Whether you’ve had your licence for a while or you’ve just started training, you need to know about flight reviews.
What is a flight review?
Let’s talk about what a flight review is not. It’s not a test or exam. You can’t lose your licence from a flight review. It is possible, however, to fail one.
A flight review is meant to check your skills and knowledge are still up to date. It’s to make sure you can still fly safely. It is also a learning opportunity – there might have been a law change you missed completely, or something an instructor can help clarify for you.
The idea behind the introduction of flight reviews is simple: if you’re not regularly checked, your skills and knowledge can degrade over time. Everyone’s safety can be improved by checking that individual pilots – from the RPL holder out for a local joy flight to the ATPL holder flying hundreds of people across the globe, and everything in between – are all operating to the standard expected of them.
Who needs to do one?
If you have a pilot licence, you will need a flight review.
Student pilots also need to have regular checks. That might seem obvious and easy to manage, but when you get to the hour building phase of commercial pilot training, it can become a bit tricky if you’re unlicenced. Most of that part of training is solo flight time, but there are limits on to how much solo time you can do or how many days between dual flights. If you’re on an integrated course, you can only fly solo for 30 days without a dual check. For non-integrated training, there’s a limit of 3 hours of solo flight time as well as the 30 days since a dual check. That’s why we encourage our students to get a Recreational Pilot Licence along the way. We’ll still want to check your skills regularly, but it gives a bit more flexibility, legally.
Why do I need one?
Flight reviews are required by law, at least once every two years. You don’t have to wait for the last days of your previous one to be expiring to do one, but you can also still do one after the last one expired. Even if it’s been a few years since your last review expired, passing a flight review is all that’s needed to allow you to legally use your licence again.
A flight review is an opportunity to check your proficiency and knowledge are still where they need to be – and make some changes if necessary.
What's involved in a flight review?
What your flight review requires will depend on a few things. The type of licence you hold is a key one, as well as any endorsements or ratings you have. One of the biggest things we find people don’t realise is that if you have a navigation endorsement or a PPL/CPL, the instructor conducting your flight review should want to see those skills – it’s not meant to be just a couple of circuits and away you go. Same goes for CTA/CTR knowledge – we can’t directly test that at Bacchus Marsh, so you’ll have to navigate somewhere to be able to check that off.
In particular, some safety-critical items must be checked. Things like how you manage engine failure and cross-wind conditions, and how you apply threat and error management knowledge. You will also need to demonstrate things like checking and applying proper weather information and NOTAMs, calculating weight and balance and aircraft performance, your use of checklists, and performing a daily inspection.
If it’s been a while since your last flight, you may like to book in a few flights to get back into things before actually attempting the flight review. We charge an additional fee for the flight review to cover the additional ground theory time, and the admin/paperwork time – you don’t want to pay that if you’re not sure you’re up to standard. The number of additional flights required will depend on the individual, so we recommend contacting us to set up a meeting with an instructor to discuss your past experience, what sort of flying you plan to do in the future, and work out a plan.
If you’re flying fairly regularly and you’re confident you won’t need any extra flights before the flight review, you just need to give us a call to book in. Make sure you let us know which licence you have so we can make sure to allocate enough time with the instructor and the aircraft. Your instructor will then get in touch with you to discuss what’s required for your particular review, and what route to plan for if they need to see navigation. Flight reviews can be done over multiple flights, if needed.
Once the instructor is satisfied, they can sign you off to use your licence for another two years.
So, how long will it take?
For flight reviews that don’t include navigation, CASA recommends at least two hours – one on the ground, one in the plane. We would typically book an hour and a half in the plane for these, to allow adequate time for preflight inspection, refueling, etc.
For those that do include navigation, CASA recommends an additional 1.5-2 hours in the plane. We generally allocate three hours in the plane in this case.
You should also allow at least half an hour after the flight for discussion with your instructor and to finalise the paperwork. You might also like to allow some extra time before your booking to come into the school, finish your plan, perhaps discuss with other pilots around the conditions on the day, and prepare the plane ahead of time.
It may seem like a lot, but one day every two years to ensure the safety of you and everyone you share the air with is priceless.
What aircraft will it be done in?
CASA recommends conducting a flight review in an aircraft type that you’re familiar with – and have flown most in recent flights.
If you fly both single-engine and multi-engine aircraft, CASA suggests you should do your flight review in a multi-engine aircraft as it is the more complex of the two.
You can view the options in the TVSA fleet here.
Can I log the flight time?
Yes, but it depends on what happens in the review as to how it should be logged. The assessor is the pilot-in-command for flight reviews. Most of the time you will receive some instruction, so you would log it as dual. CPL and ATPL holders may be able to log the time as PICUS, if all the relevant conditions are met.
Where can I do one?
A flight review can be done by an authorised instructor who has the relevant experience. At TVSA, all of our Grade 1 and Grade 2 instructors can conduct flight reviews.
You don’t have to go back to the same place that you did your flight training at, but it might help for the first couple after you get your licence. They’ll know who you are and your training history, so might be able to tailor a plan to what your weaknesses or bad habits as a student were – and make sure they’re not creeping back in!
If you’re regularly hiring an aircraft from somewhere that can do them, it’s probably going to be best to go there for similar reasons. You’ll be more familiar with the aircraft and the people, which should make the whole experience less stressful.
Of course, you might like to go somewhere new to get some fresh eyes on your techniques, and perhaps get more of an opportunity to learn something from someone else.
What if I did another flight test in the two years since I got my licence?
You may not need a flight review. If you’ve gone from an RPL to a PPL or CPL, that counts. It also counts if you’ve done conversion training from, for example, aeroplane to helicopter and the person who did your training was authorised to conduct a flight review. Some other proficiency checks and endorsements may also cover your flight review requirements.
What if I don’t pass my flight review?
Your assessor should provide guidance on next steps. If you are still within your two-year window, you can still act as PIC where qualified, but should keep in mind the safety of others and what skills you need to work on. Some training flights or ground theory sessions should be booked to help bring your skills back up to standard. If you are outside your two-year window, you cannot fly as PIC until a flight review has been passed. All subsequent flight time should be under instruction.per mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.
Remember – your flight review isn’t meant to be a test. It’s a collaboration between you and the instructor. They’re checking you, but you should also leave having learnt something new.