The FAA WINGS program is documented in Advisory Circular (AC) 61-91J. Paragraph 5(b) states:
Incentive Awards. Airmen who participate in the program and satisfactorily complete a current phase of WINGS will not have to complete the flight review requirements of 14 CFR part 61, § 61.56. Section 61.56(e) states that participating airmen do not need to accomplish the flight review requirements of part 61 if, since the beginning of the 24th calendar-month before the month in which that pilot acts as pilot-in-command (PIC), he or she has satisfactorily accomplished one or more phases of an FAA-sponsored pilot proficiency award program. Each time a pilot earns a new phase of WINGS, it satisfies the flight review requirement regardless of how frequently or closely spaced the phase or award.
I’ve been using the WINGS program in lieu of flight review for my entire flying career. I got up to WINGS Phase XI in the old program, and now hold WINGS Basic Phase 4 in the new one. I earned Phase 4 in April, just before my previous WINGS-as-Flight-Review expired.
The process is simple. After you’ve logged in to FAASafety, hover over the Pilots tab and choose My WINGS from the pulldown menu.
Each phase of WINGS requires three Knowledge credits and three Flying credits. In April, I checked my status, and had earned one Knowledge credit in the previous 12 months, so I only needed two more. I took one online course each evening over two evenings.
Then I chose my Flying credits. There aren’t as many choices here as there are Knowledge tasks; the FAA wants you working on specific flying skills.
Each Flying credit lists sections from the Practical Test Standard. You must accomplish each task to the satisfaction of your flight instructor.
We accomplished the curriculum in a little less than an hour, and then did a few additional tasks for fun, logging a total of 1.3 hours. I submitted the three Flight activities to the instructor for credit, and a couple hours later had the FAA’s blessing to fly for another two years.
The new WINGS program doesn’t require a logbook endorsement like the old program did. Your status is maintained on FAASafety. I do have the instructor write each Flight activity course number in the logbook entry for the flight.
The goal of WINGS is for pilots to train continuously, and not just in a short burst every two years as I just did. Every two years, I pledge to myself to do it the continuous way from now on; each time, I fail and end up using the all-at-once method.
If I do three Knowledge activity and three Flight activity within twelve months, I automatically extend my Flight Review deadline. That’s only one activity every two months. Perhaps this time I’ll succeed.