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AOPA ePilot Flight Training Edition - Vol. 7, Issue 46

Volume 7, Issue 46 • November 16, 2007

In this issue:
Delays shorten for special-issuance medicals
AEA announces scholarships
New SafetyCasts bring safety experts to you

This ePilot Flight Training Edition is sponsored by

Sponsored by ExxonMobil Aviation Lubricants


Garmin International

Airline Transport Professionals

AOPA Line of Credit

AOPA Insurance Agency

King Schools

Pilot Insurance Center

Mooney Airplane Company

Comm1 Radio Simulator

Sign up for AOPA Project Pilot

Lockheed Martin

AOPA Online Travel

AOPA Credit Card

ASF Courses


JP Instruments


Fly Exxon Elite


Scheyden Eyewear

Minnesota Life Insurance

AOPA Aircraft Financing

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Copyright © 2007 AOPA.

Training Tips

The best way to arrive and depart nontowered airports is the subject of an ongoing debate in the AOPA Aviation Forum and the source of many questions from student pilots. From avoiding traffic conflicts to making your way safely into the pattern, questions fly. What kind of traffic pattern entry must I fly if I arrive from the side of the airport opposite the pattern? When is it correct to descend to traffic pattern altitude? What's wrong with flying a straight-in final approach?

Etiquette, communications, and recommended traffic flows are examined in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Operations at Nontowered Airports Safety Advisor . Vigilance is critical both in the air and on the ground. Note on Page 3 of the Safety Advisor the traffic-spotting method described for the aircraft just before it taxies for takeoff. If your airport's taxiway and runup area layout does not allow a clear view of the traffic pattern, maneuver your aircraft to scan the pattern carefully before claiming the runway. Scan all around; just because your airport employs left traffic doesn't guarantee that everyone is complying. Remember that go-arounds are frequently caused by an aircraft taxiing out for takeoff as another is on short final approach to land.

Not all conflicts arise out of misbehavior or negligence in the traffic pattern, especially at very busy nontowered airports [see "Looking for Traffic" in the March 1999 AOPA Pilot]. Sometimes pilots make mistakes when reporting their position. If you are unable to spot traffic that has reported its position on the common traffic advisory frequency, try scanning a wider area to find your missing traffic.

A pilot seeking advice online asked how to handle various arrival scenarios at a small, difficult-to-spot airport. The AOPA Pilot Handbook can help. Note the accompanying cautions: "Never descend into the traffic pattern at an airport. Also, avoid any straight-in approaches at nontowered airports. Both situations are extremely hazardous, as chances of seeing other traffic are greatly diminished (e.g., low-wing aircraft descending on top of high-wing aircraft or aircraft on a straight-in approach not seeing [or being seen by] aircraft in the pattern, etc."

Adhering to the recommended methods isn't just procedure for its own sake. It's the safest way to come and go.

Your Partner in Training

Filing VFR flight plans regularly is good training for pilots who will later complete an instrument rating and fly IFR. But that's just one of the steps you should take before launching on a flight. FAR 91.103 begins by stating, "Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight." Read more on preflight action from an attorney's perspective in the August 2003 issue of AOPA Pilot .

Do you have a question? Call the experienced pilots in AOPA's Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA. They're available to take your calls weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern. As an AOPA Flight Training Member, you have access to all of the features within AOPA Online and AOPA Flight Training Online. Login information is available online.

Flight Training News

If you have a medical condition that's keeping you on the ground, your chances of getting back in the air quickly are better now than ever before. The average processing time for medical certificates, including special issuances, is now 30 days, with some cases as low as 15. And less than 0.01 percent of applicants are actually denied because they are medically unfit to fly. That's because the FAA is accommodating more serious medical conditions than before. See the complete story on AOPA Online.

