Flight Review Prep Guide

Welcome to the Flight Review Preparation Course!

This course offers a structured guide to reviewing the regulations and advisory material you need to know to complete the ground portion of your flight review and, more importantly, to fly safely in the national airspace system.  Completing this course in advance of your scheduled flight review will allow you and your instructor to use your ground time more efficiently. 

HAI-25 Flight Review Prep Guide

Course Structure

Course Structure

Course Structure

This course organizes the review of regulations and advisory material into four categories:  

      Pilot - your responsibility as PIC.  

      Aircraft -- airworthiness, maintenance, and inspections.

enVironment - airports, airspace, air traffic control, and weather  

      External pressures -- decision-making and risk management

Each chapter includes links to online material and related media, which are integral to the course.  Although some of the course is self-contained, it is primarily intended to be a guide to conducting your own review and study of the material.    You may want to have paper copies of  the regulations (14 CFR 91, 14 CFR 61) and the AIM close at hand as you work though the review.  The AIM will be especially helpful in the flight environment chapter of this course.

NOTE:  The Department of Transportation mandated that all of its public-facing websites be 508-compliant (universally accessible).  All non-compatible HTML files were converted to PDF to remain online, which also necessitates a search to find the desired reference. Website links may only take you to the general subject area where you may have to drill down to select the desired reference.  

Course Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1) Pilot
  • Chapter 2) Aircraft
  • Chapter 3) Environment for Flight
  • Chapter 4) External Pressures
  • Review
  • Exam

Course Completion

The exam for this course is a little different from other tests you may have taken in connection with your pilot training.  Although it is a multiple-choice exam, the questions are structured as "mini-scenarios" that test your understanding of how the regulations should be applied in real-world flying.  Read them carefully, and then select the best answer.



The Buck Stops Here...

The FAA is very clear in stating that being Pilot-in-Command (PIC) of an aircraft -- whatever its size -- is a big responsibility.  In fact, the PIC is "directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation" of the aircraft (14 CFR 91.3).  Being PIC means that the buck stops with you.  Nobody else - not your passengers, not ATC, and not anyone else on the ground - is the final authority on operation of the aircraft.

Don’t  forget that in an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action that you can deviate from any rule of Part 91 to the extent required to meet the emergency (14 CFR 91.3(b) – if you are talking with ATC be sure to inform them as soon as possible.  Then, if requested, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator (14 CFR 91.3(c). 

Ignorance is No Excuse

In flying, as on the highway, ignorance of the law is no excuse for making mistakes.  In aviation, the rules in 14 CFR 91.103 are very clear about what you should know -- everything!   If you like acronyms, you might remember that you need a "wealth" of information:

   Weather reports and forecasts,   Expected performance of the aircraft given expected conditions,   Alternatives available,   Length of runways to be used,   Traffic delays and terrain avoidance, and   How much fuel is required. 

Buckle Up

One of your responsibilities as PIC is to ensure that your passengers are briefed on use of safety belts (14 CFR 91.107).  This duty has several parts: 

  • Ensures that each person on board is briefed on how to fasten and unfasten that person's safety belt and, if installed, shoulder harness
  • Ensures that each person on board has been notified to fasten his or her safety belt and, if installed, his or her shoulder harness
  • Ensures that each person on board a U.S.-registered civil aircraft must occupy an approved seat or berth with a safety belt and, if installed, shoulder harness, properly secured about him or her during movement on the surface, takeoff, and landing.

Flight crew members must have safety belts fastened at all times, and must use shoulder harnesses (if installed) during takeoff and landing unless it would interfere for performance of duties.It is a good idea to include other items in your pre-flight briefing to passengers.  A good way to remember the topics to cover is to think SAFE

S - seatbelts, shoulder harnesses, sterile cockpit A - air vents and environmental controls F - fire extinguisher location and operation E - exit and emergency instructions (e.g., how to open doors)

Careful and Wreck-less

One of the broadest rules is 14 CFR 91.13, which says that "no person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner."  The rule applies not only to flight, but also to aircraft operations on the ground.  Avoiding careless and reckless operation means complying with all other regulations, including the following:

