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.
“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.”
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.”