May 1, 2005
By Ian J. Twombly
Spring means warmer nights, cleaning projects, leaves on the trees, and most important, flying.
For those who keep the airplane locked in the hangar all winter, it may mean the first time they've flown in months. With that in mind, there are a few things you should ask yourself before blasting off into the beautiful blue spring sky.
First and foremost, are you ready to fly? Sure, it's like riding a bike, but are you really prepared and legal? Currency requirements are always the first step. Make sure your medical and flight review are both valid and current. Medical currency is covered in FAR 61.23 and the flight review requirements are described in FAR 61.56. In addition, if you plan to carry passengers, make sure you have your three takeoffs and landings required by FAR 61.57.
A common question to the AOPA Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA) is whether the flight review and required takeoffs and landings are category and class specific. According to FAR 61.56, a flight review can be completed in any category and class of aircraft in which the pilot is rated.
For example, if you hold a commercial glider certificate and a private airplane single-engine-land rating, a flight review in the glider would satisfy the requirement and would apply to the single-engine airplane as well.
Such is not the case with the takeoffs and landings. FAR 61.57 makes it clear that these need to be in the applicable category, class, and type (if a type rating is required) of aircraft in which you would like to carry passengers.
Now that you know you are legally current, make sure you are proficient as well. FAA requirements are a bare minimum and even the most experienced pilots understand their limits and receive remedial instruction when they are rusty. Although most would agree that the fundamentals of flight never leave us, that doesn't necessarily mean we can nail a short-field landing when it counts.
Now that you're current and proficient, fill up those tanks and have some fun. It's a great time of year to be in the air.
Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership
Q: Where can I get in-depth information on important stuff such as airspace, weather flying, or GPS navigation? My CFI is teaching me how to handle the airplane, but he says I need more book learning before I take my checkride.
A: You're in luck! The AOPA Air Safety Foundation offers many free online courses, printed Safety Advisors, and live safety seminars to all pilots. Among the online courses are "Mission: Possible — Navigating Today's Special Use Airspace," "Know Before You Go," "Runway Safety," "Say Intentions," "IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By," and "SkySpotter." Each of the fast-paced, interactive courses takes between 20 and 30 minutes, offers a graduation certificate, and qualifies for FAA Wings program credit. And ASF has dozens of printed Safety Advisors on diverse topics such as weather, collision avoidance, single-pilot IFR, and more. Learn more about these programs and materials online ( www.asf.org).
Q: I'd like to attend the AOPA Fly-In and Open House on June 4. What information is available?
A: Visit our Web site under the Calendar of Events section ( www.aopa.org/fly-in/) and you'll find information about the arrival procedures, seminars, static display aircraft, and much more. A temporary control tower and special fly-in procedures will be in effect from 7 a.m. through 6 p.m. For additional information, call the AOPA Pilot Information Center staff at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).
Q: I can't log in to the members-only section of AOPA's Web site. What should I do?
A: To access the members-only section of the AOPA Web site, you need both a username and a password, which were supplied at the time of membership activation. If that's not working, and you have an e-mail address on file with us, use the Forgot Password link on the login page to have a new password e-mailed to you. If you are still having trouble, call AOPA Member Services at 800/872-2672 or e-mail us ( firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can help you with the information you need.
Member Services contact information:
Phone: 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday After hours: Renew your membership, reset your Web password, or enroll in Automatic Annual Renewal using our self-service touch-tone phone option.
Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership, and much more by clicking on My AOPA in the left column of our home page.
If you are looking for an instructor, be sure to check our flight schools database online ( www.aopa.org/learntofly/school/).
Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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