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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Aviation students solve problems — before the crash

Students are learning math, engineering and problem solving through a curriculum designed by the nonprofit Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Foundation, reports Kevin Bushweller on Education Week.

At Magruder High School in Rockville, Maryland, freshmen “are gathered at the controls of eight Redbird flight simulators, high-tech machinery with foot pedals and control panels that are used to train private and professional pilots how to take off, land, and maneuver aircraft safely under normal and dangerous circumstances,” he writes.

The computer keyboards for the FAA-approved simulators feature red, green, blue, orange, and brown function keys for activating experiences such as flying in zero visibility, with a failed engine, or on autopilot. One student is approaching an airport for a landing, but veers sideways across the runway. Another applies too much power when taking off, flying up at an awkward, problematic angle.

The airline industry “faces massive shortages of pilots, mechanics, and other jobs,” Bushweller writes. During the four-year program, students “learn the principles of flying airplanes and drones” and “tackle mathematical and engineering analyses around concepts such as torque, force, weight, distance, and altitude.”

One lesson required students to investigate the cause of a jet airplane crash.“That helped me in my decision to become an aerospace engineer,” said Ayman Bustillos, who will start Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., next year.

Ayman and four classmates worked as a team.

Ayman’s responsibility was to investigate the specifications of the airplane, its engines and its age; a second team member had to evaluate the quality of communications between the pilots and the air traffic control operators; a third, the weather conditions during takeoff, in flight, and on the landing approach; a fourth was tasked with pulling together all the data from the aftermath of the crash; and the last team member had to review previous airplane crashes to determine if there were lessons learned from those accidents that could be applied to this one.

Pilot error caused the crash.

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