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Speed your flight planning with AOPA's Real-Time Flight PlannerSpeed your flight planning with AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner

Speed your flight planning with AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner

Using AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner

Once you have downloaded RTFP, you'll need your AOPA username and password and an Internet connection each time you launch the program from your computer's desktop.

The first time you use the flight planner, start by filling in your pilot information: name, address, and telephone number (first option in the edit menu). Enter your DUATS access code and password to pull up real-time weather information and file your flight plan electronically.

Then, through the edit menu, create an aircraft profile. Enter the aircraft make, mode, color, N number, home-base airport identifier, fuel capacity, and maximum gross weight. Fill in your aircraft's climb, cruise, and descent performance. The program uses that information to calculate your time en route. You can save up to five aircraft profiles and edit or select them at any time. Your stored pilot information and selected aircraft profile form the basis of your electronic flight plan.

The preflight menu allows you to plan your flight with a few strokes of the keyboard. Enter your departure and destination airport identifier or the first few letters of the airport name. A box will pop up for you to choose your intended airport. Select a departure time, whether you will be flying direct or by airways, your aircraft (from a profile you've created), and cruising altitude. The program automatically will plot your flight and create a printable navigation log and flight plan. Save up to 10 of your frequently traveled routes.

Right-click on an airport on your route to access AOPA's Airport Directory and instrument approach charts and print the information in kneeboard format.

If your route goes through a TFR, other special-use airspace, or isn't quite what you had in mind, changing it is a snap. Just click and drag the portion of the route you want to change to your preferred location. Your navigation log and flight plan will be updated automatically.

From the weather menu, you can select from many types of weather products (an information box will appear requesting more information specific to your flight). Once you have retrieved radar or satellite images, overlay these onto the map to see whether you need to route your course around weather. (Because you've already filled in your DUATS or DUAT access code and password, you'll be able to automatically connect to your preferred DUATS service provider to receive weather information.)

Use the drop-down window at the top in the center of the toolbar to select the latest graphics overlay. The weather image will appear on your en route chart, making it easy to click and drag your route around the weather.

When you select a standard weather briefing, the program will take the weather information and automatically figure the wind into your flight and update your navigation log and flight plan. Once you are satisfied with your route, file your flight plan directly from the weather menu page.

While you are dusting off your plotter and putting fresh batteries in your electronic E6B, don't forget to brush up on AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner - a free service that more than 120,000 members have used to simplify their flight planning.

It automatically creates a navigation log when you plot your course, and it enables you to plan around graphically depicted temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), overlay real-time weather onto your route, file your flight plan online, and store up to five aircraft profiles and 10 routes.

TFRs dot the United States, and many pilots are concerned about accidentally entering a TFR and having an unpleasant encounter in the air or later upon landing. AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner (RTFP), powered by Jeppesen, provides graphical depictions of active and upcoming TFRs.

The weather overlay function allows you to view real-time weather along your route. A handy click-and-drag, or "rubber-band," feature lets you quickly modify your route to avoid the weather.

To fully utilize the capabilities of this program, including weather, you must have a DUATS access code. You can obtain an access code through DTC or CSC. Those with a U.S. pilot certificate and current medical can receive a free access code from either provider. Student pilots need a current medical certificate and must be in the FAA's database.

RTFP is available free to AOPA members. Download it through AOPA's flight-planning page. Or take a free online tutorial to become acquainted with the program.

March 25, 2005

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