  • You have to ensure that the aircraft is airworthy and in a condition for safe flight (14 CFR 91.7).
  • You are complying with the operating limitation specified in the approved aircraft flight manual and / or all marking and placards (14 CFR 91.9(a).
  • You must take "reasonable precautions" to prevent injury or damage on the ground if you drop something from an airplane (14 CFR 91.15).
  • You may not act as PIC if you have consumed alcohol within the last 8 hours, if your blood alcohol content is .04 or higher, or if you are under the influence of any drug that affects your faculties in a way contrary to safety (14 CFR 91.17(a)).
  • You may not allow anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs (except a medical patient under proper care) to be carried in your aircraft, except in an emergency (14 CFR 91.17(b)).


Fit to Fly?

Flying requires attention and concentration.  Many things can affect your fitness to fly, and the familiar IMSAFE checklist is a good way to preflight the pilot.  As outlined in  AIM 8-1-1, you need to verify that you are not impaired by:

       I - Illness

       M - Medication

       S - Stress

       A - Alcohol

       F - Fatigue

       E - Emotion. 

You should also be aware of how various situations can affect your perception and your judgment.  These include:

  • Hypoxia (AIM 8-1-2) and other effects of altitude
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (AIM 8-1-4)
  • Illusions (AIM 8-1-5)
  • Vision (AIM 8-1-6)

You will read more about issues that can affect your judgment in Chapter 4 of this course (External Pressures).



Worthy to Fly?

As PIC, you are responsible to have "an appropriate and current airworthiness certificate" in the aircraft (14 CFR 91.203(a)(1)), but the certificate itself does not mean that the aircraft is airworthy, your job is to determine if the aircraft you intend to fly is airworthy, and in a condition for safe flight (14 CFR 91.7).  What does that mean?  

14 CFR FAR 91.7 has two parts - FAR 91.7 (a) states that “No person may operate an aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition” – which means it complies with FAR 3.5(a) and AC 43.13 1B – Appendixes, which states that Airworthy means the aircraft conforms to its type design and is in a condition for safe operation, and only an FAA licensed mechanic can attest to the airworthiness.  The mechanic follows the procedures outlined in FAR 43 for the maintenance, preventative maintenance, rebuilding, and alterations of the aircraft in order to maintain the “airworthiness condition” of the aircraft.

FAR 91.7 (b) states that “The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when un-airworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.”  This occurs through a complete and thorough preflight of the aircraft and being alert to changing conditions of the aircraft systems and structure. 

FAA Handbook 8083-19A (Plane Sense) explains these requirements in more detail, but in general:

  • Conformity to type design means that the required and proper components are installed, and that they are consistent with the drawings, specifications, and other data in the type certificate.  Conformity includes applicable supplemental type certificates (STCs), and field-approved alterations.  It would also include compliance with airworthiness directives (ADs). 

To be in a safe condition to fly, it must have been maintained and inspected as required. 

Properly Equipped?

There are two equipment-related regulations that you need to know especially well. 

The first is 14 CFR 91.205, which lists the instruments and equipment required for different types of flight.   Some pilots use acronyms to remember these items.  Another way is to think of them in terms of three categories:  engine, performance/navigation, and safety.  Click on this link - Required Equipment Chart for a chart listing required equipment for each of these categories.

The second is 14 CFR 91.213, which deals with inoperative instruments and equipment.  The first part of this regulation relates to aircraft for which there is an approved Minimum Equipment List (MEL).  If your aircraft does not have a MEL (often the case for light GA aircraft), you need to ask yourself several questions to determine whether you can legally fly with inoperative instruments or equipment.  Specifically:

  • Is the affected equipment part of the VFR-day type certificate?  
  • Is the affected equipment listed as required on the aircraft's equipment list or kinds of operation list?
  • Is the affected equipment required by any other regulation, e.g., 91.205, 91.207?
  • Is the affected equipment required to be operative by an airworthiness directive

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then the aircraft must be grounded.  If the answer to all of these questions is "no," then the last step is to remove or deactivate the affected item, and mark it as "inoperative."  Click this hyperlink – AC 91-67  Minimum Equipment Requirements for General Aviation Operations Under FAR Part 91, to read the FAA's advisory circular on acceptable methods for the operation of aircraft under Federal Aviation Regulations Part 91 with certain inoperative instrument and equipment, which are not essential for safe flight.

