AOPA Project Pilot

October 1, 2007

AOPA Project Pilot provides members with the tools to find viable flight-training candidates and support them as student pilots with the wisdom and encouragement of experienced pilots through mentoring. A student with a Project Pilot Mentor is three times more likely to successfully complete his or her training. This exciting program is available free to all AOPA members. You don't have to be a CFI to participate. All it takes is someone who wants to share the joy of general aviation and a few minutes a week to help a student along.

A message from Erik Lindbergh

The other day someone asked me, "Why do you need a mentor if you already have a flight instructor? Does it really make a difference?" My answer is this: It makes a huge difference in a student's life and it can also have a profound effect on a mentor (which is why we tend to see so many repeat mentors). Thinking about it brought back this memory from flight school.

In studying for the written and oral tests to become a flight instructor, I recall my class brainstorming the use of mnemonic memory aids to memorize answers. It was a great example of students mentoring each other when we came up with RUAC to remind us about the four levels of learning. RUAC stands for rote, understanding, application, and correlation.

Rote learning is simple memorization, which can be accomplished by parrots, monkeys, and other critters in addition to humans. RUAC was my first step toward regurgitating the correct answers on the practical and oral exams.

Understanding is a higher level of learning that goes beyond simple regurgitation and indicates that in addition to memorizing the data you actually know what that information means. This seems like a more difficult level for animals such as parrots and monkeys to attain, although evidence on YouTube shows it certainly is possible. For student pilots this would mean understanding that you need to add backpressure in a turn to keep altitude because the lift vector has changed.

Application is being able to take that information and apply it in a real-life scenario. This is a stage of learning where the student not only knows that they need to add backpressure in a turn but can actually demonstrate it while flying.

Correlation is applying previously acquired understanding to a different situation. I will take a bit of a leap and correlate our example to learning to fly inverted and realizing the need to apply forward stick pressure to maintain altitude.

The fact that I remember the basics of this stuff after 20 years indicates several things:

Thanks to my aviation mentors, I have achieved a higher level of learning than some parrots and most monkeys and can legally fly an airplane.

Mentors help students jump to higher levels of learning and retention and thereby leverage the students' experiences and success rates.

Our industry needs to convert a higher percentage of student starts into (human) pilots and mentors are an effective way to accomplish that. Correlation: We need mentors in order to keep our industry vibrant and we need you to volunteer for AOPA Project Pilot!

Erik Lindbergh
AOPA Project Pilot spokesman