A holiday homework challenge – getting on the flight deck

IMG_1179When I was my students age, my once a year treat was to fly between Wellington and Auckland by myself.

Travel as unaccompanied minor was always a great adventure.

I felt so independent making a journey on a plane without my family.

Alongside the highly coveted role of handing out the pre-landing lollies, a highlight of the journey was a chance to venture onto the flight deck to meet the captains who would answer my questions about the bewildering gauges and lights illuminated in front of me.

When I mentioned my memories of travel to my frequent flying students, not one had ever seen the inside of cockpit.

One of the children immediately piped up.

“Oh it’s probably because the children would touch a button they weren’t supposed to Ms Stephanie and the plane might crash…”

Sadly, the child is partially correct. I didn’t want to remind the children of the tragic reasons the cockpit is a restricted space.

My students were born half a decade after 9/11, they have never experienced a time when flying a jet wasn’t accompanied by a security scan and a disposing of liquids, gels and aerosols.

The children just accept this is way it has always been.

So I issued the kids a challenge – if you are flying over the holidays see if you can get on the flight deck. The kids thought about who they would need to ask, when would be a good time to make the request, what questions they could ask the crew to make the most of their opportunity.

The children were contentious enough to think –

  • That asking to see the flight deck after landing might be best because before take off the captains would be getting ready to fly the plane.
  • They would need to talk to the flight attendants but would need to do it after the flight attendants had handed out their food but before the plane started to descend.
  • That if a plane is late there might not be time because the plane needs to  leave.
  • That they would need to say thank you if they did get a chance.

Several of the kids of the kid in my class did manage to see inside the cabin – they were pleased and proud of being able to talk with the class about how the different controls help control the energy from the engines. I could have explained this in class with a series of YouTube videos but the experience of going and talking to a captain was so much more meaningful for the class.

On the off chance any aircrew in South East Asia recently had an 8 year old asking for a tour of the flight deck – thanks for your help. I appreciate that quick turn arounds mean that air crews don’t have time to spend having a quick chat with the youngest fliers. The interactions you had with the children are magical.

Because the biggest lesson from this challenge wasn’t the mechanics of flight – it was the children learning to interact with adults outside of their immediate circle to make connections between the learning they do in the classroom to the world beyond.

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