The owner or operator of an aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition (14 CFR 91.403).  These duties, as outlined in 14 CFR 91.403,  91.407, and 91.417, include ensuring that:

  • Required inspections are performed.
  • Discrepancies are repaired.
  • Maintenance personnel make appropriate logbook entries, to include description of work, date of completion, and signature and certificate number of the person who approves the aircraft for return to service.
  • Inoperative instruments and equipment are treated in accordance with 14 CFR 91.213.

As PIC, you do not have to perform these duties yourself.  You do, however, have primary responsibility for verifying that the aircraft you intend to fly is airworthy and in a condition for safe flight. 

Inspections Done?

Part of ensuring that the aircraft you intend to fly is airworthy and in condition for safe flight involves verifying that all required inspections have been completed.  The chart below summarizes what to look for:

 What How Often Reference, Annual inspection & ADs Every 12 calendar months(ADs are required)

14 CFR 91.409(a)(1)

VVOR check (if used for IFR) Every 30 days 14 CFR 91.171100 hour inspection (if used for hire or flight instruction) Every 100 hours 14 CFR 91.409(b)  Altimeter & Pitot-Static System Every 24 calendar months 14 CFR 91.411(a)(1)Transponder Every 24 calendar months 14 CFR 91.413  ELT (emergency locator transmitter) operation & battery currency Every 12 calendar months(see ref for replacement schedule) 14 CFR 91.207 

GPS / RNAV Navigation Databases - Required for IFR Navigation

(For any flight - VFR or IFR -  check Aircraft Flight Manual Supplement (AFMS) for any additional restrictions or authorizations)

Every 28 Days AFMS is Controlling Document


Experimental or Restricted?

If you are flying an aircraft in a restricted or experimental category, you will need to review the regulations concerning operation of these aircraft.  You will find the provisions applicable to restricted category aircraft in 14 CFR 91.313.  Operating limitations that apply to aircraft with experimental certificates are located in 14 CFR 91.319.

If you operate a restricted or experimental category aircraft, remember to take time and become familiar with the limitations on carrying passengers and where the aircraft can be operated.    

On Glass...

What does it take to be pilot-in-command of a glass cockpit aircraft – or a Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA)? The rapid rise of glass cockpit avionics is showing us that pilot skills for both normal and emergency operations must include not just mechanical manipulation of stick and rudder, but also the mental mastery of three key flight management skills: information management, automation management, and risk management. Are you up to the challenge?  The first challenge is to acquire the “how-to” knowledge needed to operate advanced avionics systems.  The second challenge is learning to manage the many information and automation resources now available to you in the cockpit.  The third challenge is learning how advanced avionics systems affect the pilot.

TAA are able to provide increased ‘available safety,’ i.e., a potential for increased safety. However, to actually obtain this available safety, pilots must receive additional training in the specific TAA systems in their aircraft that will enable them to exploit the opportunities and operate within the limitations inherent in their TAA systems.”  An excellent reference source for operating these advanced avionics is the FAA Advanced Avionics Handbook, packed with excellent “how to’s” and an essential skills lists to keep you at the top of your game.

Safety of flight can be hampered if you are not aware of what data the presentation is displaying or confuses that data with other information. Safety of flight can be compromised if you attempt to use the advanced avionics to substitute for required weather or aerodynamic needs. Safety of flight can be negated if you attempt to learn the advanced avionics system while in flight. You should use advanced avionics to reduce risk.  Proper use of checklists and systematic training should be used to control common error-prone tasks and notice errors before they become a threat to safety of flight.  There are many “gotch ya’s” when operating TAA and a pilots lack of skill and attention can have dire consequences, including notification of next of kin.

Is your FMS/RNAV unit approved for IFR navigation?

The first place to check when determining IFR certification for an FMS is the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH), the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM) – or AFM Supplement (AFMS). For every aircraft with an IFR approved FMS/RNAV unit, the AFM explicitly states that the unit has been approved for IFR navigation and what IFR operations are specifically authorized for that installation.

