The following stories from the November 28, 2008, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online.
The home airport: It's the corner of the aviation universe that a student pilot knows best. Runway bearings, lengths, and widths; radio frequencies, traffic pattern altitudes, and directions—even airport quirks—are home-field facts that most pilots can recite by heart. If you're getting to know your home airport, get started by taking the interactive tour of a typical general aviation community airport on the AOPA Flight Training Web site.
Not all information is available at a glance. What kind of fuel does your airport offer? When is it available? Are there runway lights? What type and intensity? Knowing the layout of your home airport and those you visit is responsible piloting, and it is fodder for questions on your private pilot practical and knowledge tests. Knowing how to research an airport's infrastructure and interpret what you find out is also on the tests.
Sometimes you may have to do some digging. For instance, VFR aeronautical charts give an airport's common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). But is that the correct frequency for activating pilot-controlled lighting? This topic was discussed in the June 20, 2003, "Training Tip."
The answer: Usually, but not always. Chapter 2 of the Aeronautical Information Manual reviews airport lighting systems and explains: "Although the CTAF is used to activate the lights at many airports, other frequencies may also be used. The appropriate frequency for activating the lights on the airport is provided in the Airport/Facility Directory and the standard instrument approach procedures publications. It is not identified on the sectional charts."
The airport rotating beacon is another important airport fixture. And you may have learned that daylight operation of a rotating beacon often proclaims weather conditions below basic VFR. But again, not always. Says the AIM: "At many airports the airport beacon is turned on by a photoelectric cell or time clocks and ATC personnel cannot control them. There is no regulatory requirement for daylight operation and it is the pilot's responsibility to comply with proper preflight planning as required by 14 CFR Section 91.103."
Airport infrastructure is the focus of numerous questions on pilot knowledge tests. Check your knowledge by reviewing some sample questions. Once you know the airport layout, always check notices to airmen to verify that components are working before you fly.
Web site connects potential aircraft partners
If you're looking for a partner with whom to buy an airplane, you could put up a notice at the FBO or post a message at an aviation bulletin board. Or, you could upload your information to a Web site designed specifically for the purpose of putting together likeminded pilots who are looking for others to share ownership. The Aircraft Partnership Association lets registered users post detailed profiles in its secure Virtual Pilot Lounge and search for others based on location, budget, flying experience, aircraft interest, and more. A neat function of the site is that it will send you an e-mail notification when it receives registration of a member who's within the geographic range you stipulate. Registration is free.
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.
Question: On my last flight lesson, my instructor said I should not follow the VASI because we were too far away from the airport. What is the usable range for a VASI?
Answer: A vertical approach slope indicator, or VASI, helps pilots to fly a proper glidepath at night or during periods of reduced visibility. The VASI provides obstacle clearance for plus or minus 10 degrees on either side of the runway centerline up to four miles from the runway threshold. Read more about VASIs and other visual glideslope indicators in this article from AOPA Flight Training and in the Aeronautical Information Manual .
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.