Instructor Insights

Inviting Students into the Aviation Community

In this section, Dr. Greenspun and Dr. Srivastava discuss how the Private Pilot Ground School helps build the community of aviators at MIT.

"The MIT Flying Club is probably the best example of an alumni-student community, where they actually work together to learn something and develop and get better."
— Philip Greenspun

PHILIP GREENSPUN: The ground school strengthens the local flying community by bringing in new people. This year we invited a representative of the Flying Club to come and talk for five minutes with a few slides with the contact information. So all the students were exposed to learning how to join the Flying Club, which is also open to students at Harvard and elsewhere. The MIT Flying Club is probably the best example of an alumni-student community, where they actually work together to learn something and develop and get better. Obviously, somebody who’s already a graduate is more likely to own an airplane, to have a pilot certificate, and to be able to fund a trip. So there’s a lot of interaction between alums and undergraduates. It’s not really officially sponsored by MIT, it’s just something that the students have kept going year after year. It’s a great example of how to take advantage of having local alums.

TINA SRIVASTAVA: Yes. We also talked about a number of other aviation communities for the students to engage with—not only the Flying Club but different flight schools in the area and how to find a flight school and how to pick an instructor.

PHILIP GREENSPUN: We also told them they could go to Experimental Aircraft Association meetings all over the country. Those are the folks who run the annual aviation convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which people can join for free as student pilots.

TINA SRIVASTAVA: Not only did we tell them about Oshkosh, we used one of the lunchtime sessions for Philip to share photos and his experience and tell the students about what it’s like to go to Oshkosh and the type of people that you’ll meet there. He also talked about flying there and how you communicate on the radios, which is really unique. When you fly to Oshkosh, there are so many pilots flying in that if everybody was talking on the radios, you wouldn’t be able to communicate effectively. We explained how, therefore, the pilots rock their wings to signal acknowledgment to the controllers rather than speaking on the radio. These types of insights really help not just to inform students about the opportunities and how to participate but also to give them a sense of what it would be like.

We also shared some experiences of different flying excursions we’ve gone on. I talked about an excursion with MIT to Bar Harbor, Maine. We had multiple planes fly up there, and we went hiking in the woods at Acadia and came back. That was a really wonderful experience. And it was a really good thing for the students to hear about, because it’s something that you wouldn’t be able to do if you weren’t a pilot, to go to Maine in a day and back and have enough time to hike around.

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