It's a clear, sunny weekend. Your schedule just opened up. How about a spontaneous flight with your friends or family? The first thing you need to do is find a destination (and make sure there are no temporary flight restrictions that would hinder your trip). AOPA's Airport Directory Online makes it easier to choose a destination. The advanced search function allows you to search for airports with a restaurant on the field, camping, a particular type of fuel, and more.
Let's say you want to make a $100 hamburger run to an airport you haven't visited yet, and perhaps you want one with nearby attractions. You can narrow the search by selecting a specific state or setting a radius around your departure airport. Then check the box beside attractions and choose whether you want an airport with a restaurant on or nearby the field. (For example, eight airports within a 50-nautical-mile radius of Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland have nearby attractions and a restaurant on the field).
The advanced search section is located on the online directory home page below the popular quick search function.
In the advanced section, you can search for airports according to runway length, precision or nonprecision approaches, type of fuel offered, AOPA FBO rebate, flight service station on the field, lodging, restaurants, nearby attractions, and much more. If you select more than one criterion, your returned results will include only those airports that meet all of the criteria selected. And any information that you entered in the quick search or radius function will be applied as well.
To use the radius search, enter an airport identifier (most likely your departure airport), and select the desired distance. Distances range from 25 to 350 nautical or statute miles.
The results page displays your criteria and the matching airports along with their identifier, name, city, and state. If you used the radius search, the distance and true course from the specified airport also will appear. Keep in mind that the more options you choose, the more limited your results will be. If you get too specific, your search may not yield any matches.
On the results page, click on the airport identifier to pull up the airport's information. If you are interested in nearby attractions, they are listed in the airport's FBO/facility information section. You might even find it helpful to check out other pilots' opinions of the airport in the Members Comments link at the top right of the airport information page.
For example, the previous search for airports within 50 nm of Frederick (FDK) that have nearby attractions and a restaurant on the field returned eight choices. York (THV) in Pennsylvania is 37.9 nm from FDK, and its nearby attractions are Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which is 20 miles from THV, and a Harley Davidson factory and museum that is 10 miles from the airport. Since the airport provides rental car and taxi service, you would be able to visit the Harley museum or Gettysburg if time allows. And judging by the member comments, it is likely that you also would enjoy good food.
Once you find an airport that suits your fancy, print the airport and FBO data in a handy kneeboard format (including an airport diagram if the airport is served by an instrument approach), and plan your flight, checking the latest airspace, notams, and weather using AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner. Then load up your family or friends for a day of fun and adventure.
June 3, 2005