May 24, 2010

Student Pilots Benefit from Redesigned Flight Training Magazine

flighttraining_newcover.jpgA few months ago AOPA's Flight Training Magazine went through a redesign. In the June Issue Deputy Editor Ian J. Twombly shared some letters from readers sharing their mixed reviews of the redesign, which reminded me that I had not yet shared my viewpoints on the redesign. My overall thought is the redesign is an upgrade of the previous magazine experience. It continues to be the premier magazine for student pilots interested in learning to fly. That being said there are areas that I hope AOPA continues to tweak to further improve the reading experience. I'll start out with what I love about the new magazine design and experience.

The entire "Preflight" section at the beginning of the magazine has been positively improved. The addition of a Sport Illustrated-esque two page photo spread is a beautiful way to kick-off the section. What pilot doesn't enjoy looking at great aviation photography? I would love to see it expanded to include one professional photo each month and one member submitted photo with a brief story describing the photo. I also enjoy the "This Weekend" feature with the nice depiction of events taking place across the country. Though, I would love to see that part of the website updated weekly rather than monthly.

energy_footprint.jpgThe feature articles have also been improved with better imagery and iconography. In the current issue there is an interesting article on Energy Footprints, I appreciate the nice infographics that accompany this article. Since the redesign their seems to be a concerted effort to use more infographics, which as a visual learner I appreciate.

I have heard some people complaints that the articles are getting to short, possibly adapting to the increase in attention deficit disorder. Historically, there were articles that felt like they had been lengthened to meet a word count but were not providing addition benefit or detail. I think this is where the infographics play a vital role, as a picture can be worth a thousand words, shaving space but still communicating the core message. As a result I believe Flight Training Magazine has found the right balance for their depth of information.

I was also impressed with this month's "Technique: Track your flight" article which shares with readers the ins and outs of creating a GPS track of your flight for post flight review and sharing via the web. This type of content is a perfect example of great content that previously was only found on blogs. I learned from fellow bloggers how to do this a few years ago and love tracking my flights. I am glad to see Flight Training bringing some of these great ideas to print. Even more impressive is that on the redesigned Flight Training website their is a video walk-through of the sames process.

Although, I like more aspects of the redesign than I dislike, I was disappointed with a few of the changes. I was disappointed with the way some of my favorite elements of the magazine were de-emphasized. I feel like the designer ran out of steam when it came time to design the pages that house the regular commentary from Greg Brown and Rod Machado. Readers feel like they know both of these authors as we follow their advice and adventures month to month. It is disappointing that their sections of the magazine did not receive as much attention. I would love to see work done to bring these parts of the magazine more to life.

All in all I am happy with the redesign of Flight Training magazine, what were your thoughts on the redesign?

Posted at 7:05 PM | Post Category: AOPA, In the News | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

April 4, 2010

Two Aviation Adventures to Follow this April

One of my favorite things about being a private pilot is heading out for a cross-country flight. This month there are two exciting aviation adventures in which pilots will be flying aircraft literally across the country. One interesting thing is that in both cases the pilots are flying cross-country in Remos GX Light Sport Aircraft.

A year ago I would have been surprised at the prospects of flying far from home in a Light Sport Aircraft. However, while at AirVenture in Oshkosh this past summer, I had the opportunity to fly the Remos GX and was pleasantly surprised by its performance.

The Flight for the Human Spirit

flighthumanspirit.jpgMichael Combs was not satisfied with dreaming of flying. However, a history of heart problems had kept him grounded until the advent of the Sport Pilot License. The Sport Pilot License does not require an FAA Medical Certificate, with that hurdle out of the way, he jumped at the opportunity and earned his license to fly.

Now Michael is on a mission to spread the simple message that "It is never to late to follow your dreams." His goal is reach 20 million people with this message. What better way to do it than by continuing to follow his dream of flying. So Michael will depart on Tuesday from Salina, Kansas in a Remos GX Light Sport Aircraft on a journey to all fifty states, covering 19,400 miles enroute and visiting 135 cities.

One of the airports Combs will stop at is my home base, Chicago Executive Airport, just outside of Chicago. I was able to get support for his mission from my flight club, Windy City Flyers, who will be supplying a hangar for his aircraft during his visit. If you are in Chicago and would like to meet Combs, visit the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group as I am organizing a meet and greet for when he arrives.

You can follow the Combs's adventure and check-out his route on his website. If you use Twitter be sure to follow him (@combscoach) and the Flight for Human Spirit Mission Control (@fhsmissionctrl).

