Flight schools will have you do all of your flight planning on a paper sectional and hand write your Navigation Log. Once you’ve earned your private pilot certificate, you’ll have a new set of tools you can use to plan your flight. It’s very important you learn how to plan your flights by hand before you move to a computer based system.
The AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) has a great online flight planning tool. You may already be familiar with the AOPA Real Time Flight Planner. If so, you’ll already know your way around the new web-based system. As a matter-of-fact, the webbased program will already have most of your information stored on it.
Great news for all the Mac OS X users, because this new flight planning system is web browser-based, it instantly works on your Mac. Additionally because everything is stored online, you can use this from just about any computer with internet access.
I’ve just spent several hours playing around with this new system and I already like it much better than the old downloadable Real Time Flight Planner. You can now click and drag the map around instead of needing to click on the arrows at the edge of the screen. This was always very frustrating and seemed to take a lot more time than it should have taken.
You can still use your DUATS weather overlays and file your flight plans directly with the FAA from within the system. There are quick links from the airports to the AOPA Airport Directory database. You’ll be able to print out the airport and taxi diagrams in kneeboard format and take them with you.
As you explore the new browser based system, right click on the map to open up several different menu options. In the old system, you could just drag and change your route. With this new system, you’ll have to right click on a waypoint or airport and then “add” it to your route. It’s just as user friendly, but that took a minute for me to figure out.
As you’re learning the new layout and system, make good use of the “mouse over” information. If you don’t know what a button does, just hold your mouse over it and it will pop up with the information you need.
Overall, I highly recommend this new browser based flight planner. It’s convenient, fast and thorough. If you’re not an AOPA member, is a great reason for joining (among many others).