By Jim Pitman
The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) has updated the Wings - Pilot Proficiency Program to improve safety by assisting pilots in maintaining proficiency. As flight school owners and managers, there is much we can do to help promote and utilize this important program.
Doug Cox is co-owner of Aerodyne Flight Center, a successful flight school in Scottsdale, Arizona (KSDL). Cox and his team have been actively utilizing the Wings program at their school for more than four years.
“We love the Wings program,” Cox said. “It’s not the tired old program we used to have with the little blue cards. The current Wings program is managed entirely on faasafety.gov. It’s a robust program that incorporates many valuable resources and training aids. It takes a little time to learn the ins and outs of the website, but the FAASTeam has provided excellent documentation every step of the way,” he said.
The FAA has authorized that the completion of any phase of Wings satisfies the requirements of a flight review. This is one of the easiest ways to get your school involved in the Wings program. “Flight schools and instructors everywhere should set the standard of helping pilots complete a phase of Wings instead of doing a 61.56 flight review,” Cox said.
“Everyone needs a flight review at some point, so it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce pilots to the current Wings program and encourage them to keep coming back more than just once every two years. My instructors and I also like that we don’t have to give the 61.56 endorsement. We’re simply validating that the pilot has satisfactorily completed the required flight items for the Wings credits and the FAA is keeping the official documentation (via faasafety.gov) that shows the pilot is current on his/her flight review,” Cox said.
Cox and his team also like the instant credibility and organization the Wings program provides. “We do a lot of currency and proficiency training at our school. The Wings program gives us a simple way to customize and organize training syllabi to meet our clients’ individual needs. Our clients that have their own planes also like that many insurance companies offer significant discounts for Wings participation. This is added value that also makes us look good by helping them save money,” Cox said.
The FAASTeam has recently released the Wings Topic of the Quarter encouraging pilots to conduct proficiency training more frequently. Pilots who follow the recommended outline will regularly complete knowledge training and fly with an instructor every few months. This means more flying for your instructors and more proficient pilots renting your aircraft. “The Wings program has proven to be an effective way to improve aviation safety. We feel good to know we’re doing our part to encourage pilots to participate,” Cox said.
For your flight instructors who choose to stick around a while, the Wings program is also an easy way to renew CFI certificates. “Instructors can qualify for renewal by holding a current phase of Wings and evaluating at least three Wings-accredited flight activities with five different pilots (15 total activities) within 24 months,” Cox explained. See page 5 of AC 61-91J for more information.
Did you know that pilots can earn phases of Wings for the successful completion of their checkrides? “Every qualifying sport, private, instrument, commercial, and flight instructor checkride should be resulting in one or more phases of Wings for that pilot. It’s such an easy way to get new people going on the Wings program with at least one entire phase already complete,” Cox said.
Completion of sport and private pilot checkrides earn one phase of Wings; instrument and initial commercial each earn two phases; and the initial CFI earns three complete phases. Instructors should guide checkride applicants through the simple process of creating an account at faasafety.gov and then ask the examiner to validate the activity upon successful completion of the checkride. Any qualified instructor can also validate the activity if the examiner does not. You can even go back and help your clients earn Wings phases for the checkrides that were completed within the past 12 months. I’ve included direct links below to make it easy. More information is available in this DPE Wings Tri-fold.
WingsPro is a new FAASTeam initiative to establish Wings experts who are trained and qualified to assist flight schools, pilots, and instructors with the Wings program throughout the United States.To find a WingsPro in your area, search for keyword “wingspro” at faasafety.gov/FAASTApp/directory. Active FAASTeam representatives can qualify to become a WingsPro by watching five one-hour recorded webinars. Contact the FAASTeam program manager at your FSDO if you or someone you know would like to become a WingsPro.
Need a little more incentive? To help encourage participation, the Wings Industry Advisory Committee (WIAC) is giving a total of $10,000 in cash prizes to pilots and instructors who participate in the Wings program in 2019. After your instructors and clients complete a phase of Wings, they can submit the appropriate form at mywingsinitiative.org.
We can do a lot to promote and utilize the Wings program with the pilots we work with every day. Share this information with your management team and add, “How can we do more with Wings?” to the agenda for your next staff meeting.
Links to Wings Resources
Connect with Doug Cox and learn more about Aerodyne Flight Center on the flight school website.
Jim Pitman has been a flight instructor since 1997. He has been a Part 141 chief flight instructor, Cessna Pilot Center regional manager, and Arizona Flight Instructor of the Year. He currently flies the Canadair Regional Jet for a U.S. carrier while operating his own flight training business. Jim was also recently selected to be an FAA designated pilot examiner. Connect with Jim at his website (FlywithJim.com).