AOPA Road and Runway Rally
rally_homepage_banner2.jpgThe second adventure is AOPA's Road and Runway Rally. Two teams will depart from AOPA headquarters in Frederick, MD this Saturday, one in a Smart Car and the other in a Remos GX, enroute to Lakeland, FL home of the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In. As they make their way south they will compete in a variety of challenges, meeting in St. Augustine, FL to swap vehicles and continue to Lakeland.

Team Orville is made up by Alyssa J. Miller (@ajmalay), AOPA Director of eMedia & Correspondent Jason Paur (@jasonpaur). Their competitors on Team Wilbur are Flight Training Deputy Editor Ian J. Twombly (@ijtwombly) and Motor Week Associate Producer Steven Chupnick (@motorweek).

You can follow this adventure on the Road and Runway Rally website, blog or twitter (#Fun2Fly)

As for my aviation adventures ... I hope to back in the sky before the end of the week, Mother Nature providing.

February 22, 2009

Calling All Pilots and General Aviation Supporters

LASP.jpgLast year your help was needed to try and put a halt on the implementation of users fees. Now you are needed to once again write your representatives and share your feedback with the government officials over the TSA's proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP).

Max Trescott wrote a great post explaining why this should be the number one aviation issue on your mind this weekend. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association "The proposed Large Aircraft Security Program, or LASP, would impose a whole range of expensive and burdensome requirements on Part 91 operators of aircraft weighing more than 12,500 lbs. Those requirements include criminal history record checks for crew members, matching passengers to TSA watch and no-fly lists, checking passengers and baggage for dangerous weapons or prohibited items, and paying for biennial third-party audits".

Please don't assume that because this does not effect the type of aircraft you fly that this is not a serious issue for you to be concerned about. AOPA's VP of Government Affairs Andy Cebula makes a great point saying "We're also concerned that the regulations could easily be expanded to include all aircraft, regardless of size or type of operation, because the TSA hasn't said anything to justify the 12,500-lb limit."

Max Trescott referenced a very appropriate quote from Benjamin Franklin in his post on this matter "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither." What concerns me is that there is not validation of any of the alleged security benefits.

You have until February 27, 2009 to share your comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). There have been nearly 3,000 comments posted thus far, but that is a fraction of the aviation community.

So, I urge you to read Max Trescott's post on the matter and visit AOPAs online member action center. Than take a few minutes to craft a message to share with your representative and submit a formal response to the notice of proposed rulemaking. If you need help figuring out just what to say write AOPA's guide to writing your response to this issue.

Posted at 10:39 AM | Post Category: AOPA, Aviation Advocacy, In the News | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

February 8, 2009

Jeppesen VFR+GPS Charts and AOPA Flight Planner Review

AOPAFlightPlanner_image.jpgIn preparing for my last cross country flight I took advantage of some newer tools. I started my planning with the new online version of the AOPA Flight Planner powered by Jeppesen. I have used the software based version of the flight planner in the past and enjoyed checking out their web-based version. It was fairly intuitive and only took me a few minutes to build my desired route. I was able to add GPS waypoints and airports simply by clicking on the appropriate icons on the online chart. I also wished to add one custom waypoint for the Arlington Park racetrack which was easy enough to do with a right-click.

After you select your route if you have aircraft entered into the system it will generate a navlog with the appropriate speeds. As you get closer to flight time you can run weather reports for the route of flight and then the AOPA flightplanner updates your navlog with the appropriate speeds and headings accounting for the winds. If you plan on filing a flightplan you can do that too from the system. All routes your create can then be saved for future reference. If you are an AOPA member I highly recommend you check it out.

VFR+GPS-Chicago.jpgFor this flight I brought along my traditional sectionals but left them in the backseat. Instead the Jeppesen VFR+GPS Great Lakes (GL-3) Chart sat in my lap for most the flight. I first learned about these maps while at AirVenture this summer. Most of my flying takes place in northern Illinois and throughout Wisconsin which would require a few sectionals. With this chart I could fly from Champaign, IL to Cherryland Airport in Door County, WI with a single chart.

These new charts have ditched the greenish color we all are familiar with from our sectionals and instead is white allowing colors used for airspace, airways and airports to pop more. I feel they have made these charts easier to read. One major improvement was the very clear markings of ceilings and floors of airspace. These charts took into account that so many pilots are using GPS in flight and are designed with that type of flight in mind.

Many pilot shops are starting to stock them but if you can't find them at your local shop you can purchase one directly from Jeppesen. I now keep one in my flightbag for all flights.

