When Learning Takes Flight

By Smith, Christine | Techniques, September 1999 | Go to article overview

When Learning Takes Flight


Smith, Christine, Techniques


For a young person interested in an aviation career, math and science concepts can come to life in the context of a private airplane ride. Find out how your school can get involved--and how to get your students a free ride.

Their mission is to open the minds and hearts of youth to all aspects of aviation, and with more than 170,000 members on the case nationwide, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is covering a lot of ground with its Young Eagles program. To inspire interest in aviation careers, the EAA has developed this program and others. One of Young Eagles' big selling points is a free plane ride for participants.

"We found aviation was sort of taking a back seat to other vocations, and we're trying to bring our profile up a little bit to compete with everyone else," says Steve Buss, executive director of the Young Eagles program. Buss says there will continue to be job opportunities in various areas of the aviation field as the armed forces continue to cut back. "As the military pool continues to shrink, the [pool of] available pilots coming out of the military continues to shrink," he says. "So the aviation industry is looking toward the civilian sector. Schools like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University [in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz.] or the University of North Dakota [which specializes in aviation training] help fill the need, but even those universities are almost at capacity, if not beyond capacity. They can't turn out pilots fast enough."

This is the gap the EAA and the EAA Aviation Foundation aim to fill with the Young Eagles program. Through Young Eagles and various other educational programs--like the Science-Math-Technology (S-M-T) Leadership Project--the EAA provides interactive Web pages, flight simulators (at various sites), lesson plans, hands-on activities and more. The EAA's resources allow educators to get information about aviation into school curricula in the contexts of math and science, Buss says, adding that some of the EAA's newer educational materials may not be ready until early next year. New flight simulators are one example.

"We're looking at having the test sites ready this fall," Buss says. "The flight simulator won't be as much a game [as it will be] a learning activity. Instead of just flying an airplane from point `A' to point `B,' [students] may fly the airplane from those two points, but then have to figure for wind correction angle or fuel burn. …

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