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You, brand-new holder of a pilot certificate, have just been through an ordeal involving an airplane, an examiner, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Relax and exhale, knowing that you have two years to enjoy your newfound privileges before anybody questions your piloting abilities.
What’s that, you say? You didn’t know you were going to have to jump through any hoops ever again? Ah, but you will!
It’s called a flight review. Once known as a biennial flight review - many pilots still call it a BFR - fulfillment of the flight review is a requirement for you to continue to act as a pilot in command. It has a single purpose: to determine whether you continue to have the skills you need to be a safe pilot. The flight review must be completed every 24 months from the date of your last certificate, rating, or flight review. You have two years from the last day of the month in which you got your ticket or rating or review.
Federal Aviation Regulation 61.56 outlines the requirements of a flight review: a minimum of an hour of flight training and one hour of ground training. The general operating rules of Part 91 are to be covered in the ground portion. For the flight portion, the reviewer (a CFI) will choose maneuvers and procedures that prove you’re capable of safely exercising the privileges of your certificate. You’ll talk, you'll fly as the CFI probes to see what you’ve retained and what has gone missing in the previous 24 months. You must perform to your CFI’s satisfaction so as to obtain a logbook endorsement, but there’s no actual test involved. You can’t fail.
Completing one or more phases of the FAA Wings Pilot Proficiency Program satisfies the flight review requirements of FAR 61.56. The Wings program stipulates three flight courses and three knowledge courses, and you submit your progress to the FAA online (www.faasafety.gov/WINGS). The program is designed to take you to a higher level of proficiency than simply fulfilling the straight requirements of a flight review, so there are more tasks to complete and more deadlines to follow. Many AOPA Air Safety Institute online offerings (www.airsafetyinstitute.org) qualify for Wings credit.