Most pilots are familiar with the FAA’s WINGS Program where you can earn knowledge credits for attending seminars and taking online courses. But did you know you can also earn WINGS credits for flying with an instructor? It’s a great way to encourage proficiency for your members, and if you earn three knowledge credits and three flight credits in a 12-month period, it can count as a flight review.
First, let’s clarify the difference between currency and proficiency. Currency relates to FAA requirements—your flight review every 24 months; three takeoffs and landings within 90 days to be able to carry passengers; 90-day night currency; 90-day tailwheel currency; or your Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC).
Being current, does not mean you are proficient. Proficiency allows us to assess performance to a set of standards. For instance, risk management, aeronautical knowledge, and practical skills are the three components of Airmen’s Certification Standards (ACS)—the standards a pilot needs to know, consider, and do to pass the knowledge and practical tests for a certificate, rating, or flight review.
So, what does that mean for flying clubs? The AOPA Flying Club Initiative staff have been working with clubs on the idea of WINGS for Clubs (see May 2020 Club Connector Question of the Month). We are encouraging clubs to use the FAA WINGS pilot proficiency program to have every member complete a phase of WINGS each year.
WINGS is more than just seminars and courses. There are detailed flight topics to ACS standards and a system to earn credits that is the equivalent of a flight review every 12 months. If you complete three knowledge activities, such as in-person seminars or online courses and complete three flight activities with a CFI in a year, you can achieve a phase of WINGS and that essentially counts as a flight review.
There are two main benefits. As an individual member, you are increasing your knowledge and your practical skills, which will make you a safer pilot. As a club, having a culture that promotes safety and proficiency benefits everyone—and will likely be rewarded with insurance discounts.
When it’s time to renew the club insurance policy, print out members’ WINGS transcripts and send them to your insurer. We’ve seen clubs get substantial discounts because they are proving to the insurance company that they are following a not just recognized proficiency program, but the FAA pilot proficiency program!
Flying Club Initiative Director Steve Bateman is part of the Westminster Aerobats Flying Club. When it’s five members adopted the notion of WINGS for Clubs, the club received a significant on its insurance policy. With the rising costs of insurance these days, that’s a substantial saving that can be passed on to members in the form of lower dues.
It is true his club is small, making it easier to get all the members to participate. However, we’ve seen that even with larger clubs the insurance companies will provide discounts as long as a majority of members, say 70 percent, are actively participating in the WINGS program and completing a phase—the three knowledge course and three flight hours.
If the majority of members are earning WINGS credits, it reduces the risk in their eyes of the insurers, and they’ll give you some discounts. It goes without saying, insurance companies look favorably on clubs with a safety program.
When it’s time to renew, don’t just renew! Talk with your insurance agent to find out what your club can do to get the best rates for the club. You may be surprised on what you can come up with.
So how do you start? Talk about it in your club meetings and encourage members to embrace the WINGS for Clubs idea. Explain the benefits to them as individual pilots and to the club as a whole with insurance discounts.
As part of your monthly meeting, include a safety section in which you cover a knowledge activity. There are hundreds to choose from on faasafety.gov or the Air Safety Institute. Open-up the safety seminar to all pilots in your area, not just club members. It’s a great way to be a part of your local aviation community and gain exposure for your club. It’s also a practical way to advertise your club to possible members and it conveys a commitment to safety within the club and the entire aviation community.
For a novel idea on how to fund the three flight activities, take a look at Steve Bateman’s Question of the Month article, “Does including flight hours in monthly dues make for more proficient members?”
The FAA WINGS Pilot Proficiency Guide can be downloaded and provides lots of useful information, including detailed flight activities that cover many flight topics, all taught to ACS standards.
Adopting the concept of WINGS for Clubs is a way to enhance your club’s safety culture and improve your members pilot proficiency. The benefit is proficient pilots, a safer club, and potential insurance savings that can go to reducing costs for everyone.