June 14, 2004 - There's a brand-new place on the Internet for anyone who's learning to fly - or who thinks they want to learn to fly. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has completely redesigned its Flight Training Web site to make it more user friendly, easier to navigate, and more logical and relevant to both the student pilot and the certificated flight instructor (CFI). And for current pilots, there is no better place on the Internet to send someone you know who is interested in learning to fly or who has started their flight training.
"The motto for AOPA Flight Training magazine is 'A good pilot is always learning.' Well, so is a good association," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We've taken everything we've learned about general aviation during our 65-year history, and everything we've learned about the Internet since starting AOPA Online in 1995, and distilled it into this new Web site."
The design team started with a "clean screen" and took a look at what student pilots really need in a Web site.
AOPA asked the experts - the CFIs who staff AOPA's toll-free Pilot Information Center. They answer more than 140,000 phone calls and e-mails a year, many of them from student pilots. So they've come to know the most "frequently asked questions" (FAQs) from students. And they've developed some of the best resources to help answer those questions. AOPA Flight Training magazine's writers and editors put it all in an easy-to-understand form.
Then AOPA looked at the best way to present this information on a Web site. It's divided into the key flight training phases: pre-solo, solo, maneuvers, cross-country, and flight-test preparation. Within each section, there are FAQs that link to illuminating articles for even more information, interactive courses and quizzes, a flying skills area, and a special topics area.
The site is full of "rich media" that take advantage of the special properties of the Web to present information in new and exciting ways. Trying to learn all of those confusing signs and markings in the "big airport" environment? There's an interactive "flash card" quiz from the AOPA Air Safety Foundation that will help pilots make sense of it all.
"QTVR" technology lets student pilots pan around a complex airport environment and a control tower to get a better understanding of what they'll be facing the first time they head for the "big" airport.
One of the most valuable features is the "Virtual Flight Bag," a compendium of everything that's needed to plan a safe and fun flight, including links to weather, notams and temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), AOPA's Airport Directory Online, and AOPA 's Real-Time Flight Planner.
The Learn to Fly selection answers questions like, "Is it safe?" "What will I fly?" and "How much will it cost?" But it also offers a good primer on how it all works - from the basics of aircraft operation to the workings of air traffic control.
And, of course, all of the back issues of AOPA Flight Training magazine are available online for additional research.
The CFI section holds answers to many of the working flight instructor's questions, from properly worded logbook endorsements to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Instructor's Guide to the Pre-Solo Written Test. There's also a video to show CFIs how to attract and retain more students.
"The AOPA Flight Training Web site is an ongoing work in progress," said Boyer. "There's a lot more we'll be adding in the future. As we get feedback from both students and CFIs, we'll populate the site with more helpful features to make learning to fly easier, more enjoyable, and more fun."
AOPA has more than 400,000 members, making it the largest civil aviation organization in the world. Founded in 1939, the association is dedicated to promoting and protecting the interests of general aviation through education, information, and advocacy. Two out of every three pilots in the United States are members of AOPA.