There's a lot of cool stuff here on AOPA Online - some of it you may not know about. So through this holiday season, we have some "presents" for you. Each day, we'll point you to a new resource on our Web site - our gift to you for something to do on these winter days when you're stuck inside wishing you were flying!
A good pilot is always learning. That's not just a motto; it's a commitment that will make you safer, whether you fly 50 or 500 hours a year. Here on the AOPA Web sites, you have learning opportunities that could keep you busy for a month of Sundays.
Start with our sister Web site, AOPA Flight Training. While intended primarily for student pilots and flight instructors, there's plenty of useful information here to help you renew forgotten skills.
Then evaluate yourself with our Measure of Skill series from AOPA Pilot magazine. If you're proficient at all 12 of these tasks, you can count yourself among the ranks of truly skilled pilots.
If TFR, SFAR, ADIZ, MOA, and SUA are just letters to you, " Mission: Possible - Navigating Today's Special Use Airspace" and " Know Before You Go" are a must. Special-use airspace can trip you up no matter where you fly, but once you understand it, it's easy to handle. And knowing about it will help you avoid that up-close and personal view of an F-16 in flight.
If you're a little uncomfortable operating at a "big" airport, review the " Runway Safety" course to learn how to avoid a runway incursion. The course is so good that airline pilots asked for a special version for them.
If you ever get in trouble, help can be just a mike click away. " Say Intentions" explains.
Finally, do yourself and your fellow aviators a favor - take the " Sky Spotter" course. It will mean better weather information for all.
Sometimes the best part of flying is just hanging out with the community of aviators. While we often do it around the hangar coffee pot, there's also a whole community right here online.
Just click on the " Aviation Forums" button in the menu bar on the left side of your screen, and step into one of our virtual hangar flying sessions.
Here AOPA members can get together to ask, and answer, questions with other members. And this is for the members, by the members. Everyone has an equal voice. You'll find some very knowledgeable folks hanging out here, eager to share their considerable knowledge.
And you'll find no shortage of opinion, either - but that's part of the fun.
So pull up your chair and your keyboard, get the coffee brewing, and see who's online right now. Guarantee, you'll learn something.
Will you be ready if AOPA President Phil Boyer surprises you early next year with the refurbished Commander 112A that will be delivered to the winner of AOPA's Commander Countdown Sweepstakes?
You can get acquainted with this one-of-a-kind Commander by downloading our virtual Commander, created by Flight1 Software, and flying it in your copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator 9.1 (the Century of Flight edition).
So far, more than 20,500 people have downloaded the free Commander add-on. For more information or to download the software, click here.
And whether you virtually fly the AOPA Sweepstakes Commander or another aircraft, try flying some of these ceiling and visibility flight scenarios from the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. You'll get hands-on experience flying in some of the conditions discussed in the free online course, "Weather Wise: Ceiling and Visibility," available through the Online Safety Center.
OK, it's a cliché. But when you're looking for a flying destination, your best starting point is AOPA's Airport Directory Online. Let's say it's CAVU day, you're looking for a flying adventure...and you're hungry. Hover your mouse over "Airport Directory" in the menu bar on the left side of the screen, and then click on " Airport Directory." Scroll down to "Advanced Search."
Click on the "Restaurants - on field" button, then scroll down to "Radius search." Select the distance you want to fly - say 100 nautical miles - from the drop-down menu, put in your home airport, and click on the "search" button. Voilà! A list of every airport within 100 nm of you, with a restaurant you can walk to.
Now, if you click on the airport ID in the list, you'll find out everything there is to know about that airport. And we've recently added some new features you may not have noticed.
For example, you can find the direct, toll-free telephone number for the FSS serving that area. That's important if you're calling on your cell phone, because many times a cell phone call to 800/WX-BRIEF will take you to your home FSS, not the one serving the airport you're actually at.
Also new, AOPA Air Safety Foundation accident reports for that airport. If there's something about that airport that consistently trips up pilots, you'll want to know about it.
There are even more cool features to AOPA's Airport Directory Online, and we'll cover those in a future article.
