Monday, December 10, 2007
It's due this month. My flight review, that is. Or for those who prefer the old acronym-friendly version, the Biennial Flight Review. The original plan when I started flying four years ago was to do an upgrade rating every year or so. Once I got settled into the routine of aircraft ownership, I foresaw getting my instrument rating in 2005, commercial in 2006, and CFI in 2007. I didn't have any solid career aspirations, but I felt that the challenge of pursuing advanced ratings would make the airborne life a bit more interesting. And since the upgrade checkrides would satisfy the requirements for the flight reviews, I could dispense with the trouble of grabbing an instructor for a couple of hours of ground and air time every two years. Why that is less trouble than grabbing an instructor for a few dozen hours of advanced instruction every two years is beyond me, but I'd often heard the checkride = BFR point raised as one of many reasons to pursue advanced ratings. CFI upselling, I suppose...
Things went according to plan for the first year, and I passed my IFR checkride in time to meet the requirements of my first BFR in 2005. After that, job changes, moving, job changes again, moving again, and cracked engines conspired against me, and with Yellowbird still in the shop, I went ahead and scheduled some time with one of the local CFIs.
The FBO has a couple of Diamond DA-20s for primary training as well as a DA-40 with a glass cockpit. They also have a Piper Comanche. I toyed with the idea of getting checked out in the DA-40 or getting a complex/high performance endorsement via the Comanche, but in the end I decided to just satisfy the BFR requirements in one of the DA-20s. Yesterday I picked up some study materials and a written quiz from the CFI, and last night I dug out the FAR/AIM and tried to refresh my memory concerning the relevant regulations. I also downloaded the DA-20 flight manual and spent some time sitting in the cockpit for familiarization.
The review itself was almost anticlimactic. We chatted about regulations and safety for a while, discussed flight planning, and headed out to the plane. The DA-20 is cozy in the same way that a Cardinal is roomy. It's also a much more recent design and reflects on some of the advances in aeronautical engineering, most notably in its composite construction. The biggest difference from the pilot's perspective is that the DA-20 has a joystick instead of a yoke. Other differences include electric trim, fuel injection (meaning no need for carburetor heat), and lack of nosewheel steering. After five months on the ground, I'm not qualified to give an authoritative PIREP (here's one, here's another, and you can even buy a book), but I managed to find my way around the cockpit without too much fumbling and we were soon aloft.
It was such a novel experience to be flying again that I momentarily forgot what I was up there for and blew right through the altitude that the CFI had requested. Fortunately, he forgave me the few hundred feet transgression and after descending back to 3,000 feet, we headed out to the northwest for some basic checkride stuff - steep turns, slow flight, stalls, and a simulated emergency landing. I put the hood on and did a few unusual attitude recoveries, then we then headed back to base for some pattern work: short field, soft field, hypothetical moose on the runway, etc. After all was done, I had a little more than an hour in the logbook, and I'm now good to go in the BFR sense for the next two years.