In this episode, we talk with Drs. Philip Greenspun and Tina Srivastava about how they teach students the basic principles one needs to know to fly small aircraft in an immersive three-day classroom experience.



Can you really learn to fly by sitting in a classroom and attending lectures? Of course not! But the course offered by Philip Greenspun and Tina Srivastava in 16.687 Private Pilot Ground School has proven surprisingly popular as a means of learning the basic principles one needs to know before getting into the cockpit of a small aircraft. Originally offered in weekly class sessions over the course of a semester, 16.687 has evolved over the years; it now takes the form of an immersive three-day classroom experience.

In this episode, Greenspun and Srivastava discuss how they’ve maintained flexibility in their teaching while still making sure they cover the standard body of material that prospective pilots are required to master. They also explain why they feel that online study can’t completely substitute for the in-person learning experience: to be a pilot, one needs not only to learn facts but also to become comfortable with decision-making in the quickly changing circumstances presented by flying planes.

This skill, Greenspun and Srivastava say, is much harder to acquire through individual study than in the interactive environment of a classroom discussion.

Relevant Resources:

MIT OpenCourseWare

The OCW Educator Portal 

Private Pilot Ground School course on OCW

MIT Flying Club

FAA website: Become a Pilot

Flight manuals available online

Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions

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