January 25, 2011

The BFR, Part 1

I've flown more than I've let on in this blog in the past few months, but not much — bad weather, vacation, and the pressures of a real-world job have combined to keep me out of the cockpit for a lot longer than I'd like. So I look forward to today as a chance to do a bunch of things: first and foremost, ensure that I still remember what all those things on the displays on the front panel are trying to tell me (and what to do when they tell me something Interesting); to get club-current again; extend my landing currency (it's not expired yet, but it's getting close, and I could do with some serious landing practice); to get instrument current again (a few approaches and holds will probably do — I'm not really that un-current as far as IFR goes); and then (maybe) get the whole biennial flight review (BFR) thing rolling again. It's been a little under two years since my last one; I need to get it out of the way again before the end of February. I book a long session for this evening with John to try to get as much done as I can.

So, a lot on my plate. It's not helped by the Center Weather Advisory for severe turbulence issued for the Oakland area mid-afternoon a few hours before I'm due to fly, nor by the self-imposed deadline I had at work of getting a particular bit of tech stuff working properly by 17.00 today. Which I do, but when I get home to prepare for the flight, I realise I'm exhausted — I'd worked until very late last night and got up very early (for me, at least) this morning. I recheck the weather and NOTAMs, etc., with DUATS — the center advisory is still there — then grab some food. I'm still exhausted (what did I expect?). I wander out to the car and drive to the airport (Oakland, KOAK). On the way there I realize it's not going to magically get better — I probably shouldn't fly this evening. I certainly wouldn't fly with passengers or on my own; I could probably get away with it with an instructor on board, but I don't like doing that sort of thing. Maybe I can salvage something from it; we shall see. Mostly, I don't want to have wasted John's time by dragging him out to Oakland just to have me cancel on him (his drive to the airport's a lot longer than mine; I could easily walk there if I had to…).

John's already at Oakland Flyers when I get there, and I immediately tell him the situation — I think I'm too damn tired to fly properly this evening, especially with that center weather advisory still current (not that I actually believe it's as bad as reported, especially later in the day when the offshore winds have died down, but it's yet another factor in the decision making). He's good about it all, and suggests we do the non-flying bits of the BFR instead. I knew he was going to say this as soon as I walked through the door — and I know I haven't really studied for it or done the required reading in enough detail to be confident of getting through it. I've done a bit of preliminary reading, but digesting the whole FAR/AIM thing in an hour or two isn't my kind of thing, and I'm not particularly confident I won't make a fool of myself. I tell John all this, and he just suggests we do it anyway — it really isn't all that hard, and hell, if I really do screw up, I can do it again when I actually expected to do it.

So for the next ninety minutes or so we sit there in the club's luxurious space (ha!) while I try to answer a bunch of questions about charts, Part 91 legalities, airspaces and clearances, decision making, weather — all the stuff you're supposed to know. In the end I don't do too badly — I have to bluff a bit with some of the VFR chart stuff (I'm sadly more used to IFR charts nowadays, and ATC is usually responsible for my airspace usage or avoidance) and some of the answers to the more obscure stuff just seem to well up out of my subconscious — and I pass, or at least satisfy John that I'm good for another two years of flying, at least from the legal and knowledge point of view. Shame about the actual flying bits though — I guess I'll have to wait till next week or the week after that to get back in the air, get current, get at least half-way proficient, and (hopefully) complete the BFR. We shall see….

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