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Flight Review Requirements Under FAR 61.56

by Greg Reigel 1. November 2005 00:00
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It is always surprising to me how many pilots fail, whether intentionally or inadvertently, to obtain a flight review (formerly called a "biennial flight review") as required by FAR §61.56. This is the type of violation that is not readily apparent to the FAA, but is usually discovered by an FAA inspector's inevitable review of an airman's logbook following an accident, incident or violation. It seems that the requirements of FAR §61.56 are often misunderstood and even ignored. Now is probably as good a time as any to discuss when a flight review is needed and how the requirements can be met.

Requirements Of FAR §61.56

FAR §61.56(a) states that a flight review consists of a minimum of one hour of flight training and one hour of ground training. However, glider pilots may substitute a minimum of three instructional flights in a glider, each of which includes a flight to traffic pattern altitude, in lieu of the one hour of flight training.

The training must include a review of the current general operating and flight rules of FAR Part 91 and a review of those maneuvers and procedures that are necessary for the pilot to demonstrate the safe exercise of the privileges of the pilot certificate. The authorized instructor giving the flight review has the discretion to determine exactly what maneuvers and procedures are included in the flight review.

FAR §61.56(c) goes on to say that the flight review must have been accomplished within the twenty-four calendar months preceding the month in which a pilot acts as pilot in command in an aircraft for which that pilot is rated. The authorized instructor must also endorse the pilot's logbook certifying that the pilot has satisfactorily completed the flight review. A pilot's demonstration of competency in any aircraft satisfies the requirements for all other categories or classes of aircraft for which the pilot is rated.

If a pilot performing a flight review with an authorized instructor is denied a satisfactory endorsement for flight review, the pilot may continue to exercise certificate privileges provided the twenty-four month period has not elapsed since the last flight review. However, if a pilot performs a flight review with an FAA inspector and does not receive a satisfactory endorsement, the pilot would not be able to exercise the certificate privileges until successfully completing a re-examination practical test under 49 USC 44709 (the "709 re-examination" formerly called the "609 re-examination").

When Is A Flight Review Needed?

Although FAR §61.56(c) states that "no person" may act as pilot in command unless he or she has completed a flight review within the preceding twenty four months, implying that any pilot desiring to act as pilot in command must accomplish a flight review, FAR §§61.56(d), (e), (f) and (g) identify several circumstances under which a pilot is either not required to accomplish a flight review or he or she may accomplish the flight review based upon requirements different than those specified in FAR §61.56(a).

Student Pilots. Under FAR §61.56(g), a student pilot is not required to accomplish a flight review provided the student pilot is undergoing training for a certificate and has a current solo flight endorsement as required under FAR §61.87.

Check-Ride/Line-Check Exemption. FAR §61.56(d) states that a flight review is unnecessary if within the preceding twenty-four months a pilot has passed a pilot proficiency check conducted by an examiner, an approved pilot check airman, or a U.S. Armed Force, for a pilot certificate, rating, or operating privilege. This means that a pilot who has passed a check-ride or line-check need not accomplish a flight review for another twenty-four months following the successful completion of that check-ride or line-check.

However, pilots should be aware that if they intend to rely upon a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) initial or add-on check-ride, the various Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO's) are inconsistent as to whether this examination qualifies as a flight review. If a pilot intends to rely on this type of check-ride for his or her flight review, a call to the governing FSDO would be appropriate to confirm its position on the issue. Alternatively, if a pilot is going to be taking a CFI initial or add-on check-ride, he or she should ask the examiner to conduct the oral and practical test so as to satisfy the flight review requirements as well, and to then endorse the pilot's logbook accordingly upon completion of the check-ride.

Certified Flight Instructors. Under FAR §61.56(f), if a CFI has satisfactorily completed a renewal of a flight instructor certificate under the provisions in FAR §61.197 within the preceding twenty-four months, the one hour of ground training is not required. However, the one hour of flight training is still required.

FAA Wings Program. If a pilot participates in a FAA-sponsored pilot proficiency award program (the "Wings" program) within the preceding twenty-four months and accomplishes one or more phases of the Wings program, FAR §61.56(e) states that the pilot need not accomplish a flight review. Advisory Circular 61-91H describes the Wings program and sets forth the requirements for completing a particular phase in the program.

In order to qualify, a pilot must attend at least one FAA-sponsored or FAA-sanctioned aviation safety seminar or industry-conducted recurrent training program and the pilot's attendance must be verified in the pilot's logbook or other proficiency record, signed by an FAA Safety Program Manager (SPM), other FAA inspector, or an Aviation Safety Counselor (ASC) involved in conducting the seminar. Additionally, the pilot must receive three hours of flight training as follows: one hour of flight training to include basic airplane control stalls, turns, and other maneuvers directed toward mastery of the airplane; one hour of flight training to include approaches, takeoffs, and landings, including crosswind, soft field, and short field techniques; and one hour of instrument training in an airplane, FAA approved aircraft simulator or training device.

Benefits Of A Flight Review

Not only is a flight review required by the FAR's, but it is also good operating practice. A flight review can provide the pilot with an opportunity to practice maneuvers and procedures he or she wouldn't ordinarily perform in the ordinary course of his or her flying (e.g. emergency procedures or maximum performance maneuvers). It is also a chance to fine-tune and hone piloting skills or to try something new or that the pilot may not otherwise feel comfortable practicing on his or her own.

Also, the FAR's and the FAA's interpretation of the FAR's is constantly changing and/or being clarified. Airspace and operations into certain airports is also changing. The ground instruction component of the flight review can update a pilot as to some of the latest changes and clarifications of which the pilot may not otherwise be aware.


Now is a good time to examine your logbook and determine whether you are in compliance with FAR §61.56. If you are not, find a good flight instructor and obtain a flight review. Also, if you are goal or mission oriented, as many pilots are, you may want to get involved in the Wings program. Regardless of how you accomplish it, compliance with FAR §61.56 is not only required, it is also good operating practice.

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Greg Reigel


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