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The Best Free Online Aviation Resources

by Tori Williams 1. February 2017 20:30
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It’s no secret, being a pilot is expensive. Especially during the initial training phase where you have to worry about plane rental, fuel costs, paying your instructor, purchasing study materials, paying for written exams and checkride fees. That doesn’t even include the hundreds of dollars you spend on a headset, kneeboard, charts, foggles, and any other required materials for beginning your piloting career or hobby.

While it is worth spending a little extra money for quality flight training, there are also plenty of free resources available for student pilots to take advantage of. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite completely free aviation resources for you to check out and hopefully benefit from! Do you have a favorite free resource? Let me know in the comments below!

1. FAA FAR AIM

As any good student pilot knows, the Federal Aviation Regulations are everything. Love them or hate them, you’re going to have to know and understand a good chunk of them for your checkride. Luckily for you, these regulations are publically available for free on the FAA Website. This might not be the most exciting news, but it is handy for quick reference if you don’t have a physical copy on hand.

2. Podcasts

I was surprised by the amount of times I heard my fellow pilots talking about aviation podcasts that they listened to while I was at my flight university. As it turns out, there are quite a few great quality podcasts out there for new and seasoned pilots alike. A few of my favorites are The Finer Points, Coffee Break Flight Instruction, and Airplane Geeks. There are tons more out there with topics ranging from flight instruction to military aircraft to aviation current events. A quick Google search can bring up dozens!

3. AOPA Student Resources

An AOPA membership is known for being a great resource to the world of aviation, but they also have several free resources available without a membership. Student pilots have access to tons of articles, event calendars, and flight planning tools right at their fingertips. To sweeten the deal, AOPA is offering 6 months of free membership to student pilots, including 6 monthly issues of their Flight Training Magazine. That’s an offer you can’t refuse!

4. Pilots of YouTube

For someone like me who is an extremely visual learner, YouTube has been a lifesaver. A quick search on YouTube for “flight training” resulted in 5,180,000 videos. Of course, not all of these are going to be winners. However, there are several that have a great way of explaining private and instrument pilot techniques and information. I highly recommend poking around to see what has been created, or searching for the specific problem you are stuck on.

5. GlobalAir.com

Did you know that the very site you are on right now has several wonderful (and completely free!) aviation resources? Our Aviation Directory is a great source to find links to all things in the flying world. Check out the “Airport Resource” tab to look up detailed information about any airport, or to check the fuel prices at thousands of airports around the nation. There is so much you can learn from the information listed on GlobalAir.com. Go ahead and check it out!

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Aviation Safety | Flying | Tori Williams

An Aviation Movie for Every Preference

by Tori Williams 2. January 2017 17:00
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There’s nothing better than curling up with a good movie and some hot chocolate on a cold winter night. There are dozens of options if you prefer an aviation themed film, and I have categorized some of the best films into different categories based on content. I personally always love a great vintage aviation film, but sometimes I’m more in the mood for a drama or documentary. Thankfully with so many options out there, it is easy to find a film that suits your tastes.

Vintage Aviation

The Great Waldo Pepper

If you’re in the mood for biplanes, barnstorming, and aviation when it was far less regulated, you should seek out a vintage aviation film. My all-time favorite is The Great Waldo Pepper, which is currently streaming on Netflix if you have an account. This film is about a barnstormer-turned-movie star that flies in several “air circuses” during the era that more and more government regulation is occurring around aviation. He tries to make a living flying, but gets shut down several times due to breaking the new regulations. It is a great movie and worth seeing more than once!

Other examples: Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines, Amelia

Airline Flight

Sully

If airliners and commercial aviation excites you the most, there are several great films about that too. Arguably one of the best aviation movies of the year, Sully follows the real-life story of the miracle of the Hudson. The forced water landing due to a bird strike was a historical moment that is beautifully retold with Tom Hanks playing Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. It gives insight into the way that the NTSB has to investigate airline accidents, and shows how years of flying helped Sully beat the odds and have a completely successful landing.

Other Examples: Flight

Military Flight

Top Gun

Perhaps one of the most popular genres of aviation movies, military aviation boasts several classics. Top Gun has been one of the most popular aviation movies of all time since its release in 1986. The catchy songs, action-packed flight scenes, and dramatic love story make for a great film. I’m sure that more than a few Air Force and Navy hopefuls were inspired by this movie. This film is also currently available on Netflix, so you have no excuse not to watch it if you haven’t yet!

Other Examples: Red Tails

Aviation Humor

Airplane!

This genre is a little sparser than others, but there are a few good films. It goes to show that people can find humor in anything. Full of enough aviation puns to last you a lifetime, the movie Airplane! is an automatic classic and must watch for anyone who likes aviation or silly jokes. This movie is also the definitive origin of the “Surely you can’t be serious!” “I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.” joke.

Other Example: Disney/Pixar Planes

Drama/Thriller

Air Force One

Everyone loves a good thriller, and Air Force One starring Harrison Ford will keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire movie. Ford plays the role of the president who is on Air Force One when Russian Terrorists hijack the plane. His family happens to be onboard as well, and they are quickly taken as hostages. I watched this for the first time inside of a camper at AirVenture in 2013, and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s always interesting to see how characters that are trapped in an airplane with virtually no escape handle difficult situations.

