Live the Dream
From 'safe mother' to world record-holding, base-jumping daredevil
When Australian mom and corporate executive Heather Swan turned 40, she decided she needed a big change, and today she is a world record-holding base-jumper. In May 2006 she and her husband climbed Mt. Meru in Tanzania and threw themselves off, breaking the record for the highest-ever base jump. They are the only husband and wife base-jumping team in the world, and Swan has written a book about her transition from "safe mother" to daredevil. Read more >>
Summer barnstorming adventure
Sarah Wilson spent last summer barnstorming with the American Barnstormers, a group of antique airplane pilots. They traveled to small towns with names like Freeport, Wausau, and DeKalb, offering rides in open-cockpit biplanes. For three months, Sarah's days were measured in hours of daylight, gallons of fuel, and the number of 30-minute flights she could do before the light, or the gas, ran out. Read more >>
Born to fly
Christopher Gregg, a student at Issaquah Middle School in Issaquah, Wash., feels certain he was born to fly. His dream of becoming a pilot began when he fell in love with airplanes as a toddler. At age four, he started flying virtually on his home computer using flight simulator software. At age 10, he took his first flight lesson. What's his dream for the future? To attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and become a pilot and aerospace engineer. Read more >>
Gone flying? Tell us about your flight and submit photos and video of the experience!
Get a free AOPA membership for 2010
Struggling with gift suggestions this holiday season? Then why not ask friends or relatives to buy an AOPA membership for you! For only $39, you get 12 monthly issues of AOPA Pilot magazine and exclusive access to AOPA Internet Flight Planner, AOPA's Airport Directory Online and other members-only tools and resources. Ask the gift-giver to call 800/USA-AOPA, or complete the online gift membership application.
Connect with the aviation community online
Looking for a new place to connect with the aviation community? MyTransponder and Social Aviation are social networking sites for aviation enthusiasts, pilots, and student pilots. Both Web sites offer a Facebook-like interface for creating a profile, posting and sharing photos, and meeting like-minded people. Privacy settings allow you to establish a profile anyone can see, or only invited friends, or just you. Both Web sites are free.
Air traffic control questions answered
Many general aviation airports are towered. Pilots who fly in or out of towered airports must communicate with air traffic control personnel. Thanks to a partnership with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has created an online database of answers to the most frequently asked air traffic control questions. Visit AOPA's Ask ATC resource to read answers straight from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
First Steps • Types of Certificates • Time and Cost
Choose a Flight Instructor • Safety • Take Your First Flight
Aircraft of the Month
We've all seen TV clips of hang glider pilots jumping off cliffs in an attempt to "catch air" under the synthetic fabric wings of their flying machines. There is much more to it than that, but the basic principle still applies. Once sufficient speed is attained, a hang glider pilot, who literally hangs in a harness, controls the flight by shifting his or her weight in relation to a fixed horizontal control bar. Landing is made with a landing flare in which the angle of attack is increased just before touchdown, much as in any other fixed-wing aircraft. Ground training usually begins in a suspended harness where the student pilot learns to make the necessary control inputs. Initial aerial training might be done in a larger hang glider with a side-by-side harness (for student and instructor) and with "training wheels" attached to the frame of the hang glider to allow for belly landings. For more information, visit the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association's Web site.
Ask a Pilot
Question: What are the differences between general aviation and commercial aviation, and what are the various types of pilot certificates you can earn?
Answer: First, let's identify the definition of general aviation. General aviation is all civilian flying except scheduled passenger airlines. Military aviation and commercial airlines are not part of general aviation. There are many different kinds of pilots. Some fly just for fun. Some fly as a way to travel to their jobs. And some are career pilots who fly professionally to earn a living. The basic types of pilots in successive order of qualifications include student, sport, recreational, private, instrument rated, commercial, certificated flight instructor, airline transport pilot, and designated pilot examiner. Pilots are certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for particular types of flying activities. A system of certificates, together with a set of add-on ratings is used to specify not only what types of aircraft pilots may fly, but also whether they may carry passengers, fly for hire, or fly in certain weather conditions.
Do you have a question about flying? Ask a pilot! Call 877-58-PILOT or send an e-mail.
In the Blogs
Here are some recent highlights from our Let's Go Flying blog page.
Music and aviation
By Steve Tupper
My piece of Let's Go Flying is about exploring the envelope of aviation. And this is a little reminder that that envelope isn't strictly limited to stall speeds and G tolerance. Sometimes it's about demonstrating that other instrument rating. And, by instrument, I mean musical... Read more >>
Choosing a flight school
By Jason Schappert
The country is in the midst of the "Great Recession" and it costs $250 to fill the tanks on a light airplane. You need some time in the air for "mental health" but the cost is daunting. What's a person to do? As a poor college student in the fall of 1959 I faced the same problem... Read more >>
Learning about life from flying
By Arty Trost
As I look back on over 20 years of flying, I realize how much I've learned—not just about flying itself, but about taking on new challenges, making risk acceptable, and pushing away the fears and anxieties which hold us back from what we'd really like to do. One of the things I've learned is that you need to be pilot in command... Read more >>
Aviation Calendar of Events
Airports all across the United States offer weekend activities, from pancake breakfasts and barbecues to car and air shows. Find out what's going on in your area. You can search by city, state, or geographic region.
Academy of Model Aeronautics Expo 2010
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) will hold its 2010 Expo from Jan. 8 to 10 at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, Calif. See the latest in model aviation from 110 exhibitors in more than 200 spaces. There will be daily presentations by celebrities from aviation and aerospace, including aerospace designer Burt Rutan, Space Shuttle Commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson, and aerobatic champion Matt Chapman—all modelers! For more information, and to purchase advance tickets, visit the AMA's Web site.
Soaring Society of America Convention
The Soaring Society of America (SSA) will hold its 2010 convention from Jan. 28 to 30 in Little Rock, Ark. The convention is a gathering for all who are interested in the art and science of motorless flight. There will be aircraft displays, seminars, and the society's annual awards banquet. For more information, visit the SSA's Web site.