Resuming the Journey


Welcome back to flying! Please take advantage of AOPA’s many resources and services to help make your return to the sky fun, safe, and as economical as possible.

While it's no secret that the number of active pilots is declining, it doesn't have to continue! AOPA has a two-pronged initiative to grow the pilot population: first to support the development of a network of flying clubs. Extensive research has shown that flying clubs are a valuable part of the aviation landscape. Pilots involved with the most effective clubs find aviation more affordable and more accessible, and flying clubs create the type of supportive community that keeps pilots active and engaged. The flying club network will strengthen the bonds among pilots and clubs nationwide. You can use AOPA's Flying Club Finder to find a club near you. The second part of the initiative is improving the flight training experience, itself. Read all about AOPA's flight training initiative here.

New technologies as well as security regulations have impacted flying over the past several years. This subject report will bring you up-to-date on these aviation events and how they may affect your flying. The content is divided into sections that cover major changes to general aviation operations over the indicated period of time.

Pilots returning to aviation should familiarize themselves with changes to procedures and regulations in order to make a smooth transition back to flying. The following information highlights changes that have affected the aviation industry – both in terms of equipment and regulations.

Rusty Pilots

Interested in getting back into flying but don't know where to start? Look no further, Rusty Pilots is designed to re-introduce pilots to the changing flight environment. Discussion includes use of newer technology, changes in the airspace system, new resources available to pilots, and much more. Most importantly, the Rusty Pilots program fulfills the ground instruction requirement of your Flight Review.

Find out more

Finding an Instructor

If you haven’t flown in a while, you may have lost touch with the flight instructor who recommended you for your last certificate or rating. AOPA has resources to help you find a new CFI.

Search the AOPA Online Flight School Directory or the AOPA Online flight instructor database to find an instructor near you. When contacting the instructor or flight school talk to the staff about what you are looking for — a flight review, an IFR proficiency check, or completing a rating begun long ago. Find out what kind of aircraft you would be flying, and the cost of instruction. Ask a lot of questions, because in addition to being a pilot, you’re also a consumer.

What Will You Fly?

AirplaneWill you be renting or buying an aircraft? Are you getting back into flying for business or pleasure, or some of each? How many hours each month will you fly? Answers to these questions may help you decide whether to rent or buy an aircraft. Perhaps getting together with a few partners to buy that airplane you’ve always dreamed of might not be so far-fetched. AOPA covers some things you should consider when renting or owning an aircraft in the online subject report, Reducing the Cost of Flying. If you’re thinking about purchasing an aircraft, make use of AOPA’s extensive online resources.

To rejoin your fellow aviators in the sky, you will need:

  • A Flight Review
    FAR Part 61.56 (c) requires active pilots to complete a flight review with a CFI every 24 calendar months. Each pilot’s logbook must show that he or she has successfully completed that review. The Pilot’s Guide to the Flight Review and the AOPA Online Pilot Information Center subject report on the Flight Review will provide detailed information about what to expect during the flight review process.
  • A Current Medical Certificate
    Certain medical conditions that were previously disqualifying can now be approved. If you haven’t visited an FAA physician — now called an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME)—recently, you can locate one by using the online AME searchable database. Also, In July, 2008, the durations of both first and third class medical certificates were extended for pilots under age 40.  Under the new regulation, third class medicals issued to pilots under age 40 became valid for a maximum of 60 months, up from 36 months. Additional changes can be reviewed online.

    If you have questions concerning your medical, or the medical certification process, contact the Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672) and speak to one of AOPA’s Medical Certification experts. A medical certificate may not be required if you plan to limit your privileges to that of a Sport Pilot Certificate.

The Plastic Pilot Certificate

LicenseAll pilots had to upgrade to a plastic pilot certificate by March 31, 2010. Plastic certificates are deemed more counterfeit-resistant. All newly issued plastic certificates automatically include the English Proficient endorsement, which is required to comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) rule that all member countries (that includes the U.S.) issue pilot certificates that state the pilot is English Proficient if that pilot plans to use the certificate outside of his or her home country.

GA Airport Security

Airport security at general aviation airports is determined by the airport owner/operator according to recommendations made by the FAA and Transportation Security Administration (TSA). All pilots should become familiar with the security procedures that may be in place at their local airport. 

AOPA’s Airport Watch

AOPA has partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop a nationwide Airport Watch Program that uses the more than 600,000 pilots as eyes and ears for observing and reporting suspicious activity. This helps general aviation keep our airports secure without needless and expensive security requirements. AOPA Airport Watch is supported by a centralized, government-provided toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECURE) and system for reporting and acting on information provided by general aviation pilots. The Airport Watch program includes warning signs for airports, informational literature, and a security training course for pilots and airport employees.

Notams and TFRs

AOPA is constantly working both publicly and behind the scenes to keep the nation’s airspace open to general aviation. Most security-related (Temporary Flight Restrictions) TFRs are assumed to coincide with Presidential trips outside Washington, D.C. Pilots should know that TFRs cover military facilities, nuclear power plants, some theme parks and sporting events. While some of these restrictions have been in place for a long time, many will “pop up” with little prior notice.

It’s no longer enough to look at the chart, pick out the prohibited and restricted areas, and avoid them. Heightened airspace awareness during flight planning, accurate navigation, and precise pilotage is necessary to avoid potential airspace violations. AOPA posts current Notams and TFRs online. You can obtain real-time, interactive, information on airspace restrictions for your specific route of flight when you use the AOPA FlyQ Web.  The AOPA Air Safety Institute has developed an online program to help you understand and navigate in today’s airspace. “ Know Before You Go” is designed to help you understand how to navigate in changing airspace restrictions without incident.

Changes from 2000 to 2006

  • Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft
  • Pilots Are Required to Carry a Photo ID
  • VFR Waypoints
  • Aircraft Radio Station Licenses No Longer Required
  • Taildraggers
  • Cross-country
  • Logging of PIC time
  • 61.57 Instrument Currency
  • 61.65 Instrument rating requirements
  • 61.109 Changes to solo time requirements

Changes from 2007 to 2013

  • Pilot's Bill of Rights
  • Aircraft Re-registration
  • Line up and Wait
  • Taxi clearance - Cross only one runway at a time 
  • eAPIS
  • ELTs
  • Medical Certificate Validity Revision

Additional Resources

getting back into flying