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The following stories from the September 5, 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.

My ePilot Training Tips

The flight instructor idles the throttle and announces, "You've lost your engine." As a well-practiced student pilot, you commence the drill to bring about a successful conclusion to the simulated emergency. Maybe the result was a successful off-airport landing approach (discontinued at a safe altitude). Perhaps you stabilized the aircraft in a power-off glide and achieved engine restart—it depends on what scenario your CFI handed you.

Many airborne difficulties, while not as traumatic as sudden engine stoppage, still require swift decision making. An engine gauge or electrical-system instrument enters the red zone. Fuel runs low, weather deteriorates, or you get lost. These are not outright emergencies, but they could escalate without quick action. Laymen rarely grasp the difference between a precautionary landing performed under such circumstances and an "emergency landing"—as the reporting of such an event is likely to be headlined—but the differences are many.

"Precautionary landings offer several advantages over forced landings. You can use power to reach an airport or landing site beyond your gliding distance or to compensate for errors in judgment or technique," Robert N. Rossier wrote in the feature " Emergency Landings" available on AOPA Flight Training Online.

The basic idea is that pilots opt to make precautionary landings to avoid having to make emergency landings after exhausting other alternatives. In the February 2006 AOPA Pilot feature " Precautionary Tales," Julie K. Boatman looked at this notion through the eyes of pilots who exercised the precautionary-landing option. "When we asked AOPA members to share their tales of similar events, all expressed satisfaction that their decisions to stop and check into a problem were sound ones—regardless of the outcome. And many credit the precautionary landing with helping them avoid an emergency, with its more serious consequences. In fact, it could be one of the most important pilot-in-command decisions you make—a display of initiative rather than undue caution," she wrote.

Pilots must know the available resources, inside and outside the cockpit, to make decisions that keep problems from becoming emergencies, notes Chapter 16 of the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge on aeronautical decision making. Review the chapter's systematic approach to risk management—another excellent tool to keep problems from blossoming into emergencies. For more information on aeronautical decision making, see the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Safety Advisor, Do the Right Thing: Decision Making for Pilots .

Training Products

A new fourth edition of Bob Gardner's The Complete Advanced Pilot is now available from Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc. The textbook is aimed at pilots who want to prep for the instrument rating and commercial certificate simultaneously. It provides practical information for the knowledge exams so that readers are prepared not only for the tests, but for the cockpit as well. The 496-page soft-cover book sells for $29.95. Order online or call 800-ASA2FLY.

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.

My ePilot Final Exam

Question: I am planning my first night cross-country to a nontowered field. What is the procedure for operating airport lighting at uncontrolled airports?

Answer: Keying or clicking the microphone seven times within five seconds will activate full intensity lights for 15 minutes at nontowered airports. Low intensity (three clicks) and medium intensity (five clicks) may also be available depending on the type of installation. It is good practice to re-key the microphone when in the pattern to ensure the lights will remain on throughout the landing. Make sure you check the Airport/Facility Directory to verify the lighting system and the activation frequency at your destination airport, as the common traffic advisory frequency, or CTAF, is not always used to activate runway lighting systems. You may have to make your radio calls on one frequency and activate the lights on another. Section 2-1-7 of the Aeronautical Information Manual provides additional information on the use of pilot-controlled lighting. Read more in the AOPA Flight Training article " Night Flying."

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.

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