Other Examples: Snakes on a Plane, Red Eye

Documentary

One Six Right

Aviation has some historical stories that are stranger and more interesting than any fiction Hollywood could think up. Documentaries about these actual events can teach you something new and lead to further investigation into other new things. I personally loved the film One Six Right. It should be required in school curriculum. The film shows how general aviation has such resounding effects on the world, as seen through the happenings at a local airport. This film was deemed so important by AOPA that they sent a complimentary copy of it to every member of congress who was a private pilot in the spring of 2005. That is saying something!

Other Example: Living in the Age of Airplanes

I hope that at least one of these films peaks your interest and inspires you to watch an aviation film this weekend! There is certainly plenty to choose from, and the classics will never get old. Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite aviation movie that I did not mention!

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Dogs in Aviation

by Tori Williams 1. December 2016 20:05
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Piper the Airport Operations Dog. Image via www.airportk9.org

I recently had the opportunity to adopt a puppy from a local animal shelter. My new puppy is a Shiba Inu with a lot of energy. She’s instantly become a big part of my life (mostly because she’s so needy and needs constant supervision until she’s housebroken) and it got me thinking about how dogs can fit into the wide world of aviation.

Most people think of the pain of traveling with animals when they think of bringing animals into aviation. However, there are several ways that dogs have been brought into aviation to do a job or accomplish a mission. I have collected some of the most fascinating examples of these dogs and I would like to share them with you.

Airport Operations Dog

A video went viral a few months back featuring Piper the K-9 Wildlife Management Specialist at Cherry Capital Airport in Michigan. The dog works closely with his Operations Specialist owner who drives him around to chase away any wildlife that is a hazard to airport operations. Wildlife can be a huge problem at airports, and sometimes using flares and traps isn’t enough. He appears to love having such an important job, and getting to run around chasing his natural enemies away must be rewarding as well.

Airport Security Dog

I have encountered airport drug sniffing dogs several times during my travels. These large, serious-looking dogs walk up and down the lines heading towards TSA. They have a mission to find drugs or hazardous materials that passengers may be trying to smuggle past security. They are extremely good at their jobs and help add an extra layer of protection to the airport with their superior sniffers.

Lost and Found Dog

Another viral video sensation, which unfortunately turned out to be staged, featured the adorable beagle named Sherlock who returns lost items to passengers on KLM. The PR stunt was done incredibly well, as the majority of people who saw the video (myself included) were completely convinced that dear Sherlock was a real full-time employee of the airline. Although the story was not 100% true, I could totally see a dog with an excellent sense of smell and memory being able to do that job.

Airport Stress Relief Dogs

As I mentioned in my previous article about stress relief, an even increasing number of airports are having volunteers with stress-relief or emotional support dogs come to greet passengers and hopefully make their days a little better. These furry friends help anxious passengers feel calm and comforted. I believe this is an incredibly valuable service, especially during the holidays when passengers who do not regularly fly are on their way to family and friends.

Additional Note on Taking Your Dog Flying

One of the things I was most excited about when I got my new puppy was being able to take her with me to fly-ins during the summer. Thankfully she does great in car rides so I am hoping this will translate to her first plane ride as well. AOPA has a wonderful article outlining tips for flying in your general aviation plane with your dog. It discusses restraints, food and water, motion sickness, oxygen, hearing, and traveling with your dog outside of the U.S. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety before you take your dog for a plane ride. Being safe and knowledgeable will make the flight all the more fun for you and your dog!

I hope this list has helped you see that integrating dogs into aviation can be beneficial and amazing for airports and the dogs themselves. There are a lot of opportunities for well-trained dogs to make a difference in the world. Aviation is a great field for it!

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Airports

Top 5 Interesting Airport Facts

by Tori Williams 1. November 2016 20:30
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This semester has been one long lesson into all things airport operations related. When I am not at school taking such classes as Airport Operations and Aviation Administration Decision Making, I am at the Lexington airport soaking up knowledge from my airport operations internship. I have never had a semester where I felt I experienced and could apply the material I was learning in such a way as this. I have been extremely blessed with my internship and the amazing professors at Eastern.

In a strange way, my lessons outside of the classroom have lined up perfectly with the lessons in class more times than I can count. For example, we had a lesson about airport wildlife management at school and then during my time at the airport that day we encountered birds, deer, and checked the wildlife traps. My coworkers are very good at turning things we encounter into learning moments, so I have heard countless stories and gotten hands-on experience with a lot of things my classmates are only reading about.

During this awesome semester I have learned a few airport facts that truly surprised me. I gathered my top five to share here.

1. Airports make an enormous percentage of their revenue from parking

I was surprised to find out that of the overall revenue that airports acquire, non-aeronautical revenue accounts for nearly half of the total. This exact number of their non-aeronautical revenue is 44.8%, according to one study. Parking and transportation alone contribute to 41.2% of the total revenue, putting it in a category of its own. This is one of those facts that make sense if you think about it, after all airports almost always charge for parking and thousands of cars come through every day. Several major airports also contract out parking. Companies will bid on a parking contract and whoever wins is in charge of parking at that airport. This seems to be efficient for both the airport and the parking companies.

