At my local computer store you can pay $25 and get 10 hours of computer help, either online or by phone. You can find computer assistance via 900 numbers. Why doesn't anyone in aviation offer a similar high-dollar, dial-for-information service? Because there's plenty of information already available for free or a small fee.
If you're an AOPA member, you have access to one of the most comprehensive collections of aviation information on the planet. With a computer and access to the Internet, you can look up nearly any type of aviation information. You can call the AOPA Pilot Assistance Hotline (800/872-2672) and talk to one of the incredibly capable folks there. If they can't find the information, then it probably doesn't exist.
I've paid a major software company $39 to help me solve a single software problem. One time I recall dealing with a problem that really, really, really troubled me. They took my call immediately. This was unusual, since I was calling from the ledge of a tall building.
AOPA's yearly membership fee is $39. If I pay Quark $39 to get connected to someone in India who might answer one question, and I pay AOPA $39 to answer an unlimited number of questions for an entire year (not to mention a plane-full of other benefits), which is the better deal? You don't need to turn the page upside down to get that answer.
This is another reason to have your students become AOPA members. You can teach them how to seek the answers to their own questions, which might give you a little breathing room in your schedule. The wealth of information in the members-only portion of AOPA Online sure beats calling a 900 number (especially since one doesn't exist).
By Rod Machado