your client about these especially vulnerable phases of flight and about the need to maintain proficiency and not just regulatory currency. Additionally, the GAJSC is actively promoting the use of angle of attack systems as a way to reduce this troubling accident trend.

2. Ensure that your client can fly the airplane without needing all the fancy bells and whistles. 
During a flight review or IPC, the pilot should be able to demonstrate his skill at manually controlling the aircraft. While almost every aircraft a pilot flies today has elements of advanced technology, a CFI should ensure that overreliance on this automation is not detrimental to the outcome of a safe flight. Subsequently, when automation is used, the pilot must demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the system, its limits, and troubleshooting procedures. For additional guidance, check out Conducting an Effective Flight Review.

3. Encourage your client to embrace the motto, “currency does not mean proficiency” and help them develop a personal proficiency program. 
While FAR 61.57 spells out the regulatory requirements that will allow a pilot to continue to perform as pilot in command, it is important to emphasize that those requirements should be thought of as bare minimums. A pilot needs extra experience to operate safely in difficult conditions or situations like flying at night, in strong wind conditions, in actual or transitioning to a new aircraft. The AC lists resources for helping a pilot design a personal proficiency program and provides templates in the appendix for setting goals and an making an action plan for meeting proficiency.

4. Help keep your client's records and experience up to date (although, it’s not mandatory). 
The 8710-1 form has been updated with new fields for the flight review and IPC. While not a requirement, AC 61-98C advises the evaluating CFI to submit an 8710-1 form to the FAA Airmen Certification Branch as a method to update a pilot’s record after conducting a flight review or IPC. Routinely updating this record with the FAA could prove beneficial if a pilot were to lose their logbook. The pilot would be able to obtain their current FAA records and reconstruct their aeronautical experience (instead of getting information that might be many years old, back when one last took a Checkride). While you can’t make these updates through IACRA just yet, the FAA is working to make that feature available soon. It’s important to discuss this with your client before submitting the paperwork. After all, it’s their pilot record you’re updating and it’s being sent to the Feds.

5. Verifying proficiency in the English language is now a must. 
The flight review and IPC are methods of evaluating a pilot’s ability to conduct a safe flight. Because it can affect the safety of flight, regulations require pilots to meet and maintain English Language Proficiency (ELP) requirements.  If a CFI is unsure of a pilot’s satisfactory ELP, the local FSDO can be notified to assist.

6. Stop calling it a “BFR”. 
One last note on the new AC, the FAA points out that they don’t like the term “BFR” or Biennial Flight Review anymore and want the pilot community to remove it from our everyday nomenclature. They state, “The FAA encourages currency training often as appropriate to a pilot’s individual needs. Consequently, the FAA now uses the term Flight Review.” And because you never know when your friendly FAA may be lurking around the ramp to point out inconsistencies, we suggest that pilots and instructors who are used to talking about “BFRs” get an electric buzzer to prevent them from adding “biennial” to the phrase… just kidding. 

IPC in Redbird Simulator