July 13, 2008

Becoming an AOPA Project Pilot Mentor

Aopa_project_pilot.jpgA couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from a reader of this blog who is a fellow Chicagoan that was interested in my opinion of a few local flight schools. After going back and forth through e-mail we had one of those "It is a small world" moments when we realized a few years ago we had both been contributors to the same blog, Peter mentioned that as of late he had really been suffering from the aviation bug. He finds himself looking to sky more and more often and is ready to learn to fly. With the pilot population in decline I wanted to be sure to do all I could do to help Peter achieve his goal of earning a pilots license.

This past week I signed up to be Peter's mentor in AOPA's Project Pilot Program. AOPA developed the program as part of their commitment to growing the pilot population. For me it is an opportunity to support his efforts and share in his experiences and I hope that I can provide him some valuable advice that I would have appreciated while learning to fly. Not to mention it is great having another person to talk to who loves aviation.

This weekend he joined me and two other members of the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group for a seminar on Takeoffs, Landings and Low Altitudes Maneuvering at the DuPage Airport. Although the seminar was bit disappointing it was a great excuse for some aviation enthusiasts to get together at an airport. The four of us, two pilots and two perspective pilots, stood at the flightline fence enjoying a conversation on aviation and even judging a few landings. While at the airport we stopped in to The Pilot Shop where Peter picked up a logbook which will come in handy in the coming weeks as he takes his first introductory flight.

Peter has setup a blog, Flying in Chicago, dedicated to his aviation adventures. I hope you will check it out.

April 23, 2008

Aviation Town Meeting Spurs Passion for Flight

aopa_townmeeting_group_small.jpgI enjoyed a great night of aviation at the AOPA Pilot Town Meeting tonight. Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association President, Phil Boyer, spends about a week each month traveling around the country to meet with pilots and to talk about issues that are near and dear to pilots. I remember attending a Pilot Town Meeting several years ago and was excited to see Phil was bringing his show to Chicago.

I arrived nearly an hour early so that I could save some seats for fellow members of the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group who were going to join me for the event. As is often the case at any pilot get together or at a local airport it is nearly impossible to be alone long around pilots. Within seconds of sitting down I was engaged in a conversation with several fellow pilots. One of which was a remarkable man, Clarence (Clancy) Hess. Clancy was one of the first members of AOPA when he joined for the price of $3 in 1940. He was a Marine Aviator in WWII and also was a co-founder of Wings of Hope, a non-profit organization that delivers food and medical assistance to third world countries. He shared with me and a few fellow pilots some amazing photos including one of him with Jimmy Doolitle who inspired Clancy to pursue aviation. Clancy was recently inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.

In looking around the room it was obvious why AOPA is working so hard to bring new pilots into aviation as the median age had to be close to if not over 50 years of age. I knew that this particular AOPA event had both presentations for current pilots and for prospective pilots. I was excited that three of the six members of the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group who were able to attend were interested in learning to fly. Mid-way through the evening those interested in learning to fly were taken to a separate room to learn about the steps it takes to learn to fly. As a special gift, AOPA presented them each with a voucher for a free introductory flight. It was great hearing from the three future pilots after the meeting, each of them sounded very excited about taking the introductory flight. A.J. commented that he always knew he wanted to fly, he even was close to attending Embry Riddle to learn to fly but chose another career path. He now wants to get into aviation and stop putting off his dream of flying. He said this event just fueled his interest in learning to fly which was great to see.

Another fun story was from Mark, a private pilot who has not flown in several months. He mentioned this weekend he was outside when his young daughter pointed to the sky and said "airplane". He was so excited he took her to the local airport and showed her the planes up close as they watched from the fence line as planes came and went. He is looking forward to getting current again this spring and taking his daughter flying.

Tonight my eyes were opened once again to what I already knew but just needed a reminder of; all of us pilots are very passionate about aviation. In most cases it is a love affair we have had since we were children. It is our duty as pilots to be good ambassadors for aviation. We need to be vigilantly looking for the twinkle in one's eye when the topic of aviation comes up or one's attention is drawn to an overflying plane and we need to seize that moment to share our passion for flying with that person. I know I find great joy in helping people step away from the fence line and cross over to the tarmac to take an introductory flight or simply to visit an FBO or look at the inside of a General Aviation plane.

Tonight was one of those great nights where I enjoyed the camaraderie of other pilots and remembered again what a joy it is to have the privilege of flying. Thanks AOPA for looking out for the interests of pilots and offering this great forum to bring fellow aviators together for a great evening!

The photo above is of several Chicago Aviation Meetup Group Members along with the President of AOPA Phil Boyer and Clancy Hess. (Left to Right: Rob, Catrina, Phil, Clancy, A.J. & Myself.)

