I don't really have a set agenda when it comes to a BFR. While the regs spell out the basics for what needs to be covered, I feel it's best to tailor the BFR for each individual pilot.
I will sit down with the person and interview them beforehand about such things as the type of flying they commonly do, aircraft they fly, navigational devices used, etc., to determine what their strengths and potential weak areas are. I then try to focus on those procedures and maneuvers that the person doesn't routinely use, but that are still applicable to the certificates and ratings they hold. A simple example would be working with a private pilot who routinely flies into and out of airports with fairly lengthy runways, who has little exposure to short and/or unpaved runways. You can bet short and soft-field takeoff and landing work will be included as part of that BFR.
Another key is to ask the person if there are any maneuvers in particular they would like to practice. It's a good way to help get them actively involved from the beginning.
Tailor the BFR so that the person takes something away from the experience. Don't develop one set plan that equates to just getting the BFR done and out of the way simply for currency purposes. While I have some items that are standard for every BFR, such as recent changes to regulations, aircraft systems review, etc., my plan of action for the BFR is developed as I interview the pilot at the beginning.
I always like to incorporate some hood flying and basic radio navigation. Include some unusual attitudes as well. I usually find out many of the flight review students need some work on it and it gives them more confidence. The student should come out learning something at least.
Tailor the flight review to the person's needs and use the Private PTS as a working outline. A lot depends on how well acquainted you are with the pilot and if you've flown with him/her in the past. Don't be impressed by a plethora of hours and ratings. Some of these people know far less than a 40-hour private pilot. If the person is someone you've just met, your oral can include ARROW, pilot privileges, currency and medicals. Have the pilot obtain weather, calculate performance and weight and balance, and maybe plan a very short cross country. Ask a few questions about weather mins, charts, and especially airspace. You just need to satisfy yourself that the person exhibits knowledge. You can tell within a few minutes if the person knows his/her stuff. You are not reexamining the person for his/her rating.
I always offered to give an ICC if the person has an instrument rating. At that point I'd ask a few questions about required equipment, currency, weather mins, inoperative components, the 1-2-3 rule. A good question to ask is EFC times. Another is lost comm.
The flight doesn't have to drag on forever. You can tell within a few minutes if the person can fly. Airwork can include steep turns, one or two stalls, and slow flight. High and low altitude emergencies. On the way back to the field, put the person under the hood and do a couple of unusual attitudes. Partial panel. Have the pilot track to a VOR or NDB. If you're also giving a comp check, work in the hold and the approaches on your way to the airport. At the airport, work on all the takeoffs and landings, aborted takeoff, takeoff emergencies and pattern emergencies.
I always thought it was reasonable to hold the pilot to Private standards, no matter what kind of certificate. Pilots with higher grade certificates who are (lucky enough to be) flying for a living wouldn't come to you anyway because they get their regular annual and six-month checks.
It's hard to go wrong in general with a review of the practical test requirements; use the PTS appropriate to the pilot in question. Bear in mind that the pilot needn't necessarily perform to PTS standards on a pass/fail basis. The flight review is not a test, but a review, and you may make full use of instruction while providing the review.
I like to concentrate on areas the pilot may not normally use in daily life. If it's been two years since the last review or training, I like to concentrate on emergency proceedures, including off-field landings and engine failures where ever possible. I spend time on the ground discussing how to put an airplane down in water, trees, etc, and how to survive once you're there. These are things that most pilots, especially private pilots, won't be considering over the course of the year. A little refresher in these areas is probably as valueable as anything.
If the pilot is instrument rated, extending the check a bit to encompass an IPC is sometimes a good effort.
ASA has a nice little book on BFR, and you can search the advisory circular list for an FAA guide to the animal.
Don't forget, although this is not a pass/fail procedure, you can write in a recommendation for additional recurrent trainning in the pilot's logbook. Don't, however, be demeaning in any way when you word your overview of the experience. Offer to provide the training yourself, and position yourself as working to provide honest help to the pilot in question.
I would discourage folks from writing a recommendation for further training in an individuals logbook. This is especially the case when performing a flight review. If not satisfied with performance on the first flight, don't put an endorsement in for the completion of the flight review. Advise the client that you would like to fly again.
