Anyone looking to find the facet of flying that has grown the most over the past decade will discover that it’s the part of aviation on the Internet. What began as a mere curiosity some years ago is now a well-established component in most pilots’ lives. Never before have we been able to find so much information about the passion we share.
No matter how much the World Wide Web figures in your flying routine, its role is just about to get a lot bigger. Scheduled to start in April, Lockheed Martin, which operates the nation’s flight service system, will launch a Website offering pilots more information and capabilities than anything that has preceded it. While you’ll still be able to call and talk to a preflight briefer, the new FS21 Internet portal will offer much more than is available by phone. Not only will pilots be able to get preflight briefings online—and file flight plans, store profiles and get certified graphical weather—but for the first time, pilots will be able to view a weather chart online while talking with a briefer who’s looking at the same chart. This opportunity, along with an incalculable increase in safety, comes to you courtesy of the Internet.
The following are some of the most useful aviation addresses, and while you may have already used a few of them, even Websites you think you’re familiar with have likely improved or added new features since you last visited. That’s the great thing about the Internet—it’s becoming a more valuable aviation tool by the minute.
www.duats.com & www.duat.com
DTC DUAT and CSC DUATS are the original weather, flight-planning and flight plan-filing Websites. Both have evolved over the years to provide increasingly sophisticated weather-related and flight-planning tools. If you haven’t used either, try both. If you’re used to one, try the other to see what’s new and different. Both offer free access, but require you to create a user account.
Members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) should absolutely use its Website. Creating a membership account is required, but you’ve already paid your AOPA dues. Even if you aren’t a member of the AOPA, there’s useful information on the home page. For example, there’s a link that lets you review the most current TFRs throughout the country.
Typically, you wouldn’t think of eBay as an aviation-related site, but its auctions offer complete aircrafts, aircraft parts, magazines, among other aircraft-related items. Type in the name of your favorite aircraft and you’ll probably find a slew of relevant items.
The Google search engine may be the single most useful tool for finding information and aviation-related Websites. Don’t rely solely on the home page’s search field. Click on the “Advanced Search” link to the right and avail yourself of the much more sophisticated query features.
Instead of carrying the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) around or trying to find the form at your local FBO, you can print one from the NASA Website. You’re still required to fill it out by hand. This site also contains information about the immunity policy and allows you to request ASRS database queries.
http://www.weather.noaa.gov/index.html & http://adds.aviationweather.noaa.gov
These are two related National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Websites that provide almost everything you need to review and evaluate the weather. The Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) site often has new products and services, sometimes even prereleases. Few sites are as handy as these for exhaustive weather information.
www.weather.com & http://home.accuweather.com
The Weather Channel and AccuWeather are both good places to start your flight planning. Get the big-picture view of the weather and look at Doppler radar and local temperatures with a couple of mouse clicks. You can make your initial go/no-go decision here before you begin looking at the detailed aviation weather. Many local TV stations also have their own Websites with more current or detailed local weather information than sites covering larger areas.
Want the really big picture? How about a satellite picture of a quarter of the United States? Click on the appropriate link for the area to be viewed. There are several areas with options for visual, infrared and water vapor.
This is a must-have link. You may not use it very often, but when you need to do some sort of aviation-related calculation or conversion, there’s undoubtedly a program on this site that will handle it with ease.
The FAA’s National Aeronautical Charting Office now allows pilots to purchase charts and other flight publications online, directly from the government. Use a credit card for a one-time purchase or set up a subscription to make sure you’re never without a current chart.
Never been to a particular airport before? Want to know about the runways, location, frequencies and so forth? This is the place to come. It also has details about airport businesses and services and hotels and other local services nearby.
You fly by them so you need to know the FARs, but sometimes finding the right one is difficult. Use this Website to peruse and find specific FARs. In theory, the FARs available on this site are accurate and up to date. What more can you ask?
Your trusty E6B can do density altitude calculations easily—provided you have it with you and still remember how to use it. This Website has an easy-to-use density altitude calculator. Fill in the blanks and push the “Calculate” button and you’ll find out the density altitude, absolute pressure (in Hg) and percent of relative density. It would be nice if it were designed to enter the data in the same order as the ATIS and even nicer if temperatures were in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, but it’s still a very useful tool for hot and high airports.
The heading on this site is “Defense Internet NOTAM Service.” If that isn’t enough to get your attention, this site contains a whole slew of links to different kinds of information, including ARTCC TFRs. This is another good site to hit before you get your weather briefing so that you’ll be prepared to ask questions if necessary.
Every pilot operates under the aegis of the FAA. Enough said.
Any traveler to a new destination who wants to know the current weather should visit this Website for not only the correct frequency, but the phone number and a link to the NOAA weather page for that airport. This is a very useful tactical site, and it will be even more useful when you can legally make cell phone calls from an airplane.
Looking for inexpensive fuel? There are a number of Websites that provide this kind of service, but Fillup Flyer Fuel Finder is probably the most well known. There’s a fee, either annual or for each report, but depending on how much you fly, the fee can be recovered in a reasonable time through fuel savings.
You have to register to use the flight-planning services of this site, but the planning features are designed to get the job done. No frills—it simply makes the job of flight planning straightforward.
Odds are that you won’t face any aviation legal problems, but if you’re ever in a position requiring legal help for an aviation situation, then this is the place to come. There’s a lot of useful free information. If the situation is serious, there’s a lawyer behind the screen to help. It’ll cost you, however!
Don’t ask any questions, just add this to your list of favorites. This site has technical and explanatory information on a variety of aerodynamics-related topics. You may not need this site today or tomorrow, but at some point you’ll need to know more about aerodynamics and this should be your starting point.
The article you’re reading provides a selection of URLs to some neat aviation-related Websites; this Website does the same, in spades. This is a site you might as well add to your favorites and learn about when you have time.
This isn’t necessarily a Website for pleasure reading, but it’s a well of information for those hoping to learn from others’ mistakes. Each aviation accident chronicled on this site can offer something that might save your life one day. It may be somber reading, but there’s lots to learn from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Whether you’re just dreaming about a new airplane or actively shopping, Aircraft Shopper Online is a good place to get the lay of the land. All the mainstream aircraft are there, and the best news is that all of the information is free.
Plane & Pilot’s “Aircraft Specifications” boasts a huge variety of facts and figures for a spectrum of general-aviation airplanes. The site also features current articles from the magazine as well as archived highlights from previous issues.