Field WorkThe field trip is an excellent way to add value and interest to a student's aviation education, and aviation is rife with opportunities.
Remember when you went to the fire department during grammar school? Or to the Coca-Cola bottling plant? Remember how you looked forward to it and talked about it afterward? Remember how avidly you soaked up the knowledge on those trips? Adults, too, learn best when they see for themselves - and, like children, we all love a break in the normal routine of learning.
Producing a qualified pilot is certainly the primary goal of the CFI. A secondary goal is to produce a pilot who will stick with aviation for the long term. A good field trip can help with both goals and also add much-needed variety to the CFI's life.
Many successful CFIs take students to interesting airports in the area to add spice and diversity to their education. If you are based on a controlled field, take them to that beautiful grass strip for soft- and short-field practice. If you are based on that grass strip, take them to the downtown airport to mix and mingle with the big boys. Either way, they will learn a lot and return with a different view of the possibilities of general aviation.
There is a certain thrill in landing at a new airport, and that feeling is enhanced when you actually get out of the airplane and go in for a cup of coffee. It fosters that pilot-among-pilots feeling - that part-of-the-aviation-fraternity feeling - that is such an important part of the thrill of flight.
Take them to a shop on your field or elsewhere to see what an airplane looks like with the cowls off. Magnetos, fuel lines, and vacuum pumps are easier to explain when you can point to them. Engine baffling is less baffling when you can touch and feel. It is easier to explain the role of airworthiness directives if the technician can show the part and explain the problem and the solution.
The trip to a control tower is an old standby, and everybody needs to actually meet face to face the people on the other side of the microphone. Another staple is the trip to a flight service station.
A little creativity can add many alternatives. Is there a fly-in breakfast in your area? An airport open house? An airshow? An aviation museum? All of these can add provide educational opportunities for your students while allowing them to share in the pleasures of the general aviation way of life. As one great American philosopher said, "Man cannot live on bread alone. He must also have peanut butter."
When your students rub shoulders with other pilots on field trips, look for examples of good pilots engaged in good practices. Let them see that a high-time pilot really does do a thorough preflight inspection. And, yes, at nontowered fields, good pilots do announce their position on unicom. And they carefully maneuver the airplane on the ground to check for traffic before taxiing onto the runway.
In all of aviation, one of the most enjoyable activities is showing something new to a starting pilot. Making that part of the educational experience is, as Rod Machado might say, a good thing.
By Ralph Hood