Fighting Off the Flight-Review Blues

I'm getting ready for my biennial flight review, and I'm incorporating an instrument proficiency check, even though I'm technically current. For someone like me who doesn't fly real IFR often enough, one way to remain comfortable is to supplement experience with regular recurrent training. I really should do more. I admit that one of the reasons is that 'training' makes me uncomfortable. I'm not sure exactly why, but it has something to do with not wanting to embarrass myself. I'm pretty conservative about how much weather I'll fly in -- what a Learjet pilot once referred to as 'gentleman's IFR.'

One way to combat the discomfort leading up to a review is to ensure I'm up to speed on simply flying my airplane. Older Bonanzas such as mine have power controls scattered around in nonintuitive spots -- the throttle is where you'd expect it, but the prop control is over to the right where the cigarette lighter used to be (I have an STCed hydraulic Hartzell) and the small gray mixture control handle is tucked under the panel to the left. It makes me feel like Mickey Mouse in the Steamboat Willie cartoon, reaching here and there, all around the cockpit. Yes, I know where they all are, but when I've been away for a while, I find I have to think before reaching. And I only have so many brain cells to work with. Usually, a short hop with some slow flight, stalls, 500 fpm descents and some deep breathing exercises does the trick and I'm much more at home again in the left seat.

I also try to bone up on my flight planning routine ahead of time. It helps to review what I like to do one week ahead, one day ahead and then hour-by-hour for each segment of flight. This time, I've been reviewing the presentations, and they make for a pretty good review. I've been reminded of a lot of stuff stored in the deep hard drive upstairs, and added a few new pieces to the IFR proficiency puzzle. I also review the "IFR by the Numbers" chapter in John Eckalbar's excellent book, Flying the Beech Bonanza. He lays out a set of simple and workable speeds, power settings and aircraft configurations for various segments of an instrument flight. It makes my IFR flying a lot simpler in a complex airplane. I try to reread that chapter before every IFR flight, anyway.

Finally, I try to remind myself that flying is supposed to be fun, which is why I do it. And this review should be a tad enjoyable as well as educational. What's the worst that can happen? Maybe some fundamental flaw in my technique will rear its ugly head. Maybe not. If I can just approach the process with an open mind and a dash of humility …

Call to action: If you have any tips of your own you'd like to share, or have any questions about flying technique you'd like answered, send me a note at We'd love to hear from you.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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