What’s better than saving money while flying? Winning money.
And you can do both when you participate in the FAA’s WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program.
“Who doesn’t want to save money? Flying is expensive enough as it is,” said Jim Alexander, an FAA Safety Team Representative and WINGSPro with the Washington FSDO, during a recent webinar on the program.
“Insurance companies know that active ongoing safety program participants are safer pilots, so they offer incentives for participation in WINGS,” he said.
He noted that to get these discounts on your insurance premiums, you should complete your WINGS activities — including webinars, online classes, and flights — in the previous six months.
“They want it to be a truly recurrent proficiency training program, because you never know when you’re going to have an accident or an incident,” he explained.
Not sure if your insurance company offers the discounts? Simply ask.
“Please check with your insurance company on aviation insurance discounts or accident forgiveness and other such things,” he advised.
Another way to save money?
Most of the WINGS courses and webinars are free.
And while you’ll find most of the courses at the FAASafety.gov website, there are other great resources for free training materials.
For instance, the Experimental Aircraft Association has a monthly webinar series, which it has expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and its Air Safety Institute also offer free webinars and courses, as well as the National Association of Flight Instructors and many other GA alphabet groups.
Many of these free courses qualify for WINGS credit.
“You can also complete them all on your own schedule,” Alexander said.
Even the live events — like the WINGS webinar that was held in May 2020 — are recorded so pilots can watch them at their own convenience.
“If you want to catch something at 3 a.m., you can do that,” he said.
And when things get back to normal and we can attend live seminars, there’s even more benefits, such as interacting with other pilots, discussions, and camaraderie, he noted.
“Hopefully we’ll get back to that again soon, because free live seminars are a great way to discuss with other pilots important topics like currency versus proficiency, legal versus safe, personal minimums, etc.,” he said.
More Bang for Your Buck
Additionally, you can get WINGS credit for training you are doing already.
“For example, many Gleim, King Schools, and Sporty’s online courses come with free WINGS credit,” he said. “You’re paying for the course anyway, you might as well get the most bang for the buck out of it and take the free WINGS credits that come with it, and apply those towards WINGS phases.”
He adds that these courses don’t have to be related to a certification or rating.
“It might just be the latest Garmin GPS, or Dynon glass cockpit, or something like that. They typically come with WINGs credit.”
But if you are working on a certification — from the initial private pilot certificate, instrument rating, commercial pilot, or CFI — those all come with enough WINGS credits to complete an entire phase of WINGS.
“So take advantage of that, and get the WINGS credit, and start continuing down the proficiency path once you finish your certificate,” he advised. “The same is true with the instrument proficiency check, a seaplane rating, or other added category class rating, upset prevention recovery training, Civil Air Patrol check rides and evaluations for those CAP members. All of those activities can come with free WINGS credit.”
One of the newer programs that offers continued training, as well as WINGS credit, is EAA Proficiency 365.
It grew out of the EAA Pilot Proficiency Center held every year at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
“Each year since 2016, about 5,000 pilots have been trained at Oshkosh in Redbird simulators for free WINGS flight credit,” Alexander said. “EAA Proficiency 365 just expands on that to make the training available year-round.”
The program includes a SkillScore Tracker, which helps you measure your flying skills. You can even see how your skills stack up against other pilots.
Also under the EAA Proficiency 365 umbrella are IMC and VMC clubs. When you attend these meetings, you’ll get WINGS credit.
Many EAA chapters have IMC and VMC clubs, but haven’t been able to meet since COVID-19 restrictions began in March. A lot of them are now meeting virtually, through Zoom and other online platforms.
As well as saving money on insurance and continued training, participating in WINGS also gives you the chance to win money.
Now in its third year, the $10,000 WINGS Sweepstakes is sponsored by the WINGS Industry Advisory Committee and funded by Fran and Paul Burger, a pilot and longtime advocate for general aviation who believes that WINGS saves lives.
Any time you complete a WINGS phase, you are eligible for an entry into the annual contest. The more phases you complete, the better your chances to win part of the prize money. Four $1,500 winners, four $750 winners, and two $500 winners are chosen every year.
“You’re earning knowledge credits today on this webinar, so keep going to complete phases, and then have the chance to win possible cash prizes,” Alexander told the webinar participants.
It’s easy to enter, he added.
Go to your My WINGS page on FAASafety.gov, click on Claim Reward on the lower right side of the screen, and select the WINGS Sweepstakes.
Alternatively, you can go to MyWINGSInitiative.org and click on Enter Contest. That will bring up a screen with an entry form for you to fill out.
Alexander notes that while both work, it is probably quicker and easier to go through FAASafety.gov as that is already tied to your WINGS phases record, so you don’t have to enter that information manually.
Extra Chances For CFIs
Certified Flight Instructors get extra opportunities to enter the WINGS Sweepstakes.
That’s because Burger sees the CFI as essential to increasing participation in WINGS.
“The CFI has the most influence over a pilot at the flight review,” Burger said. “The whole objective is to build awareness of and participation in the WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program.”
CFIs will get an entry for every WINGS phase they complete for themselves, but then they also get an entry when a client completes a WINGS phase.
“Also if you sign off any traditional 24 calendar month flight review, you get an extra entry,” Alexander noted. “So depending on how active a participant you are and your students are in the WINGS program, you could get a whole lot of extra chances to win part of the $10,000.”