The effective dates for the navigation database are shown on a start-up screen that is displayed as the FMS cycles through its startup self-test. Check these dates to ensure that the navigation database is current (they are updated in 28 day cycles).  The navigation database contained in the FMS must be current if the system is to be used for IFR navigation and approaches.  The use of an expired navigation database for VFR flight might cause you to stray into airspace that was not yet designated at the time the expired navigation database was published. Some VFR-only GPS units do not alert you when signal reception has faded, which could lead to reliance on erroneous position information.

The AFMS should state the certification status of the installed system. The supplements to the AFM should state the status of the installed equipment, including the installed avionics. Most systems require that the advanced avionics manuals be on board as a limitation of use.

NOTAMs relevant to GPS - It is important to check all NOTAMs prior to IFR flights and, especially,

GPS and WAAS NOTAMs before flying. Remember, when talking to a flight service station (FSS)/automated flight service station (AFSS) briefer, you must specifically request GPS/WAAS NOTAMs.

Sometimes anolomies are observed in the behavior of the GPS system and cause a GPS UNRELIABLE NOTAM to be issued. Similarly, published instrument procedures that rely on RNAV equipment sometimes become “Not Available” when safety concerns arise, such as ground-based interference.

Many GPS RNAV units include a feature called receiver autonomous integrity monitoring (RAIM) that

allows you to view predictions about future signal reception at specific locations. Be sure to specifically request a RAIM report from your AFSS briefer.  WAAS-enabled receivers do not have this restriction or limitation due to the error corrections available from the WAAS.

It is very important to know what equipment is installed in the aircraft. GPS-based FMS/RNAV units certified to TSO-C145A or TSO-146A may be used when an alternate airport is required in the flight plan for the approaches at the destination and alternate airport if the WAAS is operational.  No other navigation avionics would be required. Units certified under TSO-C129 are not authorized for alternate approach requirements.

Since air traffic control (ATC) issues clearances based on aircraft equipment suffixes, consult the Aeronautical Information Manual AIM Table 5-1-2, Aircraft Suffixes, to ensure that the flight plan includes the correct equipment suffix for a particular aircraft.

How Much Fuel?

Fuel-related light aircraft accidents usually involve one of two problems.  The first is fuel starvation, which means that fuel cannot get to the engine(s), even though there may be plenty of fuel in the tanks.  Knowing your aircraft's fuel system very thoroughly is key to avoiding fuel starvation accidents.

The second is fuel exhaustion, which results from running out of gas.  The regulations attempt to prevent this problem by specifying minimum fuel requirements for different kinds of flight.  Regardless of time of day and flight rules (VFR or IFR), the regulations always require you to carry enough fuel to the first point of intended landing, and then continue for a specified period of time.  Specifically:

  • Day VFR - Destination + 30 minutes at cruising speed (91.151)
  • Night VFR - Destination + 45 minutes at cruising speed (91.151)
  • IFR - Destination + alternate + 45 minutes at cruising speed (91.167).

Remember that these numbers are absolute minimum levels.  Many pilots plan to have a least a 1 hour reserve for VFR, and more for IFR flight.



All About Airports

You are expected to taxi an airplane safely whether moving to or from a runway or otherwise moving about the airport.  Scenarios such as bad weather, low visibility, construction, airport unfamiliarity, time of day, distractions, fatigue, and mis-communications with air traffic control (ATC) add greatly to the challenge of airport surface navigation.  The information in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)) and the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge  is designed to help you attain an understanding of the risks associated with surface navigation and is intended to provide you with basic information regarding the safe operation of aircraft at towered and non-towered airports.

Airport markings:  The AIM 2-1 covers every type of aeronautical and airport lighting and visual aid you might encounter at an airport and the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, Appendix 1 Runway Incursion Avoidance addresses runway incursion avoidance in a much broader way. 

You will also find it helpful to review AC 150/5340-1L - Standards for Airport Markingsand some good operating practices are found in AC 91-73B - Part 91 and 135 Single Pilot, Flight School Procedures During Taxi Operations.

For runway safety diagrams and flashcards, visit the  FAA's Runway Safety Flash Cards and Quiz website.  Follow the instructions provided for use with a smartphone, and if you are using a computer just select “start flash cards” for the first slide.  Left click on the slide image and that will take you to the slide explanation page.  To leave that page and view another slide, simply right click and select “reload” from the drop down box and that will take you to the next slide.  There is no need to click the “return to runway safety” button except to exit the program.

