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On Being the Best

By Susan Parson
Reprinted with permission from FAA Safety Briefing

“There’s no such thing as a natural-born pilot.”

So said legendary pilot Chuck Yeager. He should know. According to the Huntington Quarterly (Winter 1998), Yeager initially struggled with airsickness, but he was determined not only to be a pilot, but to be the best:

Yeager’s passion was obvious and he flew incessantly throughout flight training, getting his hands on every airplane on base at all times of the day and night. When he wasn’t flying, he was studying every aspect of every plane, down to the last nut and bolt. And when he wasn’t near an airplane, he was either waxing poetic about them at the local watering hole or dreaming about them in his bunk.

While we cannot all reach the lofty heights Yeager did, we can all strive to be the best. One clear way is to stand up for safety—the theme of this year’s FAASTeam Safety Stand down—by developing and improving our pilot skills. An advantage today’s pilots have over those of Yeager’s generation is the wide range of aviation safety information and tools available to help you be the best and safest pilot you can possibly be.

Putting WINGS on Your Dreams

“GA pilots must develop an ongoing, recurrent training program to maintain their skills and establish a high level of safety,” says Kevin Clover, acting national FAASTeam manager. “The WINGS program offers an easy way to do this and is an important safety tool.”

The FAA’s free online WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program is available through www.FAASafety.gov. The objective of WINGS is to address the primary accident causal factors that continue to plague the general aviation community. It is based on the premise that pilots who maintain currency and proficiency in the basics of flight will benefit from a safer and more enjoyable flying experience. Accordingly, it outlines requirements for each aircraft category and class, and includes subjects and flight maneuvers appropriate to pilots operating those aircraft.

Here’s how it works. Once you have an account on FAASafety.gov, you complete your personal WINGS profile and select the category and class of aircraft you will use in the WINGS Program. The FAASafety.gov WINGS section (called My WINGS) will guide you to the education and training curriculum suitable for your individual flight requirements. The program outlines the subject areas you need to study through online courses, seminars, or webinars, and it specifies the level of flight proficiency in the Practical Test Standards (PTS) Areas of Operation that correspond to the leading causal factors in accidents, sorted by category and class of aircraft.

Importantly, the WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program offers GA pilots a structured recurrent training program tailored to an individual’s specific needs. In recognition of the program’s safety benefits, the FAA agrees that a pilot who completes a phase of WINGS satisfies the regulatory requirement for a flight review. Ongoing training to maintain WINGS currency at the Basic Level or higher means that you will always have a current flight review. Your flight review is documented in your WINGS profile on FAASafety.gov and the program reminds you when currency requirements are due.

If you are not already participating in WINGS, start your 2011 flying season by learning and growing into your very own WINGS!

Susan Parson is a Special Assistant in the FAA’s Flight Standards Service and editor of FAA Safety Briefing. She is an active general aviation pilot and flight instructor.