This past Thursday I attended my first FAASTeam (FAA Safety Team) seminar since moving to Florida last fall. It was great to be back at activities like this and involved with the aviation safety culture in my local area, especially since its a new local area for me!
One of the main topics of the seminar was the every-so-often recurring explanation of the FAA WINGS program. Hearing stories from the audience of CFIs who as recently as last year had not ever heard of the WINGS program made me cringe. When you think about it these stories are actually pretty astounding.
It’s highly likely that if you read ReviewBeforeFlight you know about the WINGS program and you’re actively involved in the aviation community and hopefully an advocate for a safety culture in your own flying community. But just incase you haven’t heard what the WINGS program can do for you, I wanted to take a few words to explain the key benefits.
It’s no secret that regulatory changes (sometimes ineffectively) occur when a need a is demonstrated, whether that means a crash with deaths or multiple failures resulting in a need for change. But changing regulations is a cumbersome experience, the federal aviation regulations are a part of the code of federal regulations, said a different way, they are federal laws… Those certainly don’t change easily or very often.
But the WINGS program offers a way for the FAA to help protect the pilot population from itself in a more dynamic and more effective way. If the FAA senses a trend of common accident causes, they can easily change WINGS requirements to address the issue very quickly.
The value for a pilot in participating in the wings program is that you can save money and stay current all at the same time. Typically a pilot must complete a flight review with an instructor every 24-calendar months. This review must consist of a minimum of one hour of ground time and one hour of flight time. You can talk to anyone I’ve provided a flight review for and you will not find anyone who accomplished the activity in 2 hours… It is a minimum, not a hard and fast line.
The WINGS program provides phases of the program which, upon completion, count as a flight review. The basic phase where new WINGS program users will begin consists of three ground activity courses and three flight activities. The ground activities are computer (web)-based courses which can be completed for FREE at the leisure of the pilot’s schedule. The three flight activities do not require separate flights, only a short list of sepecific maneuvers, many of which (preflight preparation, communications, crosswind takeoff, etc…) pilots do on almost every flight anyways. This means the flight portion can be completed with great efficiency for a proficient pilot.
This is where the FAA can help protect us pilots from ourselves. When the FAA notices a trend, say crosswind takeoffs are resulting in many more accidents/incidents than normal, they can include that particular task on each pilot’s individual WINGS flight task list. This helps the FAA ensure the area of needed emphasis is being addressed. A flight review includes maneuvers at the discression of the instructor, WINGS is at the discression of the FAA, so they can help protect us pilots from ourselves on a pilot-community wide level!
Lastly, CFIs should prefer WINGS too! When completing WINGS activities a flight instructor simply has to endorse that the specific maneuvers were completed, the instructor does not have to endorse the pilot for the successful completion of a flight review. This means far less liability for the instructor. It may mean a few less dollars from not getting to provide the ground training, but I think it’s worth it to sleep a little easier at night…
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9