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Fri, Jul 27, 2007

Wings 2.0 -- The New FAA Proficiency Program, Part II

Three-Phase Program Related To Pilot Cert Levels

by ANN Correspondent Dave Ziegler

In our first installment, we looked at the original Wings proficiency program and its recent replacement, Wings 2.0. This continuation digs deeper into how it works.

As stated previously, the flight instruction portion of Wings training is now tied to the Practical Test Standards, and pilots are required to demonstrate proficiency instead of simply completing a specific number of hours of recurrent training. James Pyles of the FAA Safety Team explained that there are no limitations imposed on time, so a Wings credit could be earned 20 minutes or 3 hours - however long it takes to ensure the pilot meets Practical Test Standards.

There are three phases in the program: Basic, Advanced and Master. According to Pyles, these phases are loosely related to Private, Commercial, and ATP certification levels, although they are not tied to the actual certificates as much as they are expected levels of proficiency. "We expect a commercial pilot to be a little bit more proficient, and more exact in what they do, than we do a private pilot. We expect an ATP to be even more exact than a commercial pilot. And that's kind of the way we look at those three phases."

Completing the Basic phase counts as a flight review, and as long as a pilot maintains at least the Basic level his or her flight review will never expire. Each time the Basic level is renewed through recurrent training, the time before it is necessary to either undergo more training or complete a flight review is extended. Pilots are notified by email 90 days prior to the expiration of their Wings currency. In order to complete the basic phase, pilots must obtain three credits for flight and three credits for knowledge (formerly known as the ground portion of Wings).

In order to participate in Wings 2.0, pilots must sign up on the FAASTeam web site and create a profile. At this time, profiles consist of category, class, and rating information, and the data provided will help the system to make training suggestions.

Once in the system, pilots may browse training requirements for a particular phase and, upon completing one of those requirements may return to the website to request credit. An email is then sent to the pilot's CFI, FAASTeam Representative, or FAASTeam Program Manager for validation.

Unlike the original program, which took anywhere between three days and a month to process an application and send out a certificate, participants in the new program can download and print out a current certificate via the website at any time. Certificates are available in two formats: 8.5" x 11" and wallet sized - a convenient size for keeping in a logbook for proof of currency.

The ability to easily download or email a transcript is another useful feature, especially if clubs, FBOs, and insurance companies begin to consider or require Wings currency. At the time of this writing, at least one insurance company rewards Wings participants with a discount, and this number is expected to grow now that Wings completion is more closely related to proficiency. "What we're trying to do now is get the insurance companies to buy into this program and really start working with us on it," said Pyles (below).

The FAASTeam has made a considerable effort to keep the system simple, but the increased functionality and customizability of the system does make participation in the program somewhat more involved. As Pyles pointed out, just as with learning the basic operation an aircraft, "you do have to learn it, there's no doubt about it, but the program is really very simple."

The original Wings will remain in effect until December 31, 2007, and pilots will have until the end of January 2008 to apply for their Wings phase under the old program. Between now and the end of 2007, pilots can also complete the Basic phase of the new Wings program and qualify for both the new and old program.  In this case, the 12 month waiting period between Wings applications will be waived.

Pilots should note that, because the old program does not require demonstration of proficiency, Wings credit earned under the old program may not be applied to the new, although recent completion of an old phase will still count as a recent flight review.

It's important to note that the current AOPA Air Safety Foundation on-line safety seminars no longer qualify towards Wings credit with the new program, although they are still valid for the old program until the end of the year. The FAASTeam expects to work with the ASF and other organizations to create accredited seminars compatible with the new program.

There is one other change worth mentioning: To the disappointment of some pilots, the FAA will no longer be providing Wings lapel pins under the new program, although it is investigating ways to offer these and other incentives, discounts, and services through third party vendors.

More information on this and other safety resources is available from the FAA Safety Team website.

FMI: www.faasafety.gov

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