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Safety conscious pilots are always looking for ways to fly and stay safe. Many years ago, the FAA developed a program to help them do just that. Though it has undergone some changes since it was first introduced, the FAA WINGS – Pilot Proficiency Program is an excellent way to improve your knowledge, skills, and safety.
What Is WINGS and Why Should I Care?
The FAA WINGS – Pilot Proficiency Program is a wonderful and valuable resource. It provides educational opportunities for pilots via low priced and free seminars, webinars, and online learning while providing a structure for recurrent ground and flight training that goes well beyond the mandatory flight review which it can replace. The program is based on the premise that pilots who maintain currency and proficiency in the basics of flight will enjoy a safer and more stress-free flying experience.
An earlier FAA study entitled Report on the Effectiveness of the WINGS – Pilot Proficiency Program made two observations (with impressive data to back it up):
- “…pilots who participate in the WINGS Program and earn a phase of WINGS have a very low incidence of accidents.”
- “…the study shows that pilots who maintain a “current” phase of WINGS have even fewer accidents.”
As wonderful as the program is, very few pilots participate in this program or any other program of recurrent training! The previously mentioned study found that only about 1.75% of the rated pilots had earned a phase of WINGS under the revamped program. That said, there are a lot of pilots that participate in the ground portion but never finish a phase of WINGS. A phase of WINGS requires meeting certain flight requirements along with the ground requirements.
The WINGS-Pilot Proficiency Program is designed to help you build an educational curriculum suitable to your unique flight requirements. The program encourages you to continue your aviation educational pursuits and requires training, review, and flight proficiency in the Areas of Operation (found in current ACS or PTS) that correspond with the leading causes for aviation accidents.
The most significant incentive for you to participate in the WINGS Program is the added level of safety and professionalism that is obtained through adoption of a reliable recurrent training program.
Some FAASTeam Industry Members may provide incentives rewarding pilots for their participation in the program based on the phase obtained and/or maintained in the program. Check with your local aviation industry organizations, companies, and insurance providers for their current incentive offerings. While the FAASTeam encourages FAASTeam Industry Members’ participation in offering incentives, the FAASTeam does not require, regulate, or control such incentives.
What Are the Nuts and Bolts of the Program?
At its most elemental level, pilots complete knowledge and flight activities to earn WINGS credits. The knowledge and flight credits are assigned classifications at Basic, Advanced, and Master levels. When the appropriate Basic level knowledge and flight credits have been earned and approved on the FAASafety.gov website or in the pilot’s logbook, a Basic phase of WINGS is earned. Credits toward a phase may be accumulated over a 12 calendar month period.
Advanced and Master credits may be accumulated toward Advanced and Master phases, respectively. One caveat on the Advanced and Master phases is that the pilot must have earned a Basic phase in the previous 12 calendar months in order to qualify for the higher level phase.
Completion of a phase of WINGS at the Basic, Advanced, or Master level is considered to be an alternative method of complying with the Flight Review requirement of §61.56. This is described in 14 CFR 61.56(e).
While it is not a requirement to have an account on FAASafety.gov, it does make things easier. More about that later.
Tell Me More about the FAASTeam
The FAA Safety Team, also known as the FAASTeam, incorporates a number of individuals and organizations with an interest in aviation safety.
Anyone can become a FAASTeam Member by making a conscious effort to promote aviation safety and become part of the shift in safety culture. To become a member:
- Sign-up at FAASafety.gov and take part in all it has to offer.
- Pilots – participate in the WINGS – Pilot Proficiency Program
- Mechanics – participate in the automated AMT Awards Program
- Attend live FAASTeam events in your area
- Attend webinars online
FAASTeam Representatives are designated aviation safety volunteers that work closely with FAASTeam Program Managers (FPM) at the FAA to actively promote safety. These volunteers receive training and are supported by the FPM with equipment and materials.
FAASTeam Industry Members are companies or associations of people that have a stake in aviation safety. The FAA has guidelines that describe how these groups and the FAASTeam can formalize their desires to promote aviation safety together.
At the FAA, there is a National FAASTeam staff with assigned personnel holding positions as Safety Liaison Team (SLT) Leads and FAASTeam Program Managers (FPM). The National FAASTeam develops and provides the National FAASTeam Performance Plan (NPP) as well as national policy and guidance. FSDOs utilize assigned FPMs to accomplish the NPP and achieve the FAA’s safety program goals.
How Do I Sign Up?
You must have an account on FAASafety.gov to use the automated WINGS Program. By using the “Create an Account” link on the home page, you will be able to quickly accomplish this. You aren’t required to have an account if you don’t want to take courses, receive credit, or obtain certificates there. It is simply much easier with an account.
Although you may create an account by saying that you are not an airman, this will limit some functionality of the account. It is best to say you are an airman, if you are, and then provide your airman certificate number when creating the account. Once the airman information is verified, the airman certificate number is not kept.
The account will be created and a temporary password will be emailed to the email address provided. It is also best to add FAASafety.gov to Trusted Sites under Internet Options.
If you already have an account, go to the My Preferences page and click on the tab labeled, “Airman Registry.” If the next page shows your name and ZIP code, you are all set! If it does not, then you need to click on the “Locate My Airman Registry Record” button and provide the requested information to link the account to your airman information. You can have only one account on FAASafety.gov that is linked to your airman information.
If you take a course, attend a seminar or webinar, or participate in any other activity where you will earn WINGS credit, be sure to use the same email address. If you use a different email address, you will receive an email asking you to sign up for an FAASafety.gov account. This is another way to create an account if you don’t have one, but it will prevent you from receiving your earned credit if you do have an account.
WINGS Topic of the Quarter Program
WINGS Topic of the Quarter (WTOQ) was launched in the Spring of 2019. The program consists of eight WINGS activities pursued over the course of one year. It spaces out the proficiency training to regular intervals in order to improve the effectiveness of this training.
Through WTOQ, the FAASTeam suggests WINGS flight activities and knowledge topics for each quarter. In the course of a year, four knowledge topics and four flight activities are suggested. The Spring, Summer, and Fall events will work together to complete a WINGS phase. The Winter events are considered an elective but are an excellent opportunity to remain proficient during the winter months.
The WTOQ program is an easy way for you to commit to quarterly proficiency training with a plan. The FAASTeam’s selection of the knowledge and flight events makes it easy to use. If you would like to pick alternatives to their choices, that is fine too; the goal is quarterly WINGS based proficiency training, not just following their choices. The FAASTeam’s choices just make it easier.
A sample of the WINGS Topic of the Quarter Checklist, which lists the quarterly topics, may be found below. Obtain the latest WTOQ Checklist by visiting the Resources tab Library on FAASafety.gov and selecting the WINGS category to download the PDF from there.
What Else Can I Do to be a Safer Pilot?
I believe that there will always be a cadre of pilots that just want to get by with the bare minimum. Some of these pilots will one day end up hurting themselves or worse, and unfortunately, they will take others with them.
Don’t be one of these pilots!
Become a safe and conscientious pilot. Strive to never stop learning. Develop a plan to reach this striving. Follow the plan and improve your skills. If you need help with a plan, talk to your favorite local flight instructor and see if a phase of WINGS will be a worthwhile pursuit.
While you are talking to favorite instructor, ask about adding a rating or two to your certificate. New ratings have a way of adding skills to your current flying that you may not expect.
If you need well organized and high quality training products to help you improve your flying or reach your next aviation goal, check out https://sportys.com/courses. Many of these course will also qualify for WINGS knowledge credits.
Get out there and stay current and proficient. Fly safe!!