For additional information on runway safety go to:  FAA Office of Runway Safety.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation also offers an interactive online Course on Runway Safety .  If you are not an AOPA member, you will need to register to view the course and to get credit – takes about a minute.    

Airport and Traffic Pattern Operations:  AIM 4-3  addresses airport and airport traffic pattern operations in detail, including components, standard altitudes, recommended entries, and direction of turns (also covered in 14 CFR 91.126 .   Since instructors love to ask about light gun signals, use the “Light Gun Signals Chart” to  review the information in 14 CFR 91.125  and AIM 4-3-13 .   

For more information on ATC visit FAA Order JO 7110.65W and FAA Order JO 7110.65W Change 1.  They prescribe air traffic control procedures and phraseology for use by persons providing air traffic control services. Controllers are required to be familiar with the provisions of this order that pertain to their operational responsibilities and to exercise their best judgment if they encounter situations that are not covered by it.

No one wants to end up on the wrong side of an airspace or regulatory violation, so no matter what you fly, or where you fly it, you need a thorough knowledge of airspace.  The charts below summarize the various types of airspace and the entry, operating, and equipment requirements for each.  The FAA offers separate training courses on special use airspace such as the New York City Special Flight Rules Area  or Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) .

Type Who Can Operate Entry Requirements Equipment  Needed


91.135 AIM 3-2-2

IFR pilots with IFR-equipped aircraftATC IFR clearance Prior to Entering

Two-way radio

Aircraft is equipped with the applicable Transponder / Altitude Encoding equipment specified in §91.215,and after January 1, 2020,§91.225,the applicable ADS-B equipment.



91.131 AIM 3-2-3

Specific Pilot Requirements for Class B - §91.131(b)


ATC clearance and

ATC Clearance and

use of call sign when

operating at tower

controlled airport use of call sign Before Operating within Class B – entering or exiting

Two-way radio

Operable VOR or TACAN receiver or an operable and suitable RNAV system (IFR only) §91.131(c)(1)


Aircraft is equipped with the applicable Transponder / Altitude Encoding equipment specified in §91.215,


after January 1, 2020,§91.225,the applicable ADS-B equipment.



91.130 AIM 3-2-4


ATC clearance and use of call sign Before Operating within Class C - §91.130(c) – entering or exiting

Two-way radio

Aircraft is equipped with the applicable Transponder / Altitude Encoding equipment specified in §91.215,


after January 1, 2020,§91.225,the applicable ADS-B equipment.

 D         91.129 AIM 3-2-5VFR & IFR

ATC clearance and use of call sign Before Operating within Class D - §91.129(c) – entering or exiting

Two-way radio

Aircraft is equipped with the applicable Transponder / Altitude Encoding equipment specified in §91.215,


after January 1, 2020,§91.225,the applicable ADS-B equipment.



91.127 AIM 3-2-6


ATC Clearance and use of call sign when operating at tower  controlled airport

Two-way radio when

operating at tower

controlled airport

Aircraft is equipped with the  applicable Transponder / Altitude Encoding equipment specified in §91.215,


after January 1, 2020,§91.225,the applicable ADS-B equipment if IFR.



91.126 AIM 3-3


ATC Clearance and use of call sign when operating at tower controlled airport


Two-way radio when operating at tower controlled airport


Additional help can be found on  the  “Airspace Types, Chart Depiction & Requirements” chart, and one you can carry and use in your flight kit “Airspace Depiction Chart” .

Flying, like driving, requires you to follow certain "rules of the road."

Altitudes:   The “Altitude Rule Summary” chart lists the rules related to minimum safe altitudes, cruising altitudes, etc.  The “oxygen requirements” chart covers oxygen use for crew and passengers.   Being at the correct altitude requires that you have the correct altimeter setting.  If you are below 18,000 MSL, 14 CFR 91.121 directs you to have the current reported altimeter setting of a station within 100 nm of your route.  If not available, you may use the altimeter setting of "an appropriate available station" or that of the departure airport.

