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Need to slip away from the holiday crowd? Try an online mini-course.

With the holidays coming up, I hope you'll be flying someplace interesting. If not, you can relieve some of the boredom at home by taking an online mini-course, or reviewing some of your old DVD courses left over from training days -- just be sure they're not too out of date as to airspace changes and other updates to FARs. If you are going somewhere, especially someplace new, it might be wise to use one of the courses to upgrade your knowledge bank on elements of your upcoming flight that you know are unfamiliar. If the trip to grandma's is a well-worn path, use the list of course topics to consider some of the out-of-the-box possibilities that could present themselves unexpectedly this time around. Like, what if ATC actually gives you an intersection hold -- for real this time?

The key for me is to approach each course as one part challenge to my ego, one part entertainment, and one part opportunity to learn something new that will stick with me as a useful mental tool in my flying. The resulting three-part cocktail leads to an enjoyable win-win-win way to spend a half hour or so in front of my computer; and just a bit removed from the surrounding holiday madness.

If you don't have a selection of DVD courses on your computer shelf, AOPA's Air Safety Foundation has a library of more than two dozen online courses you can take for free if you are a member. They range from general information on GPS navigation for VFR or IFR operations, to perhaps long-forgotten specifics of non-precision or ILS approaches. Some of the courses qualify for AOPA's accident forgiveness and deductible rewards programs (waiving some insurance deductibles) and/or the FAA Wings pilot proficiency program. There is even a pinch-hitter course you can possibly use to lure your significant other into the depths of your addiction to flying. Who knows where that might lead on a cold winter's night.