You decide: Round-the-world flight seeks student input

You decide: Round-the-world flight seeks student input

May 20, 2014

Captain Judy Rice salutes as she leaves SUN ’n FUN to begin the Think Global Flight journey.

Judy Rice is flying around the world, and you can help her do it.

While you can’t be in the cockpit, you can help Rice and navigator Fred Nauer make major decisions that will impact where they go and what they do. In fact, more than 20,000 students in 25 countries and 31 U.S. states are already following and helping with the flight.

Think Global Flight officially launched on April 3 from SUN ’n FUN in Lakeland, Fla. in a Cirrus SR22T. As part of their proposed route, Rice and Nauer will fly around the U.S. this spring and summer, before heading to Europe in the fall. Throughout the flight, Rice will interact with students using Skype calls, apps and online video.

Students wish Captain Judy Rice good luck through the airport fence before she takes off to begin the Think Global Flight during SUN ’n FUN.

Rice said the idea for the trip came about 15 years ago when she became friends with Voyager pilot Dick Rutan. “I hadn’t had my private pilot’s license long when he said to me that if I really want to make a difference with kids around the world, I needed to fly around the world,” recalls Rice, a former teacher who always recognized the power of aviation with students. “I knew I was nowhere near ready to do that; I first needed to learn more about the logistics and money needed for such a trip, and well as get more flying experience.”

Actual planning for the trip began five years ago and Rice even took part in a portion of CarolAnn Garratt’s third world flight to help her prepare and connect with classroom students and teachers.

Judy Rice and Fred Nauer will fly around the world in a Cirrus SR22T as part of Think Global Flight.

“One of the neatest things is when we host Skype calls and the kids are speaking different languages,” Rice says. “They’re so excited that the translators can’t keep up.”

Every landing on the trip is videotaped and an app allows students to see and learn about the culture, airports and more. An after-flight app will also allow students to interact and determine if Rice can safely land, depending on the length of runways and weather conditions.

Through Student Command Centers, students interact with Rice to make decisions. For instance, students already helped to decide that because of the political circumstances in Russia, the crew should postpone the international portion of the flight until conditions improve, she says. Students can also answer investigative questions based on their age level — from elementary school to college.

It’s not too late to join the Think Global Flight initiative. Click to sign up your school or organization. Teams can simply follow the flight, participate in research for the flight, or compete in the Winds Aloft Contest.

“We welcome all kids, even if they don’t have an adult in their life to support or encourage them,” Rice says. “Take a look at our website and go to the ‘Contact us’ section. I personally will answer all questions.”

Royal Air Force cadets pose by the Think Global Flight plane during SUN ’n FUN.