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Long Time No SeeLong Time No See

What flight instructor hasn’t received a call from a former student, or a sometime rental-checkout customer, or a word-of-mouth referral, requesting a special favor that goes something like this: “Tomorrow I am supposed to fly to (fill in the destination) with my boss (or the family, or a friend) in my FBO’s Cessna 182. I renewed my medical last month, but I just realized that my flight review has also run out. I know it’s short notice, but would it be possible for you to fly with me to re-up my flight review later today or really early tomorrow?”

Because such requests come with the territory, many CFIs have become accustomed to rearranging their schedules on the fly to accommodate such opportunities (for them) and last-minute needs (for the customer). And because responding to client needs is what makes a business tick, such crises of currency highlight the value of a business-promoting strategy that can also serve to keep your clients happy and current—and perhaps even out of trouble.

For example, if it was your flight school where the pilot with the expiring flight review rented a Cessna 182, you could have gotten in touch to send a reminder a few weeks ago, sparing the client the frustration of trying to schedule the needed training at the last minute. (Such stressed-out flying doesn’t always go well, posing a real dilemma for the CFI who must enter some words in the pilot’s logbook.)

Here’s a better approach: Each time your flight school administers a flight review, or a recurring rental checkout, suggest to the customer that you set up the next appointment—or at least make contact to provide a reminder that a critical recency-of-experience milestone is approaching—thereby taking on some of the responsibility for making sure the job gets done before something important is allowed to lapse.

In the case of IFR proficiency, much depends on whether your renter pilot (or aircraft owner who relies on your school’s instructors) is able to maintain currency by other means. But it can’t hurt to check in and inquire about recency of experience if you haven’t seen the pilot for, let’s say, six months.

The conversation about how you and the your client might collaborate to help him or her stay ready and safe to fly as pilot-in-command is also be a good opportunity to spend some time reviewing an important housekeeping detail crucial to making your pact function as planned: the pilot’s logbook, and its upkeep.

Many renters come and go through an FBO’s doors. You probably know that not all pilots who have met their training goals put a high priority on continuing to maintain a detailed logged record of their recreational or business flying.

In the case of an FAR 61:56 flight review, the calendar rules, regardless of whether hours of any particular type have been logged in the meanwhile, so an unruly or incomplete logbook is not a make-or-break issue. Just be sure the logbook is available for you to make the required entry that the pilot has “satisfactorily completed the review” when the time comes.

If, however, the pilot intends to satisfy Part 61 on applying flight time toward “the requirements for a certificate, rating or flight review,” that pilot must “document and record the following time in a manner acceptable to the Administrator.”

Piecing that record together in haste, based on several months’ worth of fuel slips, destination motel bills, or aircraft rental invoices might not produce a reliable result—and could raise skepticism on the part of a designated pilot examiner. The unfortunate reality that some pilots who have met their original training goals and didn’t contemplate taking on any new challenges tend to let their logging of flight time lapse can even complicate routine efforts at documenting recency of experience for such continuing privileges as flying as pilot in command under instrument flight rules.

In the case of your school’s student pilots, keep their training programs moving along by overseeing the process of tracking solo endorsements, cross-country authorizations, and the time until a knowledge test or endorsement for training in preparation for the practical test becomes invalid. You might encourage students to embrace the habit of monitoring the ticking of the various regulatory clocks on their own later.

Nobody wants to find out at the last minute—or worse, after a mishap—that this required paperwork was not in order. An FBO that helps its customers avoid such difficulties will find that it has entered into a win-win relationship with its renter pilots.

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and a CFI since 1990. 

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.

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