It seems that everyone in general aviation knows someone who was killed or injured in an accident.
And often the worst accidents could have been avoided except for one bad decision or an avoidable situation.
Working to reverse that trend is Paul Burger, a retired successful businessman and pilot, who founded the WINGS Industry Advisory Committee, a coalition of industry representatives, government officials, and individuals dedicated to increasing participation in the FAA’s WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program.
The committee’s newest effort is a sweepstakes designed to encourage pilots and Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) to become more invested in the WINGS program.
A beta test held in 2018 with CFIs who are members of the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) and the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) proved so successful that the program will be opened up in 2019 to all pilots and all CFIs, according to Burger.
Paul and his wife Fran put up all the money for the 2019 WINGS Sweepstakes — $50,000 — with $10,000 distributed each year.
Paul is quick to emphasize the program is not a raffle or lottery — pilots and CFIs who want to participate do not pay anything for the chance to win one of the prizes.
Prizes include two $1,500 prizes, two $1,000 prizes, two $750 prizes, and two $500 prizes.
The sweepstakes is designed to give CFIs an incentive to leverage the flight review to encourage pilots to complete a phase of the WINGS program.
“The CFI has the most influence over a pilot at the flight review,” he said. “The whole objective is to build awareness of and participation in the WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program.”
He reported that only about 67,000 pilots have earned a phase in the Wings program since its inception in 2005.
“That’s a very small percentage of the pilots in this country,” he said. “And that’s what we want to change.”
With only about 12,000 pilots completing a phase of the WINGS program each year, it’s not going take many more pilots to get involved to show the sweepstakes works, noted Lauretta Godbey, co-chair of the WINGS Industry Advisory Committee.
And the sweepstakes adds an element of fun into continuing pilot education, she added.
“It’s just something that takes some of the seriousness out of all this,” she said. “We can have a little fun with this by having a competition.”
How Does It Work?
When a pilot completes a phase of the WINGS program, they receive a congratulatory email that includes an opportunity to participate in the WINGS rewards program, including registering for a chance to win the sweepstakes starting in 2019.
The more phases you complete, the more chances you have to win one of the prizes in a random drawing.
For CFIs, the chances increase every time one of their students complete a phase.
Each year thousands of pilots get some kind of WINGS credit, according to Burger.
“Pilots are obligated every two years to get their flight review,” he noted. “If they do the flight review correctly, they have three of six credits that are required to earn a phase, so why not complete it?”
Pilots can complete a phase by attending a seminar or taking an online course.
He noted the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Institute has many Wings credit programs in its archives.
“Not the least of which is the one everyone should start with: Aeronautical Decision Making,” he said. “If they complete that online, that’s one of the three knowledge credits.”
A Focused Flight Review
It’s another Air Safety Institute (ASI) program, the new Focused Flight Review,
that has those concerned about pilot proficiency excited.
Launched in July 2018, the Focused Flight Review gives pilots a more individualized opportunity to sharpen their skills, proficiency, and knowledge through realistic flight scenarios, according to ASI officials.
Built into each scenario are ways to improve fundamental stick-and-rudder skills, decision making, understanding of aircraft operating envelopes, technologies, aircraft performance capabilities, and loss of control.
Burger and the rest of the WINGS Advisory Committee learned about the Focused Flight Review from Hartzell Propeller President Joe Brown, known throughout the industry as a proponent of pilot proficiency.
“We’re very committed to the idea that aviators have to thrive,” he said. “Safe pilots beget other pilots and dumb pilots scare off a bunch of people.”
Working with Radek Wyrzykowski, the founder of IMC Clubs, Brown helped create the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. The center has grown every year, with CFIs from SAFE and NAFI coaching pilots at the 14 sims in the center during the show, along with a myriad of presentations designed to increase pilot proficiency.
Continuing education for CFIs was then added to the Pilot Proficiency Center’s offerings during the show.
Brown said he looks at the sweepstakes as the third element to pilot proficiency.
“Anything that connects CFIs to the value of WINGS, and to a specific WINGs program, Focused Flight Review, is a good thing from Hartzell’s perspective, and anything that makes the instructor a better advisor to the pilot is a really good thing from the Hartzell perspective, so we support this totally,” he said.
“It’s the perfect triangle for me,” he continued. “One point of the triangle is to show pilots new and better ways to train at AirVenture where we have an audience that’s really interested in that, and who might take that back to their chapters. The other point of the triangle is a continuing education program for CFIs at Oshkosh,” he said. “The third point of the triangle is marrying pilots and instructors together in an improved experience at their flight review.”
Hartzell is just one of many companies and organizations that have endorsed the new sweepstakes.
Other endorsers include Avemco Insurance Co., AOPA, the American Bonanza Society, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the FAASTeam, and many more.
“In the end, what’s the grand vision?” Brown said. “It’s pretty simple.”
It’s all about continuing education, he said.
“We need to up our training game.”
And there’s no better place to start doing that than the flight review.
“This shouldn’t just be a flight review where I sign your logbook,” Brown said. “This should be lifelong learning, and WINGS is the way to do that.”
Want to Know More About WINGS? Go to FAASafety.gov.