The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) is offering nearly 40 scholarships in aircraft electronics and aviation maintenance worth nearly $100,000 for the 2008-2009 academic year. The latest selection includes 10 new scholarships that would benefit students attending Texas State Technical College in Waco, covering enrollment in its avionics program. Other offerings include two $35,000 scholarships to attend Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, Okla.; three $6,000 scholarships to Westwood College of Aviation Technology in Broomfield, Colo.; and a $2,000 scholarship provided by AOPA for high school seniors or college students who plan to or are attending an accredited school in an avionics or aircraft repair program. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15, 2008, and scholarships will be presented in April at AEA's international convention in Washington, D.C. For more information, see the Web site

Joe Rahn, a staff pilot with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP), has a dream job—one that combines "flying and wildlife." Rahn is one of several full-time pilots who work for the agency's aircraft division. He transports FWP wildlife and fisheries biologists into rugged mountains, high-country streams, and remote prairies to do field research. Rahn flies a Bell Helicopter OH-58 Kiowa that has been outfitted for wildlife field research, according to a report in the Missoulian. He's grounded now through late November during big-game rifle season, because his low-altitude flights would spook hunters and the elk and deer they seek. When hunting season ends, he'll fly nearly every day.

Inside AOPA

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's new SafetyCast series of online safety seminars brings the nation's leading safety experts into your home or hangar. Thanks to United Technologies, you can watch informative hour-long safety seminars online at your convenience. Laugh and learn as AOPA Flight Training Contributing Editor Rod Machado explores the lighter side of aviation and describes techniques for safe flying. Radio skills a bit rusty? "Say It Right!" will increase your communication know-how with simple and practical tips. With so many SafetyCasts to choose from, you're bound to find no-nonsense safety advice tailored to your specific needs—advice you can use on your very next flight. Check out the Safetycasts now.

In an effort to increase the general aviation pilot population, AOPA is targeting adventurous individuals, who enjoy recreational activities, with learn-to-fly commercials through the Outdoor Channel. The commercials, cosponsored by AOPA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association begin Nov. 19 and continue over the course of five weeks, showing more than 250 times. There’s no better time than now to help a nonpilot you know begin the journey of learning to fly. Do your part to inspire future pilots and join AOPA Project Pilot.

To make the most of your membership and allow us to serve you better, please visit AOPA Online and update your personal member profile.

Training Products

Sporty's has updated its Indestructible Instrument Plotter—so called because it's made of a material that won't warp or break—to work with the new low altitude en route charts. The FAA recently reconfigured the low altitude en route charts so that there are now 36 charts with nine mileage scales. The Sporty's plotter measures distance and course, as well as calculating holding pattern entries. The plotter includes 10 individual mileage scales and a compass rose. The holding pattern diagram can be overlaid on the chart to determine holding pattern entries in seconds. The plotter sells for $4.95 and can be ordered online or by calling 800/SPORTYS.

Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.

Final Exam

Question: If I'm making a long cross-country flight that will cover hundreds of miles, what is the best way to get in-flight weather information?

Answer: Flight service's En route Flight Advisory Service (EFAS), better known as Flight Watch, provides routine weather information, pilot reports, and current reports on the location of thunderstorms and other hazardous weather as observed on weather radar. Flight Watch can be contacted on 122.0 MHz. In order to properly hail Flight Watch when you make your initial call, use the name of the controlling flight service station if you know it. If you don't, just broadcast "Flight Watch" and your aircraft's identification and approximate position. Use the nearest VOR as an easy locator. (You must tell them where you are because you may be within radio range of more than one facility.) Additional insight into this subject is discussed in "What's the Weather."

Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail to [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don't forget the online archive of "Final Exam" questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.

Weekend Weather
See the current weather on AOPA Online, provided by Jeppesen.

ePilot Calendar
Lakeland, FL. The Florida Air Museum at Sun 'n Fun presents “Aviation Adventures: Past, Present and Future Charlie Brown” on Nov. 16. Reception is at 6 p.m. and the lecture is at 7 p.m. Contact Gail Taylor, 863/644-2431, or visit the Web site.

To submit an event to the calendar or to search all events visit AOPA Online. For airport details, including FBO fuel prices, see AOPA's Airport Directory Online.

The next AOPA Air Safety Foundation Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic is scheduled in Atlanta, Nov. 17 and 18. Clinics are also scheduled in Orlando, Fla., and Austin, Texas, Dec. 8 and 9. For a complete schedule, see AOPA Online. Can't make it in person? Sign up for the CFI Refresher Online.

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