Staying current in aviation means that you are flying often enough and engaged with flying often enough to maintain your skills, knowledge, and judgement. As we’ve all experienced recently, sometimes currency is a difficult thing to maintain. There are ways you can keep your head in the clouds even if you can’t physically be up there as much as you would like and the FAA has a program designed to do just that.
The FAA instituted their WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program to help pilots maintain their currency with aeronautical decision making and their piloting proficiency. The online course is free to enroll in and even satisfies part of the requirements for a flight review. When signing up, each pilot lists the certificates they hold and the program will be tailored to those certificates. A private pilot will have a different set of course than an Airline Transport Pilot will.
There are three levels of courses: Basic, Advanced, and Master. Every pilot that is participating in WINGS for the first time must start at the Basic level. Each Level is comprised of Phases, and those Phases are comprised of courses and flights. For example, Phase 1 of the Basic WINGS program for an instrument rated, commercial pilot features courses in inflight icing, aeronautical decision making, an instrument proficiency check and three flights with an instructor. To pass a Phase the courses and flights must be completed within 12 months, otherwise the credits for the passed courses expire and the pilot must start over. The idea is currency after all! Successfully completing a Phase satisfies the requirements for a flight review, and unlocks either another Phase or the opportunity to move up to the next Level.
Each course begins with a quick slide presentation before entering into the scenario based training video portion, placing the pilot into a situation where they are forced to make a series of decisions about a flight. They may be asked to make a go/no go decision based on worsening weather reports or about weighing the benefits of a fuel stop with night time fast approaching. With each successive decision, the pilot is brought deeper into the scenario and the stakes get higher. Should you declare an emergency? Should you lower your flaps when you have ice on the wings? Perhaps the best feature is that the pilot can go back to an earlier point in the training scenario, choose a different course of action and see how different decisions would have lead to a better, or worse outcome.
The courses are informative, sometimes eye-opening and always rewarding to complete.
In addition, pilots may attend live seminars, webinars and lectures to receive credit towards a WINGS Phase. A full calendar of these events is maintained on the FAA WINGS website.
If it has been a few weeks, months or even years since you last flew, sign up for a WINGS account and begin your Phase 1 courses. There is no obligation, though the structured approach to currency may give you the roadmap you needed to find your way back into the sky.
For more information on the WINGS program, visit: https://disciplesofflight.com/faa-wings-program/