Did you know that you never need to take another biennial flight review.
When I first earned my private certificate, if I wasn’t interested in a higher rating, I never needed to fly with another flight instructor, ever again. Many pilots flew that way. After all, once I earned my driver’s license, I didn’t need to suffer through Drivers Ed again. But in the late 1970’s, the FAA decided that they might be able to improve flight safety by asking pilots to fly with a flight instructor every couple of years. The flight instructor could critic the pilot’s skills, and review any changes in the rules. They mandated that every pilot needed to take a flight review every two years. The flight review had to consist of at least one hour of ground instruction and at least one hour of flying. Other than spending some of the ground time reviewing Part 91 of the regulations, the structure of the flight review has always been left to the discretion of the instructor. For glider pilots, three flights can replace the hour of flight time.
The policy was successful, and flight safety did measurably improve. At one point the FAA considered changing the rule and requiring the flight review every year. If a little bit of medicine is good for you, then more medicine should be better, right? That’s why the FAA started to demand that we call it a “Part 61.56” flight review, instead of a “biennial flight review”. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, and even the FAA officials usually goof and just call it a “biennial”.
Instead of mandating an annual flight review, the FAA developed a program that they hoped might keep pilots more engaged and improving their flight safety on a continuous basis. This is the WINGS program. The hope is that a pilot who challenges himself to review his skills, and expand his knowledge throughout the year will be a more engaged and safer pilot.
The wings program is broken into flying skill tasks that you practice with a flight instructor, and knowledge tasks that you can earn in a couple of ways. The FAA and the APE (Airplane Owners and Pilots Association) have created a library of educational programs that are available on-line. Most of them are very good. The FAA also sponsors seminars to present flight topics all over the country. You can sign up on the FAA web site to receive announcements of these activities. Most of them are interesting, and give you a chance to rub elbows with other area pilots.
You can use this link to see the FAA guide to the wings program:
Now for the good news. If you earn three knowledge credits for attending seminars or taking on line courses, and earn three flying skill credits, The FAA gives you a certificate that is the equivalent of a Part 61.56 flight review.
There are several advantages to using the Wings program to satisfying the requirements of a flight review.
• It is less stressful than scheduling and taking a formal flight review just before your old one expires.
• It can be a lot more fun and interesting than taking a formal flight review.
• It keeps you sharp.
• If you ever have an incident or other reason to talk to the FAA, the first thing they will ask you is whether you participate in the Wings program. The FAA is so invested in the benefits of the Wings program that they will give a pilot a lot of slack if they are a participant. It can make the difference between being grounded and just being asked to take some retraining.
• The insurance companies are invested in the Wings program too. They offer discounts for pilots who participate.
• Your instructors would rather fly a couple of skills with you over the year, than kill a whole morning doing a formal Flight Review.
Now for the great news- When you take a PGC annual check ride, you have completed the requirements of one flying skill credit.
• Take the PGC annual check ride with your favorite instructor.
• Sign up for the Wings program on line.
• Look up flight task A070405-134 on the Wings web site.
• Use the web site to ask your flight instructor to validate the task.
You are on your way to fulfilling the requirements of your next biennial, …I mean Part 61.56 flight review.