Flight review tips for Canadian RPAS pilots.
These tips come from a Flight Reviewer’s perspective and will help you to pass your Canadian Advanced Operations RPAS flight review. (5 minute read)
TIP #1: Bring hard copy documents
Although RPAS operators increasingly rely upon smartphones and tablets in the field, a good argument can be made for bringing hard copies of your registration, pilot certificate, site survey, checklists, mission plan, and manuals to the Review.
While Transport Canada allows the use of electronic documents, hard copies are often easier to handle in response to Flight Reviewer requests. Plus, you don’t have to worry about cloud service glitches and tablets made unreadable in bright sunlight.
TIP #2: You are the pilot-in-command
Some RPAS operators have expressed confusion over their role in a flight review. Remember that you are the Pilot-in-command and are responsible for advance communications with NAV Canada if the review is in controlled airspace. Don’t expect the Flight Reviewer to take on your role and tasks. You are the PIC.
TIP #3: Nervousness is normal
Transport Canada alerts Flight Reviewers that candidates will probably have a certain level of nervousness during a review. Reviewers are required to “conduct themselves in a manner that does not add to the normal stress…of the situation.”
Psychologists note that when you are nervous it is still possible to do a great job. By utilizing well-practiced routines and focusing on your tasks at hand rather than the audience, you can overcome your feelings of nervousness. Visualizing success and deep breathing are also good ways to combat stress during the review.
TIP #4: Organizing is a journey, not a destination
Transport Canada’s document TP15395 mentions the word “organized” five times in relation to flight review performance criteria. Take that as an important cue; make sure you don’t look or act disorganized during the review. Plan your operation in advance, work from checklists, lay out your RPAS and accessories in an orderly fashion and work through your tasks systematically. Although not required, a professional mindset will encourage you to be and stay organized during the review.
TIP #5: Effective visual scanning is essential to pass
Transport Canada’s Flight Reviewer’s Guide (TP15395) notes that “a demonstrated pattern of failing to use effective visual scanning techniques” is sufficient cause to fail a candidate pilot. Some RPAS pilots focus too intently on the remote controller and the monitor during flight operations. Be familiar with various scan patterns such as “side-to-side scanning” and “front-to-side scanning.” Don’t forget to consistently apply a systematic method that incorporates eye fixations at different points in space during the review.
TIP #6: Know how to navigate your documentation in addition to the airspace
Commercial RPAS pilots with experience drafting SFOC applications understand that site surveys and related documentation are the framework for any flight operation.
Make no mistake, during an RPAS flight review you will be asked to show and talk about aspects of your survey and other documentation. Hard copy or electronic, make sure that you have a solid grasp of the material and can navigate through it effectively when the Reviewer asks questions.
TIP #7: “Show and tell” during the review
Although not required by Transport Canada, one of the easiest ways to demonstrate that you’re following approved RPAS operating procedures is by verbalizing your actions.
Think in terms of going beyond what is normally communicated to crew members during a flight operation. For example, as you look down at the readings on your remote control device during a flight, you might say out loud “I’m checking my battery levels, heading and altitude now.”
Most of your actions can be verbalized without interfering with your concentration or situational awareness. And by “telling” as well as showing, you clearly indicate that you are addressing key aspects of the flight review’s performance criteria.
TIP #8: Understand TC’s flight review error framework
Three types of errors are noted in Transport Canada’s Flight Review guide: minor, major and critical. These can result from actions or inactions. Not all types of error will result in a fail during the flight review.
Minor errors are inconsequential to the completion of a task, procedure or manoeuvre, but may vary from best practices. Ideally, you would safely and legally recover from minor errors.
Major errors lead to an undesired RPA state or a reduced safety margin. This error type leads to an outcome that “detracts measurably from the successful achievement” of a defined aim within your flight operation. A series of major errors might be regarded as a more serious grade of error discussed below.
Critical errors lead to an undesired RPA state or compromise in safety. These include: non-compliance with CARS; serious deviation from SOPs; a pattern of repeated improper error management; a failure to recognize threats that put the RPA in an undesired or unsafe state; repeated major errors; or deviation from the expected performance criteria for the flight operation. Critical errors will lead to failure in your flight review.
Know and understand this error framework before you book your flight review.
TIP #9: Use TP 15395 as your guide
Although there are discussions about the standardization of flight reviews in the future, Flight Reviewers currently appear to use a variety of flight school and self-generated marking schemas.
As a result, your best approach is to look to the Flight Reviewer’s Guide for Pilots of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (TP 15395), in combination with your knowledge of the CARs and the other skills and knowledge tested in the Advanced Pilot RPAS exam.
At a minimum, make sure you are able to address ALL the performance criteria addressed in TP 15395 before booking your flight review.