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AOPA Online Members Only -- AOPA ePilot Custom Content --Vol. 6, Issue 50AOPA Online Members Only -- AOPA ePilot Custom Content --Vol. 6, Issue 50

The following stories from the December 10, 2004, 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 - Instrument Interest
The approach stage of instrument flight is the most demanding-it requires the most concentration and physical work at a time when you might be fatigued. That's why it is imperative to be proficient and to become familiar with each approach and the various options each presents at your destination (and alternate) airport. Perhaps you're accustomed to receiving vectors from air traffic control during approaches. Flying those same approaches from your instrument approach chart without vectors "should illustrate that an instrument approach you have done many times before with the convenient assistance of air traffic control can present new and challenging decisions and tasks if performed 'on your own,'" writes Dan Namowitz in the October 2004 AOPA Flight Training article, "Long way around: Instrument training should be full of ' full approaches.'" Test your knowledge of instrument approaches with the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's short online safety quiz, "Instrument Approach Procedures."

My ePilot - Experimental Interest
Interested in buying a Sportsman 2+2 but dreading the thought of assembling a kit on your own? GlaStar now offers a Customer Assembly Center to help you through the first two to three weeks of kit assembly. After two weeks of working full days with the company on your Sportsman, you can leave with the structural components assembled, fuel and control systems aft of the firewall in place, and wings that are closed up and mated with all of the fuselage systems. Those who stay a third week will complete almost everything from the firewall forward. After that jump-start, it could take from three to six months to complete the rest of the kit on your own-still faster than most could do the entire process alone. For more information, visit the Web site.

My ePilot - Other Interest
Three colleges are partnering to research and develop engineering software that will lead to quieter helicopters. The research team includes representatives from Northern Arizona University, Penn State University, and Georgia Tech. Using basic engineering, physics, computers, and software, the team will predict the motion of the air around helicopter blades by capturing the motion of the blade and the disturbances it makes to the air. The computer software will be used to help design the next generation of military and civilian helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles. The project is funded by a grant from the Department of Defense.

My ePilot - Student Interest, Training Tips
How high above a nontowered airport do you fly when entering its traffic pattern? A thousand feet? Six hundred feet? Some other figure? It's true that many nontowered airports employ a traffic pattern about 1,000 feet above the surface. But when heading off to a new destination, don't assume that this is automatically true. Altitudes for the pattern vary from place to place. Proper pattern procedures (the subject of the April 18, 2003, "Training Tips") include knowing the right altitude to fly.

The elevation of Indiana's Richmond Municipal Airport is 1,140 feet mean sea level. The airport listing in AOPA's Airport Directory reveals that the traffic pattern for all aircraft is 2,000 feet msl. That's 860 feet above ground level, not the "typical" 1,000 feet agl some pilots would select by default. Knowledge and precision are important for safety and collision avoidance; note in the directory entry for the airport that intensive flight training takes place there.

Many airports have more than one traffic pattern altitude, for example assigning different altitudes to turbine aircraft, light aircraft, and helicopters. Know what those other pilots will be doing! Larger, faster aircraft patterns are often 500 feet higher than yours, but here again, verify the specifics. Also, be certain that right traffic is not required when flying the pattern to one or more runways as discussed in the November 4, 2004, "Training Tips."

If a traffic pattern altitude is significantly different from what you are accustomed to, plan to complete your descent before you enter the pattern. This is what other pilots expect you to do, and it is your best practice for collision avoidance. "A background of sky makes it much easier to observe other aircraft. To descend onto the downwind leg compromises flight safety and makes traffic observation difficult if not impossible," observed Ralph Butcher in the June 2001 AOPA Flight Training column "Insights: Departure and Arrival Profiles."

Sometimes just knowing a small morsel of important information is the difference between a pilot who thinks he is safe, and one who really is.

My ePilot - Student Interest, Training Products
MLO Aviator Products offers a new kind of navigational plotter, the MP-1, developed specifically for use with sectional charts. A sectional grid reader on the plotter helps you to find the exact coordinates of a particular location-which you might use with a GPS to identify a waypoint or position. The plotter is made of heavy-duty, flexible Lexan plastic and has a matte finish that allows you to use a pencil on the surface and reduces reflected light at night. It sells for $19.95 ($17.95 for AOPA members). Call 908/813-3309 or see the Web site.

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 - Student Interest, Final Exam
Question: While practicing touch and goes at a nearby airport, I heard the tower controller tell another pilot that she was "cleared for the option." What does that mean?

Answer: Being "cleared for the option" means that air traffic control (ATC) has given the pilot the option of making a touch-and-go landing, a low approach, a missed approach, a stop and go, or a full-stop landing. This clearance is normally issued for a training flight, giving the instructor latitude to call a last-minute missed approach, touch and go, or other procedure to simulate a possible landing scenario. For more information on ATC communication, see the feature article "Now You're Talking," November 2004 AOPA Flight Training.

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