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