Archive for May, 2010

Flight planning made easy(er)

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

If you have not tried out AOPA’s newly revamped airport directory (aka AOPA Airports), please do so right now. Well, as soon as possible. Because if you don’t, you’re missing out on a great flight-planning tool.

Readers of this blog (all four of you) know I generally use this space to talk about the Fun to Fly Remos. And I will, in a minute. Anyway, the new AOPA Airports is extremely user-friendly. For starters, you don’t have to be logged in to AOPA Online to use it–meaning you don’t have to remember your login and password while you’re away from your regular computer (although you must be logged in to designate favorite airports).

Second, if you’re a visual person like I am, you can’t have too many pictures to help you process information. AOPA Airports does that, giving me not only taxiway diagrams and runway layouts, but also satellite images and sectional snippets.

Third, there’s the awesome weather functionality. I hadn’t really played around with AOPA Airports until a few weeks ago. The Remos needed to come back from Lancaster Airport (KLNS), where she had gone for an oil change and some new tires. She needed to get back to KFDK in time for May 15, the International Learn to Fly Day. A warm front was stalled over the entire area, bringing showers and low ceilings, and the window of opportunity to bring her back was beginning to shrink. (Remember, the Remos is a VFR aircraft. We could get in to LNS via any number of IFR-certified airplanes, but the Remos and I might not get back out.)

The weather improved slightly–but not to my VFR minimums. I started the ritual of checking weather at departure, en route, and destination airports to see if the forecasts were going to hold up and things were indeed getting better. Clicking back and forth between FDK, LNS, Carroll County Regional (KDMW), York (KTHV), and LNS, I got METARs and TAFs for all of those airports, updated continually. Plus, each METAR is tagged to indicate whether the field in question is VFR, MVFR, IFR, or LIFR. And, wind speeds are given numerically and with a little red tetrahedron that shows the direction (more visual stuff!).

Backing up all of this with a telephone weather briefing, Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and I were able to get the Remos back to FDK without a hitch. So, what are you waiting for? Take it for a drive, and tell me what you think in the Comments section below.

Trials and tribulations

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Last year, I wrote on the Reporting Points Blog about how several flight schools were taking advantage of the ease with which they can position their LSAs to park them in venues where you don’t normally see airplanes–like malls. Black Friday saw CTs, Remoses, and Tecnams in malls in Texas, Maryland, and Florida. Darren Hook wrote in February that he saw a Remos at a mall in Lewisville, Texas, and decided to get going on a sport pilot certificate. His 18-year-old son signed up too, and father and son have been learning to fly together (although Darren’s a little farther along).

Darren e-mailed me this morning to say that he had taken and passed the oral portion of his sport pilot checkride. The practical test portion was delayed because of weather. He was all set to complete his checkride when he got a call from the flight school: the school’s LSA had been involved in a landing accident. CFI and student were not injured, thankfully. Now Darren has to wait until another LSA can be obtained to complete his checkride.

My heart aches for Darren–so close, and yet so far! But while he’s disappointed, he’s also not taking this as a sign from the heavens that it wasn’t meant to be. He’s full of plans for when he does get his sport pilot certificate. “Once I get the sport pilot done, I plan to enjoy the Summer flying and taking in the accomplishment. I plan to go for PPL this fall.” Darren’s flight instructor is a CFI, so that means all of his dual hours can be applied toward getting his private pilot certificate. Eventually, Darren says he would like to get his flight instructor certificate and/or a commercial certificate so that he could give rides at museums.

“First things first, though,” he says, “need to keep learning and get certified.”

Hang in there, Darren, it will happen. In the meantime, what should Darren do to keep sharp? We know he can take dual instruction in any airplane, but do you think it would help or hinder him to fly something like a Cessna 172 while he waits for another LSA to be put on the line? Please share your suggestions in the comments section.