April 14, 2008

Flight Training Blogs

flighttrainingblogs.jpgIn February I posted about an artcle in AOPA Flight Training Magazine in which several aviation blogs were showcased. That article came on the heels of an article that promoted and several other aviation blogs in the Wall Street Journal.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that when Mike Collins wrote a follow-up article on blogs for the April issue of Flight Training Magazine. In "Blogs for Reading: A Summary of Reader Recommendations" Mike featured seven aviation blogs including For those that don't have a subscription to the magazine I scanned a copy of the article that you can read here. This website was in great company with several other blogs that I read on a frequent basis.

Mike Collins wrote "We've all seen 'information' on the Internet that wasn't worth reading, but I was impressed by both the quality and variety of aviation blogs." When I started this blog in the Spring of 2004 there were only a handful of other aviation blogs. One of which was David West's Flight Lessons Learned which was also mention in this article. It is great to see that several years later there are an abundance of blogs to help educate and inspire aspiring pilots.

Also featured in the article was fellow Illinois based student pilot Evan Krueger of The Flying Toga. I was glad he was featured as I had not stumbled upon his blog yet. I have really enjoyed following Evan's experiences learning to fly. He is learning to fly out of Lake in The Hills airport a small airport Northwest of Chicago.

Also mentioned were Finally Learning to Fly, Signal Charlie and Roger's Soaring Blog.

April 9, 2008

AOPA Pilot Town Meeting Coming to Chicago

phil_boyer_aopa_thumb.jpgPhil Boyer, President of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is coming to Chicago for an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting. The event is at the Sheraton Chicago Northwest in Arlington Heights a suburb of Chicago on Tuesday, April 22.

Three years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Phil Boyer at an AOPA Town Meeting in Cincinnati. I am an advocate of AOPA and appreciate all the hard work Mr. Boyer and his staff put in every day to protect the rights and interests of private pilots.

If you are a pilot and live anywhere near the Chicago area, I encourage you to come out to this event.

Posted at 9:53 PM | Post Category: AOPA, In the News | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

November 1, 2005

Voice Your Opinion on the Washington D.C. ADIZ

adiz.jpgThere is only one day left to voice your opinions on the The FAA's proposal to make the "temporary" flight restriction over the Washington D.C. area permanent. The current Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) was implemented in February 2003 in response to heightened terrorist threat levels.

There are 19 public-use airports used by more than 10,000 pilots that are effected by the ADIZ restrictions. The ADIZ area covers a 40 mile area from ground level to 18,000 feet. The restrictions of the ADIZ have put unnecessary burdens on general aviation pilots. Many pilots have reported frequently having to hold as much as 45 minutes on the ground or in the air to receive the needed transponder code to fly into the ADIZ. It is unfair that the general aviation aircraft that pose the smallest aviation threat must suffer from the restrictions.

Living in Chicago with a mayor who has proven to be an enemy to general aviation, I am concerned about the precedent that would be set by allowing a permanent ADIZ over the Washington D.C. area. AOPA President, Phil Boyer, said "If the FAA makes the Washington, D.C., ADIZ permanent, it will set a dangerous precedent, creating the possibility of IFR-like flight restrictions within the footprint of every Class B airspace."

AOPA has asked its members to contact the FAA and their representatives before November 2nd to make the voices of General Aviation pilots and enthusiasts heard. So far 16,565 have submitted comments. I submitted comments to the FAA, my two senators and my congressman. If you have not submitted comments visit the AOPA website tonight to find out how you can.

Posted at 10:55 PM | Post Category: AOPA, In the News | Save & Share This Story

May 19, 2005

AOPA Runs Ad on General Aviation Safety

aopa_ad.jpg"Last week one pilot made headlines, the other 588,656 did not" is the headline of an advertisement the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) ran in Wednesday's USA Today and Roll Call, the primary newspaper on Capitol Hill. This ad of course refers to last weeks Washington D.C. airspace violation by two general aviation pilots in a Cessna 150.

The rest of the ad which can be viewed on the AOPA website goes on to talk about all the organization has done to ensure pilots safely navigate the complex airspace restrictions established aften September 11, 2001. The article talks about the temporary airspace flight restrictions (TFRs) e-mails that are sent out to AOPA to members within range of the TFRs. They sent almost 5 million of those messages last year alerting pilots of restricted airspace. Safety is very important to AOPA so much so that it connected with 327,222 pilots and flight instructors last year through its online and live seminars.

If you have not read the advertisement yet download the PDF now from the the AOPA site.

Posted at 8:19 PM | Post Category: AOPA, In the News, TFR | Save & Share This Story