Speed Limits:  Aircraft speed limits are associated with classes of airspace (14 CFR 91.117), as follows:

  • 250 knots IAS if below 10,000 MSL
  • 200 knots IAS if operating:
    • in airspace underlying Class B, or if
    • within four (4) nm or 2,500 AGL of Class C or D airspace

Flying Around Other Aircraft:  The basic idea is to keep your distance.  The rules (14 CFR 91.111) prohibit operating close enough to another aircraft to create a collision hazard, and you may not fly in formation without prior arrangement with the PIC of the other aircraft.  Formation flying is prohibited if you are carrying passengers for hire.  One caution:  even though the rules permit formation flying in certain circumstances, it is not a good idea unless you and the other pilot(s) have specific training and experience in this kind of flying. 

Knowing the right-of-way rules (except water operations) (14 CFR 91.113) will help you avoid unintentional formation flying. 

  • An aircraft in distress always has the right-of-way. 
  • For converging aircraft, the aircraft on the right has the right-of-way if the two aircraft are in the same category and class (except that an aircraft towing or refueling another has right-of-way over all other engine-driven aircraft).
    • If the converging aircraft are of different categories, the least maneuverable aircraft has right-of-way (e.g., balloon has right-of-way over any other category).
  • To overtake another aircraft, the overtaking aircraft passes to the right in order to ensure that the PIC of the overtaking aircraft can easily see and avoid the slower aircraft.
  • When two aircraft are approaching head-on, each alters course to the right. 
  • When landing, the aircraft at the lower altitude has right-of-way.  However, the rules say that you must not take advantage of this rule to descend and cut in front of another aircraft. 

Working with ATC

Air Traffic Control (ATC) provides many services to pilots.  These services are extensively described in AIM 4-1.  Your review should include:

  • Approach Control Service for VFR Arriving Aircraft (AIM 4-1-8)
  • Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports w/o Operating Control Towers  (AIM 4-1-9)
  • ATIS (AIM 4-1-13)
  • Radar Assistance to VFR Aircraft (AIM 4-1-16)
  • Transponder Operation (AIM 4-1-19)
  • Radio Communications Phraseology and Techniques (AIM 4-2). 
  • Pilot-Controller Glossary

The Pilot-Controller Glossary is an especially important area to review.  Did you know, for example, that when ATC instructs you to "fly runway heading," you are expected to fly exactly that heading (i.e., with no drift correction applied)?  

For detailed information on ATC Procedures, review AIM 5-1..  For flight review purposes, your review should include:

  • Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) System (AIM 5-1-3)
  • VFR Flight Plans (AIM 5-1-4)
  • Emergency Procedures (AIM 6-1)

Weather Wisdom

Weather awareness and understanding are vital to safety. There are many sources of weather information, and this section will point to some of the resources available both in print and on the Internet.

Advisory Circular AC-00-45G - Aviation Weather Services, Change 2 defines the basic weather conditions as follows:

For special VFR (14 CFR 91.157), the basic requirements are 1 statute mile of visibility and clear of clouds. Special VFR at night requires that the pilot have an instrument rating and that the aircraft be equipped for instrument flight. In all cases, special VFR must be explicitly requested by the pilot.

The VFR Weather Minimums chart for a summary of the additional requirements for flight visibility and distance from clouds (14 CFR 91.155).

For a comprehensive review of aviation weather products and services, take a look at AIM 7-1, Meteorology. This chapter provides extensive information on weather products (AIM 7-1-1), FAA weather services (AIM 7-1-2), preflight briefing (AIM 7-1-4), the en route flight advisory service (AIM 7-1-5), AIRMETS and SIGMETS (AIM 7-1-6), Weather Observing Systems such as AWOS (AIM 7-1-12), and ATC Inflight Weather Avoidance Assistance (AIM 7-1-14).

Pay special attention to AIM information on thunderstorms (AIM 7-1-28) and thunderstorm flying (AIM 7-1-29), which is actually about thunderstorm avoidance.

You will also find useful information on decoding TAFs and METARs (AIM 7-1-30).




