Open Cock­pit

We need to in­spire young peo­ples’ imag­i­na­tion and cre­ativ­ity in or­der to ig­nite their pas­sion for avi­a­tion


We need to en­gage young­sters in avi­a­tion by any means pos­si­ble

One of the buzz­word acronyms in the ed­u­ca­tion world over the past decade has been ‘STEM’, mean­ing sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and maths. Quite rightly too, as we need to en­gage young minds and at­tract them to sci­ence and in­ven­tion to help sup­port Bri­tish en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign in the fu­ture.

But while there are many or­gan­i­sa­tions do­ing ex­cel­lent work in de­vel­op­ing in­ter­ests, too sci­en­tific an ap­proach can fail to en­gage with those who are not of a tech­ni­cal bent. In these health- and safety-con­scious days too, it seems some are happy to tell young­sters about air­craft but shy away from ac­tu­ally let­ting them get near one, let alone fly.

It is note­wor­thy that the Air Train­ing Corps has moved away from sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in ac­tual fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. In re­cent years al­most all Air Ex­pe­ri­ence Flights were grounded and even now, with a much re­duced num­ber of Squadrons re­ac­ti­vated, it seems the ma­jor­ity of ATC spend­ing is be­ing directed at a mul­timil­lion pound sim­u­la­tor fa­cil­ity at its head­quar­ters at RAF Sy­er­ston.

Wor­thy that may be in de­vel­op­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of Preda­tor drone op­er­a­tives, but how on earth will that ig­nite a pas­sion for flight?

Thank­fully other or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Air League, Air Scouts and the ex­cel­lent Feet off Ground ini­tia­tive, sup­ported by fel­low Pi­lot colum­nist Pat Malone at his home air­field at Bod­min, are do­ing a great job of fill­ing the gap. Any­one who has taken part in such ini­tia­tives will tell you the smiles you get at the end of any flight are far wider than you would get af­ter a sim­u­la­tor ses­sion.

And what about the cre­ative side? En­cour­ag­ing cre­ativ­ity is now be­ing recog­nised by many ed­u­ca­tors as ev­ery bit as im­por­tant as the log­i­cal func­tions driven by sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and maths. In­deed they have even started to add ‘art’ to their much-used acro­nym. For STEM, now read STEAM as the next buzz­word.

So how does that mat­ter for light avi­a­tion? Well, I per­son­ally can’t think of a bet­ter way for putting both STEM and STEAM into prac­tice. Avi­a­tion is about much more than sci­ence, it is also about the ex­pe­ri­ence. Whether it is hav­ing the sound of a Rolls-royce Mer­lin at full power raise the hairs on the back of one’s neck, the sight from an air­line flight deck of a coast­line on a clear day stretch­ing to­wards in­fin­ity, watch­ing a Tiger Moth gen­tly side-slip­ping onto a grass strip, or the sharp tang of Cas­trol R from a WWI ro­tary en­gine; all mo­ti­vate ar­eas of the mind far be­yond the left brain logic zones of sci­ence and math­e­mat­ics.

Art and cre­ative ac­tiv­i­ties are also a great way of in­tro­duc­ing more young peo­ple to our pas­sion for flight. Not ev­ery­one is a bud­ding sci­en­tist or engi­neer. In­deed I would spec­u­late that many of us fly­ing to­day were not drawn to it by maths or for­mu­lae. Mas­ter­ing them was a nec­es­sary bar­rier for some of us to climb to achieve our aims. We just wanted to fly!

The Light Air­craft As­so­ci­a­tion has been ex­pand­ing its young peo­ples’ ac­tiv­i­ties for some time now, with ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing Young Fly­ers’ days or­gan­ised by lo­cal groups or Struts, young peo­ples’ air­field ad­ven­ture events at the Tur­we­ston head­quar­ters and, of course, help­ing with a va­ri­ety of Schools Build-a-Plane projects. The As­so­ci­a­tion has now also agreed to take the lead in pro­mot­ing Bri­tish en­tries to the 2018 FAI Young Artists Con­test. This an­nual event has been run­ning for twenty years or more, at­tract­ing sev­eral thou­sand en­tries from around the world. Last year’s com­pe­ti­tion saw young­sters from six­teen coun­tries take part. The fi­nal over­all win­ners were from Rus­sia and In­dia. The num­ber of en­tries from the UK last year? Just one!

So the LAA has agreed to work with the Royal Aero Club and the World Air Sports Fed­er­a­tion, FAI, to en­cour­age more young Bri­tish artists to take part in the global FAI Young Artists Con­test. The theme of the con­test is ‘Flight into the Fu­ture’ and young artists be­tween the ages of six and seven­teen are in­vited to sub­mit draw­ings and paint­ings, with the LAA pub­li­cis­ing the com­pe­ti­tion and run­ning ac­tiv­i­ties to sup­port UK en­trants.

The three best art­works in each cat­e­gory will be re­viewed and se­lected in late 2017 by a panel in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the LAA, RAEC and the Guild of Avi­a­tion Artists, as well as we hope (he doesn’t know it yet!) the ed­i­tor of Pi­lot, be­fore the cho­sen art­works are sent to the FAI. The fi­nal over­all win­ners will then be cho­sen by an in­ter­na­tional FAI jury in April 2018, with Gold, Sil­ver and Bronze FAI Medals awarded to the win­ners in three age cat­e­gories (6-9; 10-13; 14-17 years old).

What bet­ter way is there to get cre­ative young peo­ple to think about fly­ing? Not least be­cause in­ter­est in the theme ‘Flight into the Fu­ture’ is shared by so many of us of all ages.

If you know of a young per­son who might be in­ter­ested, point them to the Light Air­craft As­so­ci­a­tion’s web­site for com­pe­ti­tion in­for­ma­tion, then tell them it’s time to tap into their imag­i­na­tion, grab a favourite set of crayons, mark­ers, pen­cils, or paints and show us their vi­sion of what can hap­pen when peo­ple fol­low their pas­sion for flight.

The ma­jor­ity of ATC spend­ing is in a multi-mil­lion pound sim­u­la­tor

Not ev­ery­one is a bud­ding sci­en­tist or engi­neer

Stephen is CEO of the Light Air­craft As­so­ci­a­tion, Vice-chair of the Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Aware­ness Coun­cil, flies a Piper Cub and spent seven years help­ing re­store the ‘Big­gles Bi­plane’ 1914 BE2C replica

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