The FAA’s WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program is a great way for pilots to stay current and legally able to fly, but even better than that, it helps pilots stay proficient. Unfortunately, many pilots are not aware the program exists or don’t know how to use it. So, let’s take a look at the WINGS program and learn how to use it effectively.
What is the WINGS Program?
The WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program is available to pilots for skill-building and ongoing aviation learning. The goal of the program is to reduce the number of accidents in general aviation. The FAA compiled a list of the most common accident causal factors that, if mitigated, would greatly reduce the number of general aviation accidents. Then, training programs and WINGS activities were designed to address common pilot errors, lack of proficiency, and misinformation.
There are a number of incentives for airmen who maintain their proficiency through the WINGS program:
- Completing a WINGS phase counts as a flight review. By completing a phase, a pilot will not have to complete a flight review in the following 24 calendar months.
- Some aviation insurance companies offer discounts for recent training experience.
- If you like bling, completing a phase earns you a nice WINGS lapel pin sponsored by Avemco Insurance. A different pin is available for each phase.
- Sweepstakes! The WINGS Industry Advisory Committee has a financial incentive open to pilots for completing phases and for CFIs who validate the final flight credit.
Activities are the core of the WINGS Program, and pilots are encouraged to use them to build a customized proficiency plan based on their individual needs. Each activity completed gives credit towards a phase, which usually consists of three knowledge activities and three flight activities. There are three levels of phases: basic, advanced, and master. The standards for earning activity credit increase with each level.
For example, to satisfy the requirements for an activity in a basic phase, a pilot must meet the standards prescribed in the Private Pilot Airman Certification Standards (ACS). Advanced phases are based on the Commercial Pilot ACS, and master phases are usually based on the Airline Transport Pilot ACS but may also rely on the Commercial, Instrument, or Flight Instructor ACSs.
How to Complete a WINGS Phase
The first step is to login to the WINGS website at www.faasafety.gov/wings. Click login, or “create an account” if you have not already registered. During this step you will be asked for your email address and whether you hold a current Airman Certificate. Anyone who holds an FAA Airman Certificate may register for the WINGS Program, including student pilots.
Step 2: Create a proficiency plan
Once your account is set up, you canfind activities to create your proficiency plan. If you are new to the WINGS Program, you will be required to complete a basic phase before moving on to the advanced and master levels.
NOTE: You can click on “MyWings” under the pilots tab to view your current phase progress. Even if you have not used the WINGS Program before, you may have received credit from seminars or online courses you have completed in the last 12 months. Scroll down to view activities you have completed, courses you are currently enrolled in, and suggested activities to complete the phase.
If you would like to change a suggested activity, select the “Find Alternate Activities” link. Here, you will be shown a list of activities that satisfy the requirements to complete the phase. Knowledge and flight activities are both divided into three topic areas. Some phases require an activity from each of the three topics to be completed, while other phases require multiple activities from the same topic. Activities can be changed at any point during a phase. Just because you selected an activity does not mean you have to complete it; you can always swap it out.
Step 3: Complete Activities
Once you have selected your activities, the next step is to complete them. Knowledge activities are fairly straightforward because they can be completed independently. When you complete an online FAASTeam course, you will automatically receive WINGS credit. If you earn WINGS credit by attending a seminar or completing an online course through third party (such as Gleim) be sure to use the email address associated with your WINGS account. Otherwise, the credit will not be properly applied.
Flight activities can be a little more complicated because they must be validated by a flight instructor, which means you must complete the activity with them. The flight instructor will ensure that you meet the appropriate standards and are proficient in the selected activity. After the flight, you must request credit for the activity by clicking the “When Complete Request Credit” link on the MyWings page. This will bring you to the “Accredited Activity Validation” page where you will be asked for the date of activity completion and to select your validator through their email, location, or name. Some knowledge activities, such as flight reviews or instrument proficiency checks, also require validation from a flight instructor. Once your request for validation has been submitted, an email will be sent to your flight instructor who will review and approve the validation request and give you credit for the activity.
Activity credits don’t last forever. They expire after 12 months, so don’t wait too long to complete your phase! The credit history timeline at the bottom of the MyWings page shows all of the credits you have received in the last 12 months and how close they are to expiring.
Instructor tip: If you’re a CFI out flying with friends to get your favorite $100 hamburger, why not turn the flight into a training opportunity and WINGS activity? Then you can log the time as PIC and dual instruction given, while also building upon your professionalism.
Once your three knowledge and three flight activities have been completed and validated, you have earned a new WINGS phase! You will be presented with a completion certificate that counts as proof of meeting the flight review requirements of 14 CFR 61.56.
At first glance, the WINGS Program may seem complicated, but it is actually very easy to use once you become familiar with it. WINGS allows pilots to stay current, and proficient, in a way that goes beyond the minimum regulatory requirement of a flight review. Many aviation activities that you already do are eligible for WINGS credit. Most flights with an instructor can be credited towards a WINGS activity, and many Gleim online courses can also provide WINGS credit.
Get started today with this a sample proficiency plan you can follow to earn your first (basic) WINGS phase!
- ALC-223: Gleim Safe Pilot Course (1 Credit for Basic Knowledge Topic 1)
- ALC-155: Line Up and Wait (1 Credit for Basic Knowledge Topic 2)
- ALC-42: Airspace, Special Use Airspace and TFRs (1 Credit for Basic Knowledge Topic 3)
- A070405-89: ASEL – Takeoffs, Landings, Go-arounds (1 Credit for Basic Flight Topic 1)
- A070405-08: ASEL – Slow Flight, Stalls, Basic Instruments (1 Credit for Basic Flight Topic 2)
- A100125-07: ASEL – Airport Operations (1 Credit for Basic Flight Topic 3)
If any part of this sample plan doesn’t appeal to you, search through the available courses and activities and try to find topics that you are interested in or areas you might want to brush up on. Remember, the goal is to build proficiency. Each of these activities can be completed fairly quickly, but your knowledge can last forever!
Written by Karl Winters, Gleim Aviation Editor and Flight Instructor, and Paul Duty Aviation Product Manager and Chief Instructor