Learning to Fly: Aviation Education

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Learning to fly is more than just learning about how to operate airplanes or helicopters. Learning to fly is serendipitous to learning about the world around you; the weather, physics, electrical components, engines, and psychology.

“In recent years, debate about the quality of U.S. education has focused attention on the need for more and better science and math instruction to enable young people to cope with rapidly changing technology. The world of aviation is one in which technical skills and proficiency are of paramount importance. Moreover, aviation, more than many other disciplines, has an ability to inspire youth and create an excitement in a classroom setting that can spill over into other academic areas. ” -Don Clausen, Director of Special Programs, Federal Aviation Administration

In this section, we will discuss aviation education and its importance in our society today. What does aviation have to students of all academic levels? Aviation is the study of the earth’s natural environment. Furthermore, effective aviation education is the understanding of human error and the ability to train and educate learners to understand their own limitations and put safety first. The mentality developed in aviation scholars is the ability to problem solve before problems occur.  Using an aviation education model to support life-long learning can be beneficial to learners.

Essential Skills Obtained through Pilot Training

“Pilots know that making the wrong decision can result in a grave outcome, so they have to not only make the right decision, but they need to make it quickly. Pilots also learn that most times, there is not one single correct decision but many decisions with different outcomes. It’s their job to use good resource management to pick the best one for their particular circumstance.” (Houstin, 2018).

“Rules are all meant to keep people safe and alive, but there are times when breaking them is the safer option – like busting an ATC clearance or company protocol because an urgent situation compels you to. Pilots know that following the rules is ideal, but breaking them is sometimes the better option.” (Houstin, 2018).

“A pilot can’t be just a “numbers person” or just a “creative person” to be a good pilot. It’s not left-brain or right-brain. Flying requires critical thinking in both realms. Pilots have to know the numbers for the airplane. They have to know the procedures and the checklists. But they also have to know how to use them appropriately, when to deviate from them, and how to think through a problem that’s not on a checklist, which is where the creativity part comes in. Both skill sets come into play pretty equally when flying.” (Houstin, 2018).

“As humans, we are taught to trust our own body, brain, and our gut to tell us when things aren’t happening as they should. And usually, we’re right. But when the airplane disagrees with our gut or with what our brain thinks we should do, the instinctual reaction is to trust what our body and brain are telling us. This isn’t always the correct response. When flying with no visual references – in the clouds, for example – a pilot’s ears and eyes can play tricks on their brain, often telling them that the aircraft is in straight and level flight when it’s actually in a steep spiraling descent. Pilots have to observe and interpret the instruments in this situation instead of their own gut instinct. They have to fight against their gut reaction and instead rely on feedback from the airplane and its instruments to make proper decisions.” (Houstin, 2018).

The Medical Industry Learns from the Aviation Industry

“A fascinating recent study compared error, stress and teamwork in different professional subgroups, including pilots and hospital staff. Its results are telling. Independent adjudicators rated surgeons worse than pilots in several respects: admitting fatigue; embracing flatter hierarchies; and working in teams.” (Singh, 2009).



“The United States now faces a shortage of highly experienced pilots in both the military and the commercial airline industry. While flight programs have been developed to meet these shortfalls with increased training, consideration should also be given to improving the aviation education process itself, which is the foundation of flight training” (Karp).

Link to: University Aviation Education: An Integrated Model by Merrill R. Karp


Houston, Sarina. (2018, October 29). The Important Skills Pilots Acquire from Flying. The Balance Careers. Retrieved from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/important-skills-pilots-acquire-282950

Sing, Neil. (2009, September 1). On A Wing and a Prayer: Surgeons Learning from the Aviation Industry. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738773/

Dye, Aimee. (N.A.). Aviation Curriculum Guide for Middle School Level, Secondary School Level. Retrieved from: https://www.faa.gov/education/educators/curriculum/middle/media/Middle_Aviation_Curriculum_Guide.pdf


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