October 1, 2005
AOPA President Phil Boyer is an annual contributor to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Hat in the Ring Society.
Sitting in the left seat of AOPA for the past 15 years has given me an enviable view of the many facets of this remarkable organization.
As an admitted technophile, I have found that watching our Web site evolve is one area that has been of particular interest — and pleasure — to me. As you know, our Web site houses a wealth of powerful resources such as satellite weather, AOPA's Airport Directory online, the Vref aircraft valuation service, the indispensable TurboMedical interactive form, and even past issues of AOPA Pilot, the world's favorite aviation magazine. With more than 50,000 pages, the Web site can easily occupy hours of your time moving from one area to the next.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation maintains one of the most popular areas of our Web site, which is also one of the fastest growing. It's home to valuable information that every pilot can use on every flight. It has grown so much that we're in the process of redesigning it; we even gave it a new name: the AOPA Online Safety Center. From our home page, click the fifth button down — Online Safety Center — in the public section.
Think of the Online Safety Center as a big store filled with ways to make you a better, safer pilot, regardless of your experience level. By the way, everything in the AOPA Online Safety Center is free. ASF is funded not only by the $1 donation that is part of your annual AOPA membership dues, but also by generous contributions from pilots who believe in the foundation's mission of Safe Pilots. Safe Skies.
At the Online Safety Center, or OSC, you'll find taxi diagrams, a flight-planner form, flashcards to help you better understand runway signage, as well as something we frankly hope you never need: the air intercept procedures card. One of the most popular features of the OSC is the newly reformatted and easier-to-use accident database and analysis section. There, in the most complete collection of information of its kind, pilots can learn from the mistakes of the past, so they hopefully won't be repeated in the future. There are also dozens of publications to help you get — and stay — proficient.
Without a doubt the most exciting aspect of the OSC is the new online courses. If you're thinking, "Oh, a boring slide show," think again. Highly interactive and exceptionally rich in content as well as in appearance and sound, these courses take full advantage of today's top technologies (and, frankly, provide another reason to step up to broadband Internet service if you haven't already done so). The courses are more Star Wars than slide show.
Our most recent addition is "Mountain Flying," supported by a grant from the FAA. If your reaction is, "But I don't live near the Rockies," consider this: It will take you through the challenges of high-density-altitude operations, flight planning, and performance considerations. Any pilot would benefit from learning about these common challenges. In fact, member Gerald Waddill, AOPA 1211282, recently took the course and says, "Thank you, AOPA, for making available the new safety courses. Before flying my family across the country from Richmond, Virginia, to the Rocky Mountain region, I completed the 'Mountain Flying' online course and truly benefited from being fresh with important safety information. This was my second time making this trip, and this year I was safer with the knowledge given in your course. I highly recommend these courses to all my fellow pilots."
It will take about 45 minutes to complete "Mountain Flying." Because it's created to be both memorable and entertaining, the time goes by quickly. Easy navigation allows you to pause or repeat anything you'd like to see and hear again. If you prefer learning in smaller chunks of time, you can stop at any time and, if you've provided your e-mail address, you qualify for FAA Wings credit and you can start right where you left off.
Another great online course is "Runway Safety." Pilots often forget that a safe flight begins, and ends, on the ground. If you've ever taken taxiing for granted, remember that last year there were more than 300 runway incursions — some very serious. In this course, you'll hear a near miss happen in real time that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and your situational awareness on the ground. "Runway Safety" is so good that a member who flies for the airlines suggested that we create a commercial version of the course. And, with the help of the FAA and the Air Line Pilots Association, we just launched it.
Additional courses include "Say Intentions," to help you with in-cockpit communications; "Know Before You Go," a thorough review of today's increasingly complex special-use airspace; and two for IFR pilots, "IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By" and "Single-Pilot IFR." There are eight courses in all with more to come. Each is designed and created to make you a better pilot, no matter how good you already are.
I urge you to visit the AOPA Online Safety Center. You'll enjoy it; you'll learn a lot and you'll be a safer pilot as a result. A pretty good deal for something that's free to all pilots. The OSC is open 365/24/7.
The AOPA Online Safety Center is available online ( www.aopa.org/safetycenter/). To make tax-deductible donations to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, please visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/asf/development/).
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