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AOPA ePilot Flight Training Edition Volume 9, Issue 16 — April 17, 2009  

In This Issue:
New chart distribution method coming
2008 AOPA Sweepstakes Archer for rent
Aircraft renters: Don’t fly unprotected

  FT News  |   Inside AOPA  |   TRAINING PRODUCTS   |   FINAL EXAM   


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.


Got your eye on an aviation college or university? Be sure to visit our online subject report for tips on picking the best possible school for your needs. Our annual Aviation College and University Directory provides a snapshot of each listed school as well as pertinent contact information.


Did you know that student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their flight training? Membership includes unlimited access to aviation information by phone (800/USA-AOPA, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time) or from AOPA Flight Training Online or AOPA Online. If you're not already a member, join today and get the pilot's edge. Login information is available online.


New chart distribution method coming

The National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO) plans to change the way it distributes aeronautical charts on Oct. 1, 2009, in order to meet its budget goals. Under the new plan, a business would need to have annual chart sales of $5,000—not the current $500—to remain a chart agent. Smaller outlets that do not meet the new criteria would purchase charts from larger chart agents. Pilots should see little difference in prices, but availability of charts for areas outside a pilot’s home airport could be affected, especially if smaller fixed-base operators decide to stock mostly regional charts. Read more >>

2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Archer for rent

If you’ve ever wanted to fly an AOPA sweepstakes aircraft, now’s your chance. You can rent or get checked out in AOPA’s 2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Archer. Sweeps winner Karoline Amadeo has put her completely refurbished, glass-panel-equipped Archer for rent through Richmor Aviation at the Dutchess County Airport in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The Archer features an Aspen Avionics EFD1000 primary flight display coupled to two Garmin GNS430Ws and an S-Tec Fifty Five X autopilot with altitude preselect. The airplane is available for solo rental with a checkout from a Richmor instructor. The current rate is $129 an hour wet.

Bridgewater State unveils new flight training center

The aviation program at Bridgewater State College in New Bedford, Mass., unveiled a new flight training center April 9 during an open house at New Bedford Regional Airport. The program faced an uncertain future after Delta Connection Academy did not renew its contract to provide flight training services at the school. Now it is rebuilding with a revamped facility and a new, in-house flight training program. Greg Bongiorno, manager of aviation affairs at Bridgewater State, said the event has helped the program reach out to nearby schools to spark students’ interest in aviation.


Inside AOPA

Aircraft renters: Don’t fly unprotected

Now that spring is here, and with summer on its way, more and more pilots will be taking to the skies. The cost of aircraft renters insurance is affordable for AOPA members, thanks to the efforts of AOPA and the AOPA Insurance Agency. AOPA members will receive a 5 percent discount on renters insurance policies, allowing members to obtain a comprehensive package for just $175 a year. The discount applies to both new and renewing policies. And, members who renew their AOPA Insurance Agency renters policy can take advantage of an additional 10 percent discount if they were claim- and accident-free during the previous policy year. Visit the AOPA Insurance Agency to apply and to purchase your renters insurance policy, or call 800/622-2672 for more information.

Excitement, fun, and sun in Tampa this November

Are you ready for AOPA Aviation Summit? It’s a completely new take on AOPA’s annual convention! “We want to help you connect to the reasons that you fly so you can maximize the value you get from your personal aviation experience, whether you fly for business, pleasure, or both,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. AOPA Aviation Summit will still offer the great experiences attendees have come to expect: more than 500 exhibits and an exciting aircraft display. The exhibit hall will be energized with events and a new layout; even the social events will have a new look and feel. Plan now to be a part of the first-ever AOPA Summit and celebrate the association’s 70th anniversary. You won’t want to miss it! Learn more >>

Flight Path series gives student pilots a lift

Working on getting your pilot certificate? AOPA has launched a new program to see you through the process, providing helpful information every step of the way and celebrating each important milestone. The Flight Path series guides students through each stage of development toward a pilot certificate. Read more >>


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 [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.

Picture Perfect

Pilots love to take photos, and they love to share them with other pilots. Now you can upload your flying photos to our brand-new online gallery, "Air Mail." Share your special aviation images, or view and rate more than 1,000 photos and counting. Highly rated photos will get put into rotation on the AOPA home page!


Want something to do this weekend? Planning an aviation getaway? See your personalized online calendar of events . We've enhanced our calendar so that with one click you can see all of the events listed in the regions you selected when personalizing ePilot . Now you can browse events listed two weeks to a few months out to make your planning easier. You can also bookmark the personalized calender page to check it as often as you want. Before you take off on an adventure, make sure you check our current aviation weather provided by Jeppesen.

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

Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics

The next AOPA Air Safety Foundation Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics are scheduled in San Diego, Calif., Tampa, Fla., and, Boston, Mass., April 25 and 26; Pensacola, Fla., and Houston,Texas, May 2 and 3; Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Albany, N.Y., May 16 and 17; Sacramento, Calif., and Kansas City, Mo., May 30 and 31. For a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.


Can't make it in person? Sign up for the CFI Refresher Online.

AOPA Air Safety Foundation Safety Seminars

AOPA Air Safety Foundation Safety Seminars are scheduled in Concord, Calif., April 20; Fresno, Calif., April 21; Palmdale, Calif., April 22; San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Lakeland, Fla., April 23; Lakeland, Fla., April 24 and 25; Boise, Idaho, April 27; Highland Heights, Ky., and Salt Lake City, Utah, April 28. Topics vary—for details and a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.

Got news? Contact ePilot. Having difficulty using this service? Visit the ePilot Frequently Asked Questions now at AOPA Online or write to [email protected].

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Editorial Team : ePilot Flight Training Editor : Jill Tallman | ePilot Editor: Alyssa Miller | Contributor: Alton Marsh

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