Lessons In The Sky

It was a first for science teacher Crissy Giacona when she took to the air in a Cessna, 172 Sky Hawk Plane to work on lesson plans for her students. The flight was part of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Aerospace Education Teacher Orientation Program (TOP) Flights for CAP members. Mrs. Giacona learned about the program from other educators attending the International Society for Technology in Education conference who also were doing STEM projects. CAP provides free STEM kits to teachers and Mrs. Giacona has used them in her classes.

CAP was founded in 1941 to mobilize the nation’s civilian aviation resources for national defense service. It has evolved into a premier public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions when needed — in the air and on the ground. Its 56,000 members selflessly devote their time, energy, and expertise toward the well-being of their communities, while also promoting aviation and related fields through aerospace/STEM education and helping shape future leaders through CAP’s cadet program. CAP pilots volunteer for TOP Flights.

On flight day, she met pilot Scottie Burge at the Lakefront Airport. Before taking off, he did a pre-flight check of the airplane with Mrs. Giacona and briefed her about what they would cover during the flight. “He covered how to check the fuel for water, inspect the rudder and flaps, and the proper way to protect yourself if there is a crash. We looked at the ailerons on the wings, the plane’s wheels, and static wicks to reduce friction.”

Once in the air, the lessons began. Pilot Burge gave her several opportunities to fly the plane. “Scottie would teach a lesson then let me take the controls. I flew for most of the time unless it was time for a new lesson. We talked about using the pedals to control the rudders to assist in making a turn, how to use the yoke, trimming the nose of the plane, and finding a spot on the horizon to keep the plane level. We even did an engine stall which was a little intimidating at first, but if you know what you are doing, these planes can recover easily and then glide for a while without the engine,” said Mrs. Giacona, who managed to take photos during the flight. She enjoyed seeing New Orleans from above and how safe she felt in the plane.

Back in the classroom, Mrs. Giacona connected the flying experience with her students. Class discussion ranged from an airplane’s design to its lift and static wicks. “It was amazing the freedom in the air and how quickly you get in the air,” shared Mrs. Giacona. “Once we started moving, we only needed 15 feet to get off the ground. Our speed was 80mph and we were off! I can’t wait for my ride next year.”