WINGS Part 3: Skip Your Flight Review

In April, I wrote about flying for WINGS credit.  Last month I wrote about earning WINGS knowledge credit.  This month, I’ll tie it all together for WINGS credit in lieu of an FAA Flight Review.

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.

I strung all the tasks together into a curriculum as I described in April.  Then I contacted an instructor from the FNL Pilots Association webpage and scheduled the flight.

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.

WINGS, Part 2: Online Learning

Last month I talked about flying for WINGS credit. This month I’ll talk about learning on your computer or smart device for WINGS credit.

The FAA Safety team offers many courses for credit. When the new program started in 2007, the few courses they offered were pretty clunky. But since then they’ve partnered with AOPA and other providers, and the choices are good. Most of the programs available from the AOPA Air Safety Institute may be used as credits in the WINGS program (requires AOPA membership).

To access FAA Safety’s view of available courses, log on to your FAA Safety account, hover over Activities, Courses, Seminars & Webinars and click Courses on the pulldown menu. Then in the blue Catalog of Available Courses box, click Show WINGS Courses.

Notice that some courses cost money and others require you to be at a certain place at a certain time. It appears to be unsorted, other than the free courses appearing before the ones that cost money.

Another way to get to the courses is to go to your My WINGS page (hover over Pilots at the top and choose My Wings), and click Search next to one of the Knowledge Activities.

I’m working on my next WINGS phase, and decide to satisfy Knowledge Topic 1. On my My Wings page, I click Search on the Topic 1 box.

Scrolling down the list, I find Course ALC-82, “Do The Right Thing: Decision Making for Pilots”. I click its Select button which returns me to my My WINGS page. My selected activity now populates Knowledge Topic 1, with Status showing Enroll. I click there, and am enrolled for the course.

Usually, following the link to the course actually connects you to the course. However, when I follow the link to this particular course, I end up at the list of AIr Safety Institute courses, rather than at the Do The Right Thing course; AOPA probably moved a link associated with ALC-82 that caused things to get out of sync. No problem; I find the course in the list and start it. Now I’m ready to learn something and get credit for it. Feels like school.

Less than an hour later…

Very informative course, and I got 14 out of 15 questions right on the quiz, which is a passing grade. At the end, I’m asked for the email address associated with my WINGS account, and it assures me I’ll get credit. By the time I get back to my My WINGS page on FAA Safety, I’ve already received course credit. (This is really nice; when the program first started, it could take days or weeks before your credit for an AOPA course would show up.)

If I take one course in each of the topic areas, I’ll have my written requirements completed for my next WINGS phase. The three topic areas may be redefined from time to time depending on what areas of study the FAA wants to emphasize. Currently the topic areas are:

  • Knowledge Topic 1: Aeronautical Decision Making
  • Knowledge Topic 2: Performance and Limitations
  • Knowledge Topic 3: everything else (including Preflight Planning, Risk Management, and Fuel Management)

You can also sign up for WINGS credit when you attend a FAA Safety-sanctioned safety seminar. On the signup sheet at the event, write the email address associated with your WINGS account, and the event presenters will give you credit for the course, in the appropriate knowledge topic. Most seminars generate a credit for Topic 3, the catch-all topic.

That’s all there is to it. You’re more knowledgeable, the FAA is happy with you, and your insurance company is happy with you. Next month I’ll write about how to use the WINGS program as a substitute for your Flight Review (formerly known as a BFR).

WINGS, Part 1: Improving Your Flying Skills

If you’re like me, you haven’t flown much over the past few months.  Time to shake off the rust and regain that flight proficiency.

The FAA WINGS program (documented in Advisory Circular (AC) 61-91J) can be used to get credit towards a WINGS stage while focusing on specific skills.  Wow, I can become a better pilot and get credit for it from the FAA.  My insurance company likes that, too.

If you haven’t used WINGS yet, simply create an account on the FAA Safety website,

Now log into your account. Hover over the Pilots tab near the top of the page and click My WINGS on the pulldown menu that appears. You’ll see your WINGS progress summary, consisting of three Knowledge Activities and three Flight Activities.  These have been pre-populated with topics that may or may not interest you.  That’s okay; you can choose something else.

I’m going to choose a Flight Activity for Flight Topic 2 (the middle one).  I click its Search link, and get a long list of Topic 2 activities.  Note that free ones are listed before activities that cost money.  I think I’ll choose a free one.

I find the one labeled Flight Activity A070405-08, “ASEL-Slow Flight, Stall, Basic Instruments (Pvt, Comm’l, ATP)”.  This looks like a good challenge.  I click its Select button which returns me to my My WINGS page.  My selected activity now populates Flight Topic 2.

