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



The other day I was asked

If I was connected to “my people.”

A long time ago, when I was six years old

I attended a pow wow and was pushed to the earth because I was white.

White boys weren’t allowed to dance, I was told.


Then, at the age of 11, I was in fight at a middle school track meet for yet another reason.

Injuns can’t compete with Texans, I was told.

By this time, I had turned Indian.

So I spoke up with an American fist and the Texan boy listened.


However, to this day, I do not fight with fists.

I fight with a dance – a dance between two worlds,

One dark and one light,

One half Native American, the other half white.


When I am asked, are you connected to your “people?”

I will answer, no.


I am connected to not a people, a creed, or a race.

Instead, I am connected to the ground and to the earth.

I am connected to the sound of wind moving across the desert dirt.

I am connected to the fire of the sun, the weight of the moon,

and to the arms of my mother and father at birth.

I am connected to the electrical spirit of the land –

The spirit that gave me life, the spirit that fuels my soul,

and the spirit that never asks for anything in return.

Forever beyond flesh and bone,

I am connected to the waves of physics, the laws of nature, the energy of sound

and I am bound to the farthest corners of the universe

secured forever to the smallest blades of grass in the ground.

Creativity: Work vs. Talent

“Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talent! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became “geniuses” (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to a fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“People get the mind and quality of brain that they deserve through their actions in life. Despite the popularity of genetic explanations for our behavior, recent discoveries in neuroscience are overturning long-held beliefs that the brain is genetically hardwired. Scientists are demonstrating the degree to which the brain is actually quite plastic-how our thoughts determine our mental landscape. They are exploring the relationship of willpower to physiology, how profoundly the mind can affect our health and functionality. It is possible that more and more will be discovered about how deeply we create the various patterns of our lives through certain mental operations-how we are truly responsible for so much of what happens to us.” (p. 14, Mastery)


Film, Television, & Media as an Educational Tool

A child keeps in their mind a register of the actions and conversations of those who are about them; every scene they are engaged in is a book, from which they insensibly enrich their memory, treasuring up their store till time shall ripen their judgement, and turn it into a profit. – Rousseau, Selections from Emilius

The Interest-Stimulation Theory – a theory that proposes that television, film, and media can enhance learning by stimulating children’s interest. As Nueman (1995) states, “by stimulating new interests, young viewers will gain knowledge and then try to obtain even further knowledge on these same topics.” (p. 101)

The Short-Term Gratifications Theory – a theory that proposes that television and film changes children’s expectations toward learning, “creating a generation of spectators who rely more on vicarious experiences than on active involvement in learning. This attitude is thought to affect school learning in two ways: First, exposure to the effortless activity of television viewing may lead children to believe that all activities require so little effort, and, second, that the rapid pacing of television may induce shortened attention spans and cause hyperactive behavior.” (Nueman, 1995).

Arguments AGAINST Film, Television, & Media as an Educational Tool:

“Children rarely go purposefully to the medium for useful information-most learning is absorbed incidentally, as children view spontaneously for entertainment. Without any special effort at retention, attention may be divided among a host of other activities, some of which may take precedence over viewing. What is learned, then, can vary dramatically according to the circumstances seen as relevant to young viewers.” (Nueman, 1995).

“Rich media will benefit learners only to the extent that its capabilities are harnessed in ways that support human learning processes.” (p. 310, Instructional Design and Technology).

Arguments FOR Film, Television, & Media as an Educational Tool:

“Rather than being a threat to the development of reading, television might be seen as a complementary medium, engaging children in experiences that require similar processing tools. Though clearly different in style, children make judgments about the comprehensibility of both media, generate inferences, interpret content in terms of their own past experiences, and selectively edit content differentiating central from incident events. Each of these component skills become increasingly refined with greater experience. Thus, the theories of comprehension for each medium correspond, forming a convergent model of the overall comprehension process.” (p. 84, Literacy in the Television Age, 1995).

“A theory of synergy, however, goes one step beyond complementary. Synergy implies not only a cooperative relationship, but one in which the total effect is greater than the sum of its parts. Operationally defined, this suggests that when used appropriately, television might enliven and even enhance literacy. Such an explanation might account for the replicated finding that up to 10 hours per week of viewing actually seems to relate to higher reading scores (Nueman, 1988; Williams et al., 1982). The entertaining format of television, therefore, might belie its function as an informational resource and cognitive processing tool, particularly for young children.” (p. 84, Literacy in the Television Age, 1995).

“Learning is a multimodel process, requiring a wide range of physical, perceptual, and cognitive skills. While literacy’s enormous value is undeniable, it does not come without limitations. Sometimes, visually presented images can instill competence in skills far better than can verbal descriptions. Other times some type of motor response is necessary. For example, it is virtually impossible to learn to drive or fix a car just be reading a manual. Learning requires knowledge transformations from different types of experiences.” (p. 98, Literacy in the Television Age).

“Newer technologies do not in any way reduce the vital importance of competence in reading and writing. Rather, as the modes of communication expand, so, too, do our means of enhancing learning among all children increase. We now have the capacity to shape instruction to account for different characteristics of learners and different tasks and settings. It would represent a sad state of affairs to forego these options due to an anachronistic view of thinking and learning. A diverse culture demands diverse multimodal strategies to ensure that all children, regardless of their particular strengths and weaknesses, are given opportunities to learn.” (p. 99)

“It is true that by design, television is not an instrument of teaching, yet the medium may have much to offer in educational value. For example, television is a remarkable disseminator of information. It has undoubtedly contributed to the public’s knowledge and understanding of current social and political events. Similarly, television is a primary medium through which many children today are introduced to a wide variety of stories and genres. These opportunities could be used more fruitfully to help children see the important connections between their traditional school subjects and the different facets of our culture.” (p. 201).


Works Cited

Nueman, S. B. (1995). Literacy in the Television Age. New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Company.