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The following stories from the April 17, 2009, 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 -- Turbine Interest -

Meridian gets G1000

Garmin International on April 16 announced that its G1000 avionics suite is now certified for installation in the Piper Meridian single-engine turboprop. The first G1000-equipped Meridians are expected to be delivered immediately. Read more >>


Minimum-altitude aptitude

It’s a question every student pilot may have to answer on a test or when planning a practice flight: What rule governs minimum altitudes, and how does it apply to the proposed flight?


Rarely is it necessary (or prudent) to fly at minimum altitudes outside the airport environment. But knowing what’s permitted—or isn’t—is every pilot’s obligation. Practicing ground reference maneuvers or simulated engine-out emergency landings could bring about a conflict—or defy local training etiquette—in inappropriate areas. So be sure you can answer questions like those in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Safety Advisor Instructor’s Guide to the Pre-Solo Written Test .


The applicable regulation contains three sections (plus helicopter exceptions):

Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

  1. Anywhere: An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
  2. Over congested areas: Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open-air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
  3. Over other than congested areas: An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

Straightforward? Not always.


“The FAA does not define congested area in the FARs or in the Aeronautical Information Manual,” Kathy Yodice wrote in her April 2006 AOPA Flight Training column “ Legal Briefing: Minimum safe altitudes.” “Interpretations in low-flight enforcement cases are not consistent for purposes of drafting a precise definition. Such a determination is usually decided on a case-by-case basis, and in the cases that we've seen, ‘congested’ has been interpreted rather broadly. For example, a highway with moderate traffic was found to be ‘congested,’ as was a seaside area where 200 to 300 persons were sitting on the beach or bathing in the water.”


Note that “in other than congested areas, this 500-foot minimum distance requirement may be measured horizontally, vertically, or at a slant angle.”


Practice at safe altitudes, in designated practice areas, on your solo flights.


Sporty’s expands, updates Study Buddy

Sporty’s has updated its Study Buddy knowledge test site. The main site, which provides access to practice questions for FAA airmen knowledge tests, is still free. You can have study sessions and practice tests in either “Learning Mode” or “Test Mode.” “Learning Mode” allows the user to choose a category to study questions related to that topic, or choose all categories to review every published test question. “Test Mode” is like a real exam, with a time limit imposed and a random mix of questions for recreational, private, instrument, or commercial pilot categories. Additionally, you can upgrade to a premium service that adds flashcards and answer explanations to better review key concepts. The premium version is $9.95 for recreational or private, and $14.95 for instrument and commercial.

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: My 90-day solo endorsement has expired. Do I need to receive additional instruction from my instructor before she can sign me off for another 90 days of solo privileges?


Answer: No. According to Federal Aviation Regulation 61.195, you do not necessarily need to receive additional flight training before getting a new 90-day solo endorsement. Of course, the final decision is up to your instructor, and he or she may want to fly with you once or twice before providing the endorsement. Use that opportunity to practice any tasks that you have not done in a while and increase your proficiency with emergency procedures.

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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