It's surprising, but a lot of AOPA members don't know that AOPA Online offers an extraordinarily robust weather section, particularly suited to the needs of the VFR pilot. One of our favorite areas is "Surface Weather Imagery." If you let your mouse hover over "Weather" on the menu bar on the left side of the screen, you'll see it in the drop-down menus.
What's cool are the graphic forecast maps. You can tell in a glance whether it's going to be good flying weather in your area. (You can go directly to the forecast for three days from now.)
Since most of us do our flying on the weekends, there are also regional weekend forecasts.
Another favorite trick is to click on the radar weather maps. That will "loop" the image, allowing you to see the weather move over the past eight hours.
Finally, if you're stumped about weather theory, you can pose your question directly to a senior meteorologist at Meteorlogix, the same folks that provide AOPA Online's weather information and the weather info you'll find at most FBOs.
For some pilots, that trip to the doctor for the medical exam begins with trepidation. Is that new prescription for hypertension OK? What about that little surgery last year? Will that cause the doc or the FAA to deny issuing a new medical certificate? AOPA's free online, interactive medical certification form, TurboMedical ® has the answers. It works just like some of the popular income tax preparation programs. It will flag things that could cause problems when you enter them into the form, and it will ask you questions to further refine the answers. And if there is a problem, TurboMedical can suggest alternatives that will still allow you to get a medical certificate.
If you're just wondering if a drug is allowed by the FAA, check out our free online Medication Database where you'll find listings of FAA-approved medications - both over the counter and prescription.
And use our online aviation medical examiner (AME) locator to find a doctor close to you. We even list the doctor's pilot certificates (if any), so you can see how pilot-savvy the doc might be!
This has got to be one of the best deals a pilot can get: a free flight planner with interactive maps, weather graphics, and real-time TFR depictions. And you can get it simply because you're an AOPA member.
Already, more than 142,000 members have pounded out more than 4 million flight plans on AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner, racking up some 100 years of processor time in just over two years since the innovative flight planner was launched. Powered by Jeppesen, AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner has quickly grown to be one of the most-used Internet-based flight planning tools. The program helps pilots quickly and easily plan routes around temporary flight restrictions and weather.
With the flight planned, the user can quickly access detailed information from AOPA's Airport Directory Online, including always-current instrument approach procedures.
But a picture is worth a thousand words. See our online tutorial showing you exactly how the Real-Time Flight Planner can work for you!
If you didn't train at a big airport, flying VFR into a large commercial airport can be pretty intimidating. But it doesn't have to be, particularly if you have a map of where you're going.
And you've got one, right here on AOPA Online. You can download a taxi diagram for just about every airport with a control tower. Just look in the "Quick Links" box on the right side of this page, and click on Taxi Diagrams.
You can brush up on how to fly into a big airport with the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's free online course, " Runway Safety." It will be 45 minutes of your time well spent! Also, download the free Safety Advisor, Operations at Towered Airports.
Inside AOPA's Airport Directory Online you can find even more information that can make a new-to-you airport feel like an old friend. More on that in the coming days.
Some day when you least expect it, a reporter might make you an "expert" because you're a pilot. And with just a few ill-chosen words, you could do public damage to our industry and passion. To avoid having that happen to you, check out our new online training course, " AOPA's Guide to Talking to Reporters." It's seven minutes well spent.
Then to get some background information on general aviation suitable for consumption by the non-flying public, visit our GA Serving America Web site.
And for more GA facts than you can shake a Stearman at, download AOPA's Aviation Fact Card. You could be the hit of the party.
Most pilots dream of owning an aircraft, but for many, the cost of a new one seems out of reach. But you can get a good used one for the price of some new cars. How much? Look up your favorite airplane on Vref, our free online aircraft valuation service. Select the make and model from the drop-down menu, then year, and airframe hours. You can even choose popular avionics and other options, and Vref will tell you the average retail price for that aircraft.
Then try our free, online operating costs calculator to see how much it would cost to own and fly.
Finally, try our new Google-powered search engine to find great articles from AOPA Pilot magazine and everything else you want to know about your future aircraft.
Updated: December 31, 2005, 6:56 a.m. EST