I click on the activity’s title to see the details of what I’m  expected to do during this flight.  The activity page for A070405-08 lists specific tasks from sections of the Practical Test Standard.  They are:

  1. Area of Operation VIII, Task A: Maneuvering During Slow Flight
  2.  Area of Operation VIII, Task B: Power-Off Stalls
  3. Area of Operation VIII, Task C: Power-On Stalls
  4. Area of Operation IX, Task A: Basic Instrument Maneuvers, Straight-and-Level Flight
  5. Area of Operation IX, Task D: Basic Instrument Maneuvers, Turns to Headings
  6. Area of Operation IX, Task E: Recovery from Unusual Flight Attitudes

I need to demonstrate these six skills to an instructor in order to get credit for the activity.  I could do them in separate flights, but I opt to accomplish them in a single flight.  I review the tasks in the PTS and plan a flight that includes all of them, but in a different order that makes sense for me.  I write it all down:

  1. Depart from FNL and head northeast to the practice area.
  2. On the way to the practice area, put on my Foggles and demonstrate straight-and-level flight.  Altitude ±200ft; heading ±20°; airspeed ±10kts. (Operation IX, Task A)
  3. With the Foggles still on, demonstrate a left turn to a heading assigned by the instructor, and then a right turn to a heading assigned by the instructor.  Altitude ±200ft; standard-rate turns rolling out on the assigned heading ±10°; airspeed ±10kts. (Operation IX, Task D)
  4. With the Foggles still on, arrive at the practice area (just to get a few more minutes of simulated instrument time).
  5. With the Foggles still on, give aircraft control to the instructor and close my eyes.  Instructor will initiate an unusual attitude and then return control to me (at which point, of course, I open my eyes).  I will recover promptly to a stabilized level flight attitude using proper instrument cross-check and interpretation and smooth, coordinated control application in the correct sequence. (Operation IX, Task E)
  6. Remove the Foggles.  Slow the plane down to just above stall with the flap configuration assigned by the instructor.  Keeping the speed just above stall, demonstrate straight-and-level flight, turns, climbs, and descents.  Assigned altitudes ±100ft; assigned headings ±10°; airspeed +10/-0kts; assigned bank angle ±10°. (Operation VIII, Task A)
  7. Speed up just a bit to set up landing configuration (full flaps, prop high-RPM) and then demonstrate a power-off stall and recovery.  Maintain assigned heading ±10° in straight flight or assigned bank 20° ±10° if in turning flight.  After stalling, retract flaps to 10°, accelerate to 65kts while establishing a positive rate of climb, and retract remaining flaps.  Return to assigned heading and altitude.  (Operation VIII, Task B)
  8. Set up initial climb configuration (no flaps) and then demonstrate a power-on stall.  Maintain assigned heading ±10° in straight flight or assigned bank 20° ±10° if in turning flight.  After stalling, establish a positive rate of climb.  Return to assigned heading and altitude.  (Operation VIII, Task C).
  9. Wipe the sweat off my brow, and return to KFNL to complete the flight.

Now that I have a plan, I can choose an instructor from one of our flight schools, or check the training page of the FNL Pilots Association website for a recurrent training instructor.  I urge you to fly with an instructor that’s new to you; different instructors notice different things about your flying skills and habits.  I negotiate price, provide the instructor with my planned flight script, schedule the flight, and then execute it.

(Aside to our instructor members: if you’re not listed on the training page, we’ll add you after you fill out the form you’ll find there.)

Trust me, your flight instructor will be overjoyed that you tell them what you want to do with your plan of flight, instead of showing up and generically asking, “So…. what should we do?”

If I have trouble with any of the tasks, the person that can help me get better is sitting right next to me, and we can work on the skills.  It might take more than one flight if I’m really rusty.  That’s fine.  It’s making me a better pilot.

Once we’ve flown the all the tasks to the instructor’s (and my) satisfaction, I return to My WINGS and click When Complete Request Credit.  I fill in the date of the flight and who my flight instructor was, and click Submit for Validation.  My instructor will receive the request and acknowledge that I accomplished the required tasks.  The credit then appears on my My WINGS page.

I’ve demonstrated (or improved) my proficiency of a few flight tasks to the tolerances of the PTS, and I’m on my way to earning a WINGS phase.  Not a bad way to hone my skills.

Next month I’ll write about earning WINGS credit for taking an online safety course.


Welcome to our blog

Newsletters evolve because of technology.  Remember those text newsletters Howard used to send out?  Simple, but informative.

In our next newsletter phase, Microsoft Publisher was used to create some professional-looking PDF newsletters, with pictures and cartoons and articles.  But these resulted in large downloads that were awkward to view on new technology (iPhones and Android devices).

I’m looking to begin Newsletter Phase 3.  I envision a newsletter that contains items with a little bit of context so you know what the subject is about, followed by a link to our web page for the rest of the story.

We have always had classified ads and hangar availability posted at the web page, and we strive to keep the events calendar up-to-date.  Repeating this data in a newsletter is redundant.  It’s better if the newsletter gives you the ability to click and get to the information on the website.

What we were missing on our website was a method of posting articles and columns.  That’s the purpose of this blog.  Our intrepid Newsletter Editor Jeneal McKinley can post member interviews, member-submitted articles, and other items of interest to our Association, and can link to them in a brief monthly newsletter for members who don’t keep up with the website.  I can post the monthly President’s Column on the blog as well.

We’re also going to link to blog entries on our Facebook page.  Different methods of access for different audiences.

I’ve disabled comments to the blog so we don’t have to deal with blog spammers.  Officer and Board email addresses are available on the website, and if you look way down at the bottom of each page you’ll find my cell number.  Feel free to communicate with any of us.