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Valentine’s Day aviation art becomes teaching toolValentine’s Day aviation art becomes teaching tool

Wisconsin students ‘draw’ pictures of their flightsWisconsin students ‘draw’ pictures of their flights

Flight instructor Pete Aarsvold’s 2017 aviation art project turned into a valuable teaching tool for his students. “On the weekend before Valentine’s Day, I decided to try to make a shape that would be recognizable, not simply turns around a point, or S-turns along a road, or airport traffic patterns,” he told AOPA.

Wisconsin flight instructor Pete Aarsvold made a heart into an aerial Valentine project with the help of flight tracking software from CloudAhoy. The idea spurred him to integrate the technology into aviation skill-building. Photo courtesy of Pete Aarsvold and CloudAhoy.

Aarsvold took off in a Cessna 152 from Runway 28 at Middleton, Wisconsin’s Morey Field. He then flew north to initiate a distinctive curved pattern that was tracked by CloudAhoy software.

“The heart shape seemed appropriate, with Feb. 11 being so close to Valentine’s Day.” He confided that his skywriting technique wasn’t very scientific. “I went on the internet, found a heart shape, then used a wax pencil to sketch it onto my iPad. I just flew the heart using ForeFlight, so it really wasn’t very fancy.”

A slight northeast wind affected the heart’s symmetry, but the result was an inspiring visual record of the 26-mile flight. He initially critiqued the drawing as "looking like something a first-grader did.” However, when word spread, it spurred the software company to open a nationwide aerial doodle contest.

The concept also led Aarsvold to use the technique as a classroom teaching tool. He records each flight that he makes with students and sends them their track links. Students share their aerial experiences with significant others by displaying the ground tracks to illustrate “where they went and what they did while spending time at the airport.”

Aarsvold said the idea was even more practical for solos and for cross-country flights. He recalled that a student on a cross-country flight was prepared for a full-stop landing but instead initiated a go-around. “He ended up quite high and that’s why he didn’t land,” said Aarsvold. “The technology gave me the opportunity to praise him on his aeronautical decision making” instead of scolding the student. “It was kind of interesting to ‘go with him’ without actually ‘going with him,’” Aarsvold noted.

The flight instructor places his iPhone into an aircraft along with a student and then monitors the flight via CloudAhoy software. Aarsvold explained that he can verify safe pattern work, altitudes, and airspeeds while his students gain self-confidence and hone their airmanship skills. “It’s really quite helpful” and leads to a more thorough debriefing, he noted. “The tracks can be very interesting and are almost always instructive.”

Though the Valentine’s Day experiment was Aarsvold’s first aviation work of art, he hinted to AOPA that it might not be his last. “I guess when some other creative shape comes to mind, I’ll send [in] my next effort, assuming that it works.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Flight Training

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