Also Invites Prospective Pilots To "Let's Go Flying!"
At the last general session meeting of AOPA Expo 2008 on
Saturday, there was far more news to report than the passing
of the torch -- er,
Jepp bag -- from outgoing President Phil Boyer
to Craig Fuller. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association also
announced the substantially upgraded AOPA Internet Flight Planner,
as well as a new program intended to attract new pilots into the
The flight planner -- dubbed AIFP -- adds new functionality to
the existing Real Time Flight Planner introduced five years ago at
AOPA Expo. The RTFP was a crowd-pleaser -- fully functional
internet-based flight-planning software that cost AOPA members
nothing -- but by 2008, it was far from state-of-the art.
"By any measure, AOPA’s Real Time Flight Planner (RTFP)
has been a huge success," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But it
did have a couple of drawbacks. It required users to download a
small application, and it would only run on Windows-based
computers. AIFP addresses those issues while maintaining comparable
capabilities and leaving room for future upgrades.
"And the cost to members remains the same," Boyer added.
The AOPA Internet Flight Planner is the result of a
collaboration between AOPA and the software engineers at Jeppesen.
The new AOPA Internet Flight Planner still uses Jeppesen’s
industry-leading database and flight-planning algorithms, but the
application itself was created at AOPA headquarters by the
Association's staff of Web developers.
Enhancements already added include: full integration with the
AOPA Online Airport Directory, including airport and fuel price
information; pre-loaded performance data for many of general
aviation’s most popular aircraft; weather downloaded
automatically as soon as the "Plan This Route" button is clicked;
and a Route tool that allows a pilot to more easily alter the
flight plan, including optimizing altitude for winds.
The new flight planner is a completely browser-based Rich
Internet Application. The new flight planner can be used from any
computer that has an Internet connection and browser software
installed. That includes Apple MacIntosh and Linux computers, which
were unable to run the old program.
"The new AOPA Internet Flight Planner is just one more example
of AOPA listening to our members and giving them the best value for
their $39 dues," said Boyer.
Let's Go Flying!
AOPA also hopes there will be even more pilots utilizing the
AIFP software, once prospective students are lured to the glories
of flying by the new "Let's Go Flying!" initiative... which aims to
address the declining pilot population and turn that trend
If that sounds like the goal of AOPA's last effort in this
regard -- Project Pilot -- well, it is. But AOPA hopes "Let's Go
Flying!" will speak to prospective pilots in a much clearer voice
than its predecessor accomplished, in part by appealing from the
start on the sheer joys of aviation, over the technology.
"If there is one thing pilots love to do, it's share the joy of
flight," said Boyer. "A lot of would-be pilots 'caught the bug'
simply because someone – a friend, relative or business
colleague – took them for a flight in a light aircraft. Let's
Go Flying has been developed to capture the interest of anyone who
has ever thought about learning to fly, engage them by providing
information and resources, and get them to an airport and into an
airplane for a first flight.
"In response to my personal appeal for ideas to address the
declining pilot population, thousands of AOPA members told us that
the key was to sell the fun and practical benefits of learning to
flying, and get a prospect into an airplane," Boyer continued.
"Those of us who've discovered general aviation know that it's a
really useful mode of transportation, and it's fun, so we want to
share it. That's what Let's Go Flying is all about."
With Let's Go Flying, AOPA has developed a three-phase
communications strategy utilizing online and traditional marketing
to engage, motivate, and support interested potential pilots to
continue on the path to becoming a pilot, and joining the general
aviation pilot population. Once someone starts on the path to
becoming a pilot, Let's Go Flying will help guide new pilots
through the training process.
AOPA says that as those students work through their training and
earn their certificate, Let's Go Flying will be there for them with
additional resources and advice. The Let's Go Flying web site also
features an online database of more than 3,500 flight schools
nationwide, most of which offer discounts on introductory
Visitors can use the flight school database to search by ZIP
code and can also find answers to questions about the time and cost
of becoming a pilot and the types of pilot certificates and
airplanes that are available.
As it heads toward 2009, AOPA is working with trusted flight
school partners to offer opportunities for pilot prospects to get
to the airport in a friendly, picnic-like environment, and have an
opportunity to take an introductory flight.
"We want each person to experience what it feels like in the
air," said Boyer. "Flying is fun, and just about anyone can learn
to do it. These first flights are on the critical path for someone
looking to learn to fly."