Pushing On

At some point in your flying career, you probably got a warning about "get-there-itis."  That is because over the years, a number of general aviation accidents have been associated with external or social pressures, such as the pilot's reluctance to appear cowardly or to disappoint passengers eager to make or continue a trip.  There is almost always pressure on the pilot to launch, and pressure to continue.  Even the small investment in making the trip to the airport can create pressure to avoid wasted time. 

Factors that can affect you include: 

  • Someone waiting at the airport;
  • Fear of disappointing friends or family;
  • Desire to demonstrate pilot qualifications (e.g., instrument rating);
  • Desire to impress someone;
  • Desire to satisfy an personal goal; and
  • Pilot's general goal-completion orientation.

Learning to resist these external pressures is vital to safe flying. 

Pushing Back

Here are some ways to push back against pressures to push on: 

  • Develop personal minimums that will help you make the toughest go / no-go and continue / divert decisions well in advance of any specific flight.
  • Let your passengers know that safety is your top priority.
  • Manage passenger expectations right from the start:
    • Show them your personal minimums, and tell them up front that you will not launch, or continue, in conditions that do not meet your pre-established minimums.
    • Know what pressures are driving them, and develop alternatives (e.g., airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars) before you start the trip that will relieve anxiety for both you and your passengers.
  • Advise anyone meeting you that your plans are flexible. 
  • Establish "reality check" checkpoints along the route, at which you will reevaluate conditions before pressing on.
  • If possible have an alternative in mind for every 25-30nm segment of your flight.  Know in advance what conditions will trigger a diversion.
  • Remind yourself - and others - that one of the most effective tools you have is waiting!  Bad weather rarely lasts more than a day or two. 

Making Good Decisions

We all talk about good decision-making, but what is it?  How do we accomplish it?  There are many formal definitions, but good decision-making comes down to getting information, evaluating that information, and doing the right thing. 

One of the best ways to think is to constantly ask yourself questions.  There are many models for decision-making.   One model that you might want to try is the FAA's 3-P framework, in which you:

  • P erceive hazards
  • P rocess their impact on your safety, and
  • P erform by mitigating or eliminating the problem.   

The 3-P model encourages you to ask questions: 

  • What can hurt me? (perceive)
  • How can it hurt me? (process)
  • How can I make sure it doesn't hurt me?  (perform)



Chapter 1 - Pilot

The FAA gives "direct" responsibility and "final authority" for operation of an aircraft to the pilot-in-command.  You are thus responsible for obtaining all available information about the flight and about your aircraft.  Being PIC means you also have certain responsibilities to your passengers.


Chapter 2 - Aircraft

For aircraft to be airworthy, it must conform to its type design and be in a condition for safe flight.  That means ensuring that all required maintenance and inspections have been performed, and that you have all the required equipment.   Taking care of your aircraft also means ensuring that you have enough fuel (including reserves).


Chapter 3 - Environment for Flight

As PIC, you need to be thoroughly familiar with airport markings (signs, colors, symbols, lights), as well as with airport and traffic pattern operations recommended in the AIM.  Flying safely in the National Airspace System requires a solid understanding of airspace, including special use airspace and "rules of the road" for altitudes, speeds, distance from other aircraft, and ATC procedures.  Another important part of the flight environment is weather, which includes not only obtaining information, but also knowing how to interpret and apply it.

Chapter 4 - External Pressures

Pilots are always under pressure to push on, so it is important to know how to push back against external and social pressures.  Personal minimums and use of the 3-P aeronautical decision-making model can help you resist the temptation to launch or continue against your better judgment.






External Pressures:


What is the most important thing to remember about being Pilot-in-Comand?

  • You can log PIC flight time only when you are the sole manipulator of the controls.
  • The FAA holds you directly responsible for the flight, and considers you to be the final authority regarding its operation.
  • You can log flight time whenever you are acting as PIC of an aircraft.
  • With a private pilot certificate, you can share expenses equally with passengers.

During your pre-flight inspection, you verify that the airworthiness certificate is in the aircraft. Is this document sufficient to establish that the aircraft is airworthy?

  • Not applicable. The pre-flight inspection is all that is required.
  • Yes. The airworthiness certificate proves that the aircraft is legally airworthy.
  • No. It is necessary to determine that the aircraft conforms to its type certificate and that all required maintenance and inspections have been performed.
  • Maybe. It depends on the issuance and validity dates of the airworthiness certificate.

