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Pilot Briefing June 2020



New flight planner online

iFlightPlanner is new AOPA partner

By Chris Eads

When AOPA announced that the legacy software powering AOPA’s popular online flight planning tool would be discontinued by the end of April, information technology leaders at the association were already hard at work finding a replacement to meet the needs of AOPA members. The result is a new partnership with iFlightPlanner that combines a new technology platform with a core set of features that AOPA members have long been asking for. iFlightPlanner, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based firm, will provide a unique version of its flight planning platform exclusively to AOPA members free of charge.

“AOPA is pleased to offer members access to a very capable web-based flight planner, customized with many features especially for AOPA pilots,” said Jiri Marousek, AOPA senior vice president of marketing. “Beginning April 21, members can use a customized version of iFlightPlanner accessible through any web browser on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. We have been working with iFlightPlanner to offer several new features not previously available, including options free to AOPA pilots that are otherwise only included in paid versions of their products.”

The planner combines the newer technology and graphical capabilities of iFlightPlanner with a select set of features that were most commonly used by AOPA members in the legacy system. One of the most important additions will be a powerful web interface with FAA-produced aeronautical charts and other visual displays related to weather, airspace, and airport services designed to provide pilots the most current information to effectively plan their flights.

Based on a mobile-friendly web design, the system will afford users a fast and visually compelling environment that is constantly updated without needing to download current chart updates, weather, or other data. Members will be able to intuitively plan routes with click-and-drag “route rubberbanding” over high-resolution aeronautical charts. The planner also provides certified weather briefings and flight plan filing through Leidos Flight Service.

Graphical features of the new flight planner include FAA-produced VFR sectional and terminal area charts, IFR low and high en route charts, SID and STAR procedures, airport diagrams, and the U.S. Chart Supplements (formerly called Airport/Facility Directories). The planner will include options for visual overlays of current radar and infrared satellite imagery, as well as graphical representations of airmets, sigmets, pireps, METARs, terminal area forecasts, temporary flight restrictions, airspace class, and special use airspace. Users also can access pertinent information about airports to include runway details, frequencies, instrument approach procedures, notams, remarks, available FBO services, and current fuel pricing.

Through intuitive, easy-to-follow screen layouts in the program, users can manage their favorite airports, as well as customize routes, aircraft profiles, and planning settings. A wide range of color-coded icons provide quick reference for situations such as flight conditions or fuel prices along a route of flight. When a planned flight will begin to consume reserve fuel and when it will reach zero fuel also are graphically represented. Detailed navigation logs, an alternate airport finder, altitude comparison tools, fuel planning features, downloadable airport diagrams and procedures, and printable flight documents are among the many special features of the program.

Another important aspect of the transition to the new flight planner is the transfer of existing pilot profiles and information that is stored in the previous AOPA flight planner. All pilot, aircraft, and route profiles that members have saved in the existing system prior to April 21 will automatically transfer into the new iFlightPlanner version. This includes stored routes, flight plans, and custom waypoints that users have set up.

Special discounted pricing is available to upgrade into iFlightPlanner’s core and premium membership levels. Both levels include feature-rich electronic flight bag (EFB) functionality that bring the flight planning tool into the cockpit. iFlightPlanner Premium includes additional features, such as a weight and balance calculator, ADS-B In, georeferenced airport diagrams and instrument approach procedures, and a pilot logbook. AOPA members can expect to save 20 percent on the various pricing levels of these upgraded memberships, which are detailed on iFlightPlanner’s website (

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Pilot Briefing June 2020
Photography by Chris Rose

Picked for 'Panchito'

Kentucky pilot wins SIC rating in a B–25

By Jill W. Tallman

The Delaware Aviation Museum awarded one lucky pilot a second-in-command type rating package on April 1 to celebrate the museum’s fifth anniversary. Homer “Tom” Womack of Grayson, Kentucky, will earn an SIC rating in the North American B–25 Mitchell Panchito, owned and operated by the museum based in Georgetown, Delaware.

Before the coronavirus pandemic orders to stay at home, the museum had planned to conduct the drawing at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland.

In addition to Womack, the museum awarded second, third, and runner-up prizes to pilots from across the United States—and one winner from the West Indies.

AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines completed the B–25 SIC type rating in 2015. He described Panchito as a difficult airplane to fly and almost impossible to taxi, but said he experienced a new level of respect and admiration for members of the Greatest Generation “who climbed aboard these mechanical marvels and launched across oceans and continents with the most basic of navigation gear, many of them never to return home.”

The Delaware Aviation Museum offsets the costs of maintaining and exhibiting its aircraft by offering pilot-in-command and SIC ratings, orientation flights, and B–25 ground school sessions.

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FAA scales back ATC service

The FAA will reduce the operating hours of air traffic control personnel at more than 100 ATC towers and terminal radar approach control facilities to limit employees’ exposure to the coronavirus as the pandemic continues to slow flight activity in the national airspace system. No end date was given for the downsizing that will affect ATC facilities in Class C and D airspace, where traffic volume has declined as much as 96 percent as of late April.

“These facilities have seen a significant reduction in flights, especially during the evening and nighttime hours, since the pandemic began,” according to the FAA. “Adjusting the operating hours will further protect our employees and reduce the possibility of temporary tower closures from COVID-19 exposures by ensuring enough controllers are available to staff the facilities during peak hours.”

The FAA will conduct a regular analysis of traffic levels to determine how to appropriately staff the facilities. The modifications will be reviewed regularly for an eventual return to normal operations, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic, and aviation security. AOPA and other aviation groups are developing general recommendations on how such responsibilities as the posting and consistent dissemination of notams, and the monitoring of navaids, should be handled when the tower is closed.

“We are taking a close look at the FAA’s strategy and their initial list of locations,” said Duke. “The FAA and air traffic controllers have done an outstanding job to keep the system running during this extraordinary time. Their collaboration with aviation stakeholders has been key to ensuring the safety and efficiency of the system.”

The AOPA Air Safety Institute recently released a safety notice about ATC zero events that provides additional guidance on what pilots can do during preflight to ensure they have all of the pertinent information.

Industry News

Halladay accident report released

Factual report shows drugs in system

By Richard McSpadden

Pilot Briefing June 2020The NTSB released its factual report on the November 2017 crash that killed baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay, who was flying solo in his new Icon A5. The factual report, which should soon be followed with the final report that includes the NTSB’s determination of probable cause, paints a sad picture of a reckless pilot, heavily impaired by a noxious variety of drugs, operating without full appreciation for the risks of low-altitude flying.

According to the report, Halladay’s Icon plunged into four feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico, near the coast of Clearwater, Florida, wings level at about a 45-degree angle. Witnesses observed and cell phone video confirmed Halladay was performing aggressive maneuvers minutes prior to the accident, with high bank angles and exaggerated pitch movements ranging from 500 feet agl, down to just a few feet above the water. In the maneuver preceding the crash, Halladay climbed aggressively and reduced power. The aircraft exceeded an angle of attack that would have induced a stall, then banked hard into a steep nose-down attitude before impacting the water wings level. The report lists blunt force trauma as cause of death with drowning a contributing condition.

The toxicology report listed some seven different drugs in Halladay’s system including sleep aids, amphetamines, morphine, and antidepressants. Some of the drugs registered at extreme levels typically associated with misuse. Halladay struggled with substance abuse and depression in the years immediately following his retirement from Major League Baseball in 2013.

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