Piper Warrior training aircraft in flight on a cloudy, gray day.


Female pilot flying while a male instructor watches over her right shoulder.

It is a known and proven fact that being ‘current’ as a pilot is not the same as being ‘proficient.’ Currency is measured by, in effect, checking off little boxes in front of a list of required items. Daytime landings in the last 90 days? Check. Nighttime landings in the last 90 days? Check. Current Flight Review? Check. Current Medical? Check.

Nothing in those items requiring actual flying says anything about how well you accomplished them. Did your landings give you a close look at both edges of the runway? No problem, you landed and can use the airplane again so the landings currency box is checked.

I’m not sure why, but a large percentage of general aviation pilots feel that doing the absolute minimum is good enough. When it’s time for their next flight review the search is on for that local instructor who will consider the review complete if the pilot successfully flies him/her to a nearby airport, buys them lunch and flies them home without scaring them. But does that mean the pilot is proficient? Hardly. However, they are current.

This FAA video below addresses this a bit and highly recommends the WINGS Proficiency Program for general Aviation Pilots. I am adding my recommendation too. And that is not just because I am a WINGS Pro for the Reno, NV FSDO or that I used the WINGS Program for my last flight review and will for my next one.

After flying in the military for 20 years and for a major airline for 22 years I am used to regular proficiency checks. However there is a big difference between those checks and the WINGS Program. During Military/Airline proficiency checks your license and livelihood were on the line. WINGS Proficiency flights are instructional flights. The worst that can happen is that the instructor (and you) agree that you are not proficient in the maneuvers flown and you ought to practice and try it again.

Why not use WINGS for your next Flight Review? You get to choose what you are going to practice and ultimately, you choose how many flights it takes to show your proficiency. If you don’t care about being proficient, fine. Just, please, don’t ever take anybody flying with you.