If the client does not feel this is necessary, he or she may seek another instructor with whom to perform the flight review; you needn't endorse the logbook for completion of a review, but only for the instruction given (if given).
I have had one pilot, ever, complain that I required more flying from him. I went with him twice, and he complained when I told him we needed to fly more. I told him that as he hadn't flown for many years, the amount of time we would spend together would be up to him, but that I could not endorse the completion of a flight review until his flying was up to par. He elected to go finish with someone else.
A few weeks ago I also had someone who hadn't flown for 12 years. He was very shaky, but became passable after several flights. In his case, he was slated to go fly ten hours or so with his son, also a certificated pilot, and I felt good about kicking him loose. Had he planned on taking a poor weather trip with passengers and he as the only pilot, I would have probably done a little more flying with him.
Remember that the FAR requires an hour of fligth and an hour of ground at a minimum. No maximum is set, and each pilot should be trained to proficiency. That is, after all, the purpose of the flight review. One pilot may take an hour, while another may take several. It is the responsibility of every instructor to give the client pilot the training and review necessary, not just the minimum.
Never endorse a logbook advising that the applicant needs more training. The closest that should ever be put in a log is that additional training was given, in the case of a failed practical test. Even then, it shouldn't reflect anything negative, but should stick to the facts and reflect what was done on the flight. The reason for the training does not need to be specified, only that the training was performed. If a student doesn't pass or isn't ready during the first session of a flight review, schedule another session, but don't state in the logbook that the student isn't ready. The absence of your endorsement for the flight review will suffice.
At the risk of being cut off at the knees, I found the information on the BFR I was looking for, with these salient points:
1) the FAA info is AC 61 98A. These are some excerpts.
2)>The flight review is intended to be an industry managed, FAA monitored currency program. The CFI must be aware that the flight review is not a test or check ride, but an instructional service designed to assess a pilot's knowledge and skills. (there is no PTS requirement here. assess is the word, and safety is the goal..see #5 below.)
3)>The objective of the flight review is to ensure that pilots who intend to act as PIC have the opportunity to ride with a flight instructor of their own choice within a specified period for an appraisal of their pilot proficiency and to seek assistance or guidance if any deficiency is identified.
4)>After completing the above analysis, the CFI should review these considerations with the pilot and reach an understanding regarding how the review will be conducted. The CFI may wish to provide the pilot with reading materials or recommend publications for study before actually undertaking the flight review. The CFI should also review the criteria for satisfactory completion of the review with the pilot. (the conduct of the review, and the criteria for successful completion, is by agreement with the pilot in question, see 2-d in the circular)
5)>(1) The maneuvers and procedures covered during the review are those which, in the opinion of the CFI conducting the review, are necessary for the pilot to perform in order to demonstrate that he or she can safely exercise the privileges of his or her pilot certificate. Accordingly, the instructor should evaluate the pilot's skills and knowledge to the extent necessary to ensure that he or she can safely operate within regulatory requirements throughout a wide range of conditions. (safe operation within regulatory requirements, as opposed to PTS requirements)
6)>Upon completion of the review, the instructor should complete the Flight Review Plan and Checklist (if used) and debrief the pilot. Whether or not the review was satisfactory, the instructor should provide the pilot with a comprehensive analysis of his or her performance, including suggestions for improving any weak areas. (no specification if this should be an oral analysis, a written one, or placed in a "notes" section of the logbook)
7)>The instructor should not endorse the pilot's logbook to note an unsatisfactory review, but should sign the logbook to record the instruction given. The CFI should then recommend additional training in the areas of the review that were unsatisfactory.
As I was clumsily trying to say, there is no need to record an unsatisfactory review, be the instructor SHOULD "...provide the pilot with a comprehensive analysis of his or her performance, including suggestions for improving any weak areas."
I imagine, like most places in the regs, we can each decide whether this "comprhensive analysis" can go in a section of the logbook marked "notes".
I was unable to find any reference to an acceptable standard of performance other than the safe opertion within the regs, mentioned above. The instructor can't require additional training, and if the pilot does not receive his BFR endorsement, he can seek a BFR with another CFI. If he does seek a second opinion, it makes sense that the next CFI would find a "note" about recommended training helpful.
Of course, you are free to not be that helpful. Just another $.02.