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CFI Tips

Click and learn

New AOPA Web site a learning tool for students and instructors

Every flight instructor who has worked the primary training beat for a while knows the pleasant assignment of launching a new student into a private pilot course. Many of the students know that as early as their first visit to the flight school, they will exit the session with an armful of textbooks, charts, and pilot gear, ready to immerse themselves in their first study assignments.

A new student's learning curve is steep. Soon questions flow like a mountain stream, as any staff flight instructor who has attempted to leave work promptly at 5 p.m. can attest. "Don't hesitate to phone with any other questions," the CFI cheerfully says to all comers. And call they do--the phone is already ringing as you walk into the house and set down your things. Such is the CFI's happy mission in life: to be constantly researching, transporting, and disseminating information in response to the steady stream of student inquires--an airport diagram for Student A; a copy of an article on stalls for Student B; an application form for Student C. In your copy of the federal aviation regulations, a bookmark protrudes from a page where you found the answer to an eligibility question posed by Student D.

In the not-so-distant past, a flight instructor with a good memory, a towering stack of old magazines, and an impressive aviation library was best equipped to respond promptly to all the demands for information. But it was a time-consuming process. Then came ubiquitous home computers, the Internet, and search engines, speeding up matters up considerably. Now there's the new Web site for AOPA Flight Training magazine, which in its potential role as a student pilot's first and most comprehensive information resource takes the gathering of information on flight training to a new level of speed and efficiency. Any flight instructor who is a current AOPA member can enter the site seamlessly; there's no need for a separate log-in.

When a student pilot brings up the site for the first time, he or she arrives at the home page, where options for further exploration include browsing through information resources for active students, introductory material for prospective students, and a Virtual Flight Bag that provides weather data, AOPA's Airport Directory Online, forms--even a link to AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner. A student can take the Quick Tour (a video) or select one of nine tabs that appear at the top of the home page. Through a drop-down menu, the Students tab steers your students to information collated by phase of training: presolo, solo, maneuvers, cross-country, and flight-test prep.

It is by clicking on one of these topic selections that the student pilot can begin to mine data with greater speed, accuracy, and depth. For example, go to the presolo page and behold links to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about prep for solo, information on flying skills, interactive courses and quizzes such as "The Ups and Downs of Takeoffs and Landings," and topic briefs including articles published in AOPA Pilot, AOPA Flight Training, and Safety Advisor publications from the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Or guide your student to the cross-country topic area before going on your first dual cross-country flight to a tower-controlled airport. There, try out the interactive quiz on land and hold short operations. Click and learn! How did you score on the quiz?

Beneath those main choices are Special Topics links. On the presolo page they are: Your Medical, Stalls FAQ, Your Aviation Vocabulary, and Avionics and Instruments. The information on these special topics is several levels deep. For example, by choosing one of the FAQs about stalls, a reader finds a succinct discussion of the question, plus a link to a related article that expands on the subject. How many times have you explained to a beginner the cause-effect relationship between uncoordinated stalls and spins? Supplement (but do not abandon) your one-on-one discussions with information found by perusing the FAQs about spins. Then, show your student how he or she can use the site's search functions to bring up other articles published by AOPA on this and other training subjects. More about searching is available at the Library tab.

On the hands-on side, show your students how selecting the Virtual Flight Bag tab brings them face to face with the latest information on weather, notams and temporary flight restrictions, airport information including taxi diagrams and instrument approach charts, and AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner (including instructions for installing it on PCs).

We mentioned a CFI's ever-expanding library. Sometimes by default it becomes the local aviation lending library, doesn't it? Library tab to the rescue! Up-to-date editions of the FARs, Aeronautical Information Manual, and archives for articles from AOPA Flight Training and AOPA Pilot magazines await perusal. Enter your keyword into the search field and click. A new window opens, containing the results of your search.

As a flight instructor, your incoming telephone inquiries probably include calls from strangers considering flight training and who are overflowing with questions that you now answer by memory from much practice. Is flying safe? How much does it cost? How do I choose a flight school? What'll I fly? Establish that all-important personal bond with the caller, then offer more help than he or she ever bargained for by guiding them to the site's Learn tab. There, they can seek out the information you have described in comfort, at their own pace, instead of trying to remember it all or jot down hasty notes during the phone call. Suggest that they relax and watch the AOPA Project Pilot "Welcome" video, featuring actor/pilot Michael Dorn of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As Boyer says on camera, the video tells the story of people who "got started on the adventure of a lifetime" when they decided to learn to fly.

The CFI section of the site holds answers to many of the working flight instructor's everyday questions. Make it your source for forms such as the FAA 8710, for properly worded logbook endorsements, for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Instructor's Guide to the Presolo Written Test, advisory circulars, and back issues of ASF's quarterly Instructor Report newsletter. The CFI section is where you can enroll a new or prospective student in the free six-month AOPA introductory membership that includes six issues of AOPA Flight Training magazine.

For more than 65 years, AOPA has blazed new trails in pilot education and provided pilots with access to the information they need. That mission continues with the rollout of the new AOPA Flight Training Web site, which gives you, the flight instructor, powerful new tools to help you do your job of training skilled, safe, well-informed pilots.

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. A pilot for 19 years and an instructor for 13, he resides in Maine.

By Dan Namowitz

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