We’re all trying to stretch our budgets these days. For many pilots, that means cutting back their flight time and doing everything they can to minimize recurrent flight training costs. As an instructor, I’ve noticed an increasing number of aviators asking about the possibility of using an Instrument Proficiency Check in lieu of the 24 month flight review requirement.
Unfortunately, the IPC cannot substitute for a flight review. They are two different things with different goals and requirements. 14 CFR 61.57d is the governing regulation with regard to the IPC, and it’s pretty short and sweet:
(d) Instrument proficiency check. Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, a person who has failed to meet the instrument experience requirements of paragraph (c) for more than six calendar months may reestablish instrument currency only by completing an instrument proficiency check. The instrument proficiency check must consist of the areas of operation and instrument tasks required in the instrument rating practical test standards.
The Instrument PTS lays out the details, but suffice it to say the requirements are all geared toward instrument flight, whereas the flight review (14 CFR 61.56(a)) requires the performance of whatever maneuvers are necessary to satisfy the instructor that the student is capable of safely exercising the privileges of his or her certificate level.
(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (f) of this section, a flight review consists of a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training. The review must include:
(1) A review of the current general operating and flight rules of part 91 of this chapter; and
(2) A review of those maneuvers and procedures that, at the discretion of the person giving the review, are necessary for the pilot to demonstrate the safe exercise of the privileges of the pilot certificate.
That gives the instructor tremendous latitude in determining what’s required, and is the primary reason pilots wonder if an IPC can double as a flight review. It’s actually a very common-sense question! You’d think if someone was capable of flying a Instrument Proficiency Check to practical test standards that it’d be a snap for them to accomplish a flight review, but my experience has shown that it’s not always the case.
I’ve flown with many individuals who always filed IFR and were very comfortable and accomplished in “the system”, yet were completely at sea the instant they’re tasked with flying somewhere VFR. Typically it’s airspace and visual pilotage that gives them the most trouble. I for one cannot sign someone off as having demonstrated the safe exercise of the privileges of any certificate if they can’t fly from point A to point B by looking out the windshield.
The flight review also differs from the IPC in that it has a time requirements: at least one hour of flight, and at least one hour of ground reviewing the operating procedures of Part 91. The IPC has a list of tasks which must be accomplished, but no minimum time requirement.
On the other hand, while one cannot substitute for the other, there’s nothing that says the two cannot be completed at the same time. In fact, 61.56(h) specifically says “The requirements of this section may be accomplished in combination with the requirements of Sec. 61.57 and other applicable recent experience requirements at the discretion of the authorized instructor conducting the flight review.” Since there are areas where the two overlap, this presents an opportunity to save some time and money. Reaping those benefits would require planning the combination in advance by the instructor, so if this is something you’re thinking about, be sure to let the CFI know!
Ironically, I’ve done flight reviews with people who later figured out they didn’t need one at all. Hopefully extra training is never wasted, but if you’re trying to save money it’s worthwhile ensuring you actually need a flight review. Obtaining a new rating or certificate always resets the flight review clock, as does adding a type rating, passing a military or civilian competency check, or other such exam. I, for example, don’t need a flight review because I do annual recurrent training and a Part 135 checkride on the Gulfstream IV. If you’ve completed any phase of the Wings program, the flight review requirement is also waived (see 61.56(d) and (e)). Finally, successful completion of a flight instructor refresher clinic (FIRC) obviates the ground portion of the flight review.