Jan. 21, 2004 - Described by one enthusiastic member as "a brilliant piece of flight planning software," AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner usage has soared to heights well beyond original expectations. Just two months after it was introduced at AOPA Expo, usage of the revolutionary flight planner topped 50,000 members. To date more than 55,000 members have installed the program. And on average more than 500 additional members are trying out the flight planner each and every day, discovering the ease with which they can avoid temporary flight restrictions or adverse weather using real-time information from the FAA and DUATS.
"After comments from members who helped us with beta testing last summer, we knew we had a winner," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, "but to have one out of eight members use this major new benefit in the first two months far exceeds our wildest expectations and is like no other product introduction we have ever made."
Members aren't just trying the flight planner once, they have begun to embrace the new product for their day-to-day flight planning. In these first few weeks, the average user has logged on more than six times, totaling some 340,000 usages. Some 2,000 members use the flight planner each day.
Understanding the threat that temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) pose to general aviation pilots, AOPA partnered with industry leader Jeppesen a year ago to develop a new flight planner that would graphically depict TFRs, giving pilots a chance to see whether a planned route would intersect such airspace. The new online flight planner accesses a database of the latest TFR information each time it is started, assuring pilots of the most up-to-date depictions possible. If a planned route intersects a TFR, the pilot can easily "rubber-band" the route away from the area. Meanwhile, the printable navigation log is automatically updated as the pilot makes changes.
By accessing either DUATS weather provider through AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner, users can obtain an official weather briefing, file a flight plan, and download real-time radar and satellite images that can be overlaid on the route for better situational awareness.
"Thank you for providing the Real-Time Flight Planner as a free tool for AOPA members," commented a member from Illinois flying a Cessna 172. "It's a truly brilliant piece of flight planning software; I assume it's a streamlined version of Jeppesen's commercial flight planning software for 'pros,' but in any case it's a very welcome addition to any pilot's digital flight bag."
From a California member: "I declare, 'It is a winner!' after generating three practice flight plans for me, getting weather briefings for them all, filing VFR flight plans ... all executed clean and fast ... but it is different from the old one AOPA had been using, so be ready for 'we never did it this way before.'"
The California member is correct. The new flight planner is certainly different than AOPA's previous text-only flight planner. To help members understand how to use the new flight planner, AOPA and Jeppesen staff have created extensive resources in the product's help files and in a "frequently asked questions" section of AOPA Online. For those who prefer other options, AOPA continues to provide access to more basic flight planners provided by both DUATS vendors, also through its Web site. For details on these choices and to download the Real-Time Flight Planner, see the Web site.
For a complete tutorial on the flight planner, see the feature article " TFR Not Recommended" in the January issue of AOPA Pilot.
AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization, with more than 400,000 members. The association is dedicated to protecting the interests of general aviation and providing its members with the tools and information they need to operate safety. Some two thirds of all U.S. pilots are members of AOPA.