2.TSA is under a microscope

Nobody particularly enjoys going through TSA, and it often seems ridiculous to have to remove your belt and shoes to not be a threat to national security. However, one fascinating thing I have learned is that TSA often gets tested themselves. The TSA inspector will occasionally send volunteers, usually new airport employees who have not been seen by TSA yet, though the TSA security line with explosives or other prohibited items stashed in their carry-on. In some cases, they will even strap the prohibited substance to the bodies of the volunteers to see if the TSA screener can find it that way. The supervisor on shift is made aware before testing begins so they will be prepared and not let the screener call airport police on the volunteer. Thankfully Lexington has been extremely successful in their testing, but other airports have not been so lucky.

3. Airports send birds to The Smithsonian

Whenever there is a bird strike and the airport cannot discern the species of bird, they must send DNA to The Smithsonian. That can be feathers, a sample of the bird guts, or both, depending on the state of the animal when they are found. The Smithsonian then analyzes the DNA to accurately identify the species of bird, and returns that information to the airport to include in their wildlife strike report.

4. Airport record keeping is insane

One thing I instantly noticed about working in operations is that there are dozens of large, thick binders filled with papers that they are constantly referencing, updating, and archiving. The airport is required to keep certain records for up to two years. That means that even if someone hasn’t worked at the airport in a year and a half, they still have a massive binder dedicated to them with all of their training records. Other binders include the unofficial version of the airport certification manual, dozens of maps of the airfield, badging applications, and many more that I have not yet seen. Someone could easily spend days reading these binders and not see half of the material the airport keeps on hand.

5. Airport expansion is very complicated

Commercial and GA airports alike face a number of challenges when it comes to growth. Many communities do not understand how great aviation can be for their local economy, so they oppose runway expansion projects and even the simplest changes to the airport. I found it particularly interesting using Lexington as a case study, as their airport is surrounded by horse farms owned by some of the biggest names in horse breeding and racing. It would be extremely difficult for them to expand because of the value of the land around them. Airports constantly have to balance growth with community relations, far more than several other industries.

I hope that you have learned at least one interesting fact by reading this article, and I can’t wait to learn more as I become more knowledgeable on airport operations! It is a whole world of intricacies and innovations that I am lucky to be part of!

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Airports | Tori Williams

Top Airport Stress-Relief Upgrades

by Tori Williams 2. October 2016 00:41
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To the majority of passengers on commercial flights, traveling can be a stressful and sometimes uncomfortable experience. Long lines to check in, confusing security rules, and having to rush to your gate after all is said and done can drive even the most understanding person crazy. On top of all that, several airports have puzzling signage and unclear instructions for moving between terminals. This can leave the passenger with a sense of dismay and dread when trying to navigate through to their flight. Thankfully, several airports have recently begun revitalizing their interiors and amenities in an effort to reduce passenger stress and create an overall ambiance of ease. I found several examples online and I picked my top 4 to share with you here.

1. Narita Airport Running Lanes

Well in advance of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Narita International Airport decided to redesign the interior of their airport with a minimalist and easily navigated layout. Inspired by running tracks, these blue and red lanes show passengers exactly where they are heading. Blue represents departures and red represents arrivals. The designers chose these colors with purpose, too. Blue, the color of the sky, uplifts passengers and excites them for the travels ahead. Red, a more earthy tone, is there for arriving passengers as they conclude their travels and return to the ground.

2. San Francisco Yoga Room

No, you have not been transported to a peaceful yoga studio. You are in fact in Terminal 2 of San Francisco International Airport, just on the other side of the TSA checkpoint. A few years ago the airport converted a storage closet into a fully functioning yoga room, featuring dim lights, a mirrored wall, complementary mats and blocks. This free service has helped many a weary passenger feel at ease during their stressful layovers. In fact, it has rave reviews on its Yelp page. Quite an interesting and helpful addition to the amenities offered at SFO.

3. Canine Therapy in Denver

One of the latest trends in airport stress-relief is to bring in certified therapy dogs for the guests to pet and play with in the terminal. This is not exclusive to Denver airport, as I found many articles where airports around America had brought in special dogs to soothe customers. This usually happens during the busy holiday season, where travel seems very high-stakes and travelers just want to hurry past to visit family. Many passengers who visited with the dogs reported that their stress levels had decreased by a substantial amount and they were very glad to play with a pooch during their stressful trip.

4. Butterfly Garden in Singapore

You read that right! The Changi airport in Singapore boasts a very luscious garden in Terminal 3 that houses more than 1,000 tropical butterflies and as many as 40 species during different seasons of the year. This unique space of tranquility is open to passengers who are traveling through their airport at no cost. The natural light, water features, and beautiful nature on display in this garden help passengers feel an instant sense of relaxation.

Airports are focusing more every year on making the passenger experience less stressful and more luxurious. I hope that in your future travels you are able to find a peaceful release from all of the stress!

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Airlines | Tori Williams



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