The Biennial Flight Review, affectionately called the BFR by those who have any affection for reviews. I don’t count myself among them. According to FAA regulations, every two years pilots who have not earned new ratings or are not currently students have to be reviewed to keep the pilot certificate current. It never expires, but it does have to be current in order to be used.
Well, I had my first review on Saturday, April 16th, 2005. Basically I sat with a flight instructor all day and went over everything I learned prior to getting my pilot’s certificate and then I had to take a flight with him critiquing me. It was tiring and nerve-wracking.
We went over airspace, weather, in flight emergencies, airomedical, FAA regulations, plane operating systems and flight planning. Throughout the ground portion of the review I worried about whether or not I remembered enough, or remembered it correctly. Heck, I felt like I was back doing my checkride. Of course, I had to get the instructor that just moved to Hawai`i and was still unfamiliar with island flying. This did complicate things as he mispronounced Airport names or said the wrong name entirely. I couldn’t remember the floors of Class G airspace, but then again we don’t have Class G in Hawai`i. Of course we don’t have Class A in Hawai`i either, but I’m not rated to fly there. I know where it is though. Ugh.
Then of course I had trouble remembering the frequency to transmit a Mayday on when we went over emergency procedures. 121.5. I said 122.5. Brain cramp. And of course I got asked the inevitable question about the carburetor versus the fuel injection and which is better. Personally, I think that just depends on what you are doing.
Finally, the ground portion was done, and it was time to fly. Sort of. The plane the instructor reserved was checked out and we had to wait about 30 minutes until it came back. I was unhappy anyway because the plane he reserved was the one I don’t like. I’ve always had trouble with the radios in it, and therefore choose not to fly it because I don’t want to worry about it while I’m flying.
Anyway, when the plane finally came back in, I did my preflight and climbed in hoping to get this over with. After all I was paying for the instructor by the hour. Already I had spent an hour and a half on ground.
Once, I started the plane, I knew I was going to have issues. For one thing, I still had trouble figuring out the radio stack. This particular plane has four radios, and each of them is set up differently with different power switches. There isn’t an all-encompassing avionics switch. Then I started taxiing and discovered that the rudder was a lot heavier than the planes I’m used to. As I rolled up to the runway, the instructor was beginning to get a little annoying. He started messing with the controls of the plane. That has got to be my biggest pet peeve with flying with other pilots. And every time it happens, I have to wonder if it’s a male pilot thing. Eighty percent of the time that I have flown with male pilots they always mess with the controls. In this case, he started messing with my mixture and throttle. Two very important levers that should not be touched by anyone not in control of the plane. Bad things happen when they move unexpectedly.
Finally, the time came. I was cleared to takeoff. I rolled down the runway and did a perfect textbook takeoff with rotation at 55 (KIAS) Knots Indicated Air Speed. We flew north toward Haleiwa and on command I perfectly performed steep turns, slow flight, with and without flaps and turns to heading, climbs and descents. I was complimented on my awareness of the airspace and the completeness of my clearing turns. Unfortunately, I was already irritated with the instructor. Why? Because I had to fight him for control of the plane! I’d just finish a flawless manuever and he’d grab the yoke say something like, “Very good. Start on a south heading and do a steep turn,” or “Let’s climb to 2500.” I kept thinking, why don’t you just tell me what you want and I’ll do it. Quit grabbing the controls.
Then came the time for power on and power off stalls and emergency procedures. I hate stalls. Ever since the first stall my first instructor performed and we went into an incipient spin instead. Needless to say, my first attempt at a power off stall was less than spectacular. I lost altitude which is a big no-no, and I jerked the yoke. Another big no-no. Luckily, I got another chance and that time it was much smoother. I climbed back to 2500, put the plane in a landing configuration, slowed her way down and then pulled back on the yoke until the stall warning went off and the plane buffeted. Then just as that weightless feeling began, I dropped the nose, slammed the rudder hard and put in full throttle. I was elated that I had done it well. My power on stall was just as flawless. I was shocked. But my high didn’t last.
It was time to do emergency landings. Again, I climbed to 2500 and waited for him to pull the power on me. Well, he didn’t. Instead he said, “Whenever you’re ready.” I looked at him sideways because every time I’ve ever done emergency procedures the instructor has pulled power on me. I never did it myself. I thought it was done that way to simulate the surprise. Anyway, I applied carb heat and pulled the throttle to idle. Then put the plane in best glide and began looking for a suitable field to land in. Once I spotted it, I wanted to go a little further downwind, so I turned the plane slowly and tried to maintain altitude. I didn’t expect him to steepen my turn for me, causing me to lose altitude. I fought back control of the yoke and went through the emergency checklist, fuel, mixture, throttle, carb heat, circuit breakers, mags, master switch. I continued downwind from the field I had selected, maintaining altitude very well. Then I went through the shut down checklist, fuel, mixture, throttle, carb heat, mags, Squawk 7700, Mayday frequency 121.5. I turned back to my chosen field and determined I was too high to land, so I chose the next field. Well, that’s when the problems began. For one thing my instructor had a third field in mind for where he wanted me to perform a landing. So he began yanking the yoke which made me lose altitude faster than I had anticipated. Suddenly I couldn’t make my second field, nor could I make the first field. I had to go for his field. I was not happy. Of course he told me, I needed to practice emergency procedures because, A. I was too slow, and B. he wasn’t confident I could make the field, but he did admit to “possibly having a different field in mind than the one you chose.” DUH!
Finally we went to Kalaeloa (PHNL) where I pounded out take offs and landings, normal, short field, soft field, emergency, over an obstacle, aborted and even power off. Amazingly, he didn’t try to take the yoke from me while we were in the pattern. But as we were leaving Kalaeloa, he did grab the yoke and instead of saying, “Entry altitude is 1500 now, not 2000,” he just tried to force me down. Another irritant.
All in all, it was a tiring and expensive ordeal. Fighting the instructor for control was definitely the worst. Of course a bill of $245 didn’t help put me in a better mood. But I passed my BFR with flying colors. I earned a Satisfactory Completion and I’m current to fly passengers for another two years.
Thank goodness that’s over with. Now I just need to make sure I’m good on the emergency procedures when dealing with passengers of “authority” who mess with the controls. Any “normal” passenger is getting an elbow to the nose.