If you haven’t yet read 4 Reasons to Participate in the FAA WINGS Program, check it out to learn about the benefits of the FAA’s proficiency program. After writing that article, I learned yet another benefit: you can renew your CFI certificate through the WINGS program. As a reminder, a pilot can renew his or her certificated flight instructor designation through several methods. Refer to 14 CF4 61.197 to locate these. In addition to these ways, the FAASTeam lays out instructions in the WINGS User Guide to complete the CFI renewal required every twenty-four months. More details can be found in Advisory Circular AC 61-91J.
How do you validate activities?
But first, how do you actually validate activities, anyway? The first step to validate a student’s activities is, of course, to have a WINGS profile yourself. If you haven’t done so yet, go the WINGS page and follow the instructions to participate in the WINGS program. If you are an instructor, you can utilize the “Instructor Portal.” Here, you can validate WINGS credit for others. You can validate WINGS credit for others based on two scenarios: 1. You completed the training as their instructor, or 2. They presented proof of activity completion to you. The first scenario is self-explanatory. Let me provide an example for the second scenario. I have attended Part 142 training where the personnel at the center is not familiar with the WINGS program, yet there is an associated activity in the WINGS activity database. In this case, when I return from training, I present my chief pilot (also a CFI) with my training record showing I’ve completed the training and hence, the associated WINGS activity. He can validate the WINGS activity based on this proof of completion.
15 Activities For 5 Different Pilots to Renew
Back to the CFI renewal. To meet the requirement of CFI renewal through the WINGS program, you must perform the training. To be eligible, you must validate a total of fifteen (15) activities for at least five (5) different pilots. Your CFI certificate cannot be expired, and you must participate in the WINGS program yourself. This means you must hold a current phase of WINGS. You must evaluate (i.e. fly with) and validate the pilots’ activities through the website as well as make endorsements in their logbooks. Sample endorsements are in the WINGS User Guide. Once these requirements are met, you must fill out the IACRA form and make a visit to the local FSDO. Here you are required to present a record of your activity validations and the completed 8710 from IACRA. Use “List of Credits Validated” under Instructor Tools as that record. It’s wise to have your FTN number and your login information on standby. Here is the entire list of requirements boxed in green:
The FAASTeam really tees this up for you; on the last few pages of the WINGS User Guide, they list out commonly used WINGS activities for most students. They lay out the most common utilized activities, so you can meet the threshold for CFI renewal. These include basic activities like takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds. This creates an easy to reference list from which you can pick activities. Of course, you can use these or others activities. Presumably, a moderately active flight instructor could complete the requirements for CFI renewal under the WINGS Program in a matter of weeks or months.
Why Renew Using the WINGS Program?
So, who would this CFI renewal method be good for? This would be a great method for anyone who wants to create awareness about the WINGS program. If you are a safety evangelist, and you think this is a great program like I do, exposing your primary students to the WINGS program is an effective way to be a safety advocate.
On a more practical level, using the WINGS program to renew your CFI would be good for active flight instructors who might not endorse lots of students for practical tests. For instance, if your flight school specializes in aerobatics only or provides mostly tailwheel endorsements, this might be a great method to keep up your CFI. Granted, this will still require going to your local FSDO, filling out IACRA, and presenting supporting documentation to the FAA inspector. However, if for whatever reason, you don’t endorse lots of students for practical exams, you don’t need to worry about the minimum of five endorsements and an 80% pass rate. Nor do you need to worry about paying for a CFI renewal program every two years.
For an active instructor, the WINGS CFI renewal method strikes me as the easiest, least expensive way to renew your CFI. By creating an attractive way to renew a CFI certificate, the FAASTeam has possibly created the most effective way to spread awareness about the WINGS program. CFIs are the educating link to the vast majority of the pilot population; by incentivizing CFIs to participate in the WINGS program themselves, interest in the WINGS program will undoubtedly increase. Widespread awareness of the WINGS program isn’t required for you to take advantage of the benefits, though. You know this well-kept secret now, so next time your CFI is due for renewal, use the FAA WINGS program!