For a planned VFR trip, the route of flight programmed into your panel-mounted GPS will take you through a military operations area (MOA). What must you do?

  • Regulations prohibit VFR flight through a MOA, so you must alter your course to avoid this airspace.
  • You may operate VFR through a MOA, but exercise caution when military activity is underway.
  • You may fly through a MOA only if you are instrument-rated, in an instrument-equipped airplane, and on an IFR flight plan.
  • You may fly through a MOA if you obtain permission from the controlling agency.

You have reserved a Piper Warrior for a day VFR cross-country trip. During your pre-flight, you notice that the turn coordinator has been placarded "INOP." Can you legally operate the airplane?

  • Yes. The turn coordinator is not required for day VFR, and it has been placarded as required by regulations.
  • Yes. The minimum equipment list and kind of operation equipment list for the PA28 does not require a functioning turn coordinator for day VFR.
  • No. The turn coordinator is required for day and night VFR.
  • No. The turn coordinator is required if you are flying anywhere away from the vicinity of the airport.

A friend has asked you to assist in scattering the ashes of a relative. She wants you to fly over his favorite lake, which is very popular for boating, & fly low enough to scatter the ashes where he used to fish. Do the regulations permit this activity?

  • Yes, but only if you have a commercial pilot certificate, current Medical, and are current.
  • Yes, as long as you comply with minimum safe altitude restrictions for a congested area and take reasonable precautions to avoid injury or damage to people and property on the ground.
  • No, because the lake is a congested area and regulations strictly prohibit dropping objects over a congested area.
  • No. The regulations prohibit dropping objects, or permitting others to drop objects, from an aircraft.

You're planning a VFR 120 mile x-country flight. Your departure elevation is 403 MSL. The magnetic course to your destination is 176 Deg &, your corrected heading will be 185 Deg. Which of the following altitudes would be a correct choice for this flight?

  • 6,500 MSL
  • 5,500 MSL
  • 5,000 MSL
  • 6,000 MSL

You are renting a C172 from the local FBO for a short x-country flight. Since you normally fly your own airplane, you wisely decide to spend extra time on the pre-flight inspection. You find no obvious problems. Is there anything else you need to do?

  • Yes. You must also establish that the airplane is legally airworthy, which means that it conforms to its type certificate, that all ADs have been complied with, and that it has been maintained and inspected as required.
  • No. You have established that that aircraft is in a condition for safe flight, and verified that the airworthiness certificate is on board.
  • Yes. You must sign the maintenance log verifying that you have checked all required items.
  • No. The FBO, as owner and operator of the aircraft you are renting, is responsible for ensuring that it is airworthy and in a condition for safe flight.

You're preparing for a day pleasure flight in your local area. The weather is well above VFR minimums. During the pre-flight inspection, you discover that that magnetic compass is leaking fluid, and it does not appear that it can swing freely. Can you go?

  • Maybe. If you properly placard the malfunctioning instrument, you may legally proceed.
  • Hell yeah, kick the tires and light the fires. You don't need a compass to fly around your home turf!
  • Yes, as long as the weather is VFR and you fly only in the daytime.
  • No. The magnetic compass is a required item for day VFR flight.
  • Yes, as long as the directional gyro is operational, you may fly without the magnetic compass.

You have just loaded three Hooters Girls into your S-76C for a "flight-seeing" excursion in the local area. What are you required to include in your passenger briefing?

  • Seatbelts; air vents; fire extinguisher, including location and operation; and emergency procedures.
  • Exit and emergency procedures.
  • Use of seatbelts and shoulder harnesses, including ensuring that safety belts are properly secured before rotors turn.
  • Show them the mini-bar, flat screens, and all the glass up front
  • Shoulder harnesses, air vents, operation of doors.

You are flying a night VFR cross-country in a Cessna 182 that uses approximately 13 gph. You take off with 79 gallons of usable fuel. what is the longest time you can fly without using any of the legally required reserve fuel?

  • 5 Hours 32 Minutes
  • 6 Hours 10 Minutes
  • 4 Hours 35 Minutes
  • 5 Hours 19 Minutes