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Airbus Building the Aviation Industry Through Education at the Airbus Lycée

Education is a huge part of my life.  It was ingrained into my head at a very early age that getting a good education is essential to success in life.  As I have grown older I have come  to learn that education has way more faces than just going to school where a teacher stands in front of a class and gives lessons.

One of my favorite recent lessons comes from Mark Cuban.  Admittedly, I have become enthralled by the things he says and writes since seeing him on the ABC show Shark Tank because he is always very real.  There are two blog pasts that he did in particular that struck a chord with me.  The first is entitled How to Get Rich, and the second is SharkTank & Success & Motivation.  What stuck out to me in these posts was the role that education played in his success.

He started out like many people with a Bachelor’s degree, but ultimately most of his education came from sources other than a traditional school.  He spent countless hours reading manuals, and books, and essentially anything that he could find that would help him better understand the things he was doing.  He saw every job he had as being paid to learn as opposed to paying to go to school.  He continues to value information as the thing that sets people apart.  The fact is that the information is out there, it is just a matter of whether or not we are willing to pursue it.

So what does any of this have to do with aviation, Airbus, and the Airbus Lycée?  Let me explain.

For over 60 years now the Airbus Lycée has been a Company Technical College, and is apparently one of the few such establishments that still exist in France.  Their program has four different focuses: Industrial Metalwork Technician; Machining Technician; Avionics Mechanic; Airframe Systems Mechanic.  This degree program would appear to be similar to many other aeronautical programs, but there is a distinct difference that I think is largely missing with most schools, especially in the US.

The first two years of this three year program are academic like most schools, but the third year is done under an apprentice status allowing the students to gain more practical knowledge as opposed to just book knowledge.  This apprentice year is invaluable when it comes to applying knowledge in a real world environment.  Experience is one of the biggest hurdles for students coming out of college, but this program provides both an education and experience.

Perhaps even more valuable is that the program takes place in the Airbus Saint-Eloi plant.  This allows students to interact with professionals from day one, gaining precious understanding of how the concepts they are learning are actually being used.  By sharing the same facilities, they are also able to gain an understanding of the corporate culture, and how they fit into it.

We need more education like this.  It is important to have a baseline understanding built from academics, but is is even more important to understand how those concepts are applied.  Reading about how a turbine engine works is a nice start, but actually opening up an engine and seeing how the parts fit together to make a device that is capable of creating enough thrust to lift a massive plane into the sky is an even higher level of understanding.

Airbus is doing themselves, and the industry as a whole, a great service by preparing these students for a career in aviation.  They are providing not only the book knowledge but the practical knowledge that can be so much harder to obtain.  It is this practical knowledge that truly sets people like Mark Cuban apart.  For those who are willing to go the extra mile and pursue this type of education, the rewards will be dramatically greater than for those who are simply pursuing a piece of paper after four years and tens of thousands of dollars.

For those fortunate enough to benefit from the Airbus Lycée they are holding their annual Open Day February 16th to explain their program and what they have to offer.

February 10, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Teaching Kids Math and Science Through Flying

Last week I posted a speech given by the FAA acting administrator, Michael Huerta.  In that speech he made the following remark:

To continue our transformation, the FAA is working with many partners to develop and foster a workforce that is schooled in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and math.

This is not a matter of focusing on high schools or junior colleges. To do this, we must reach down into middle school and start fostering the kind of attention on STEM disciplines early on.

There’s both a huge demand and a huge shortage for these kinds of skills in the United States.

To promote STEM education, we are mentoring teachers and working with others to hold boot camps for educators. We encourage teachers to give their lessons with an aeronautical twist. For example, when we teach the laws of Sir Isaac Newton, we ask them to consider using the four forces of flight as an example – lift, weight, thrust and drag.

If they are going to talk about navigation, we ask, why not use a visual flight rules sectional chart to teach the lesson rather than the typical road atlas?

There’s a myth that aeronautics is so difficult that the average teacher can’t handle it, and we want to bust that myth.

The Aspen School District is answering this call, and taking it one step farther.  They are proposing a program that would teach students to fly as part of the math and science curriculum.  I wish my school had offered something like this, then I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

It is based on a program in Albuquerque, NM that was started in 2005.  The program allows students in grades 4-12 to take flying lessons towards their pilot’s license along with classroom work in aerodynamics and applied mathematics.

The program even has an initial investment from a local couple, Lawrence and Joan Altman, in the form of a $50,000 donation.  They made the donation because of their concern with the declining level of education in America.  According to the National Academy of Sciences over half of the engineering degrees awarded by American universities are given to foreign-born students.

With further cuts on the horizon for the Aspen School District, the Altman’s are hoping other concerned residents will follow their lead and help raise the level of education in the area.  If this program is to really take off it will require a good amount of outside funding.

In 2009 the Albuquerque schools spent about $70,000 on the program, and students were required to pay about $50 per hour of flight training.  That is a fraction of the price that normal flight training costs, which could help inspire more kids to pursue flying which is a very good thing.

Throughout all of my years of education I continually asked how I would use information in the real world.  By teaching math and science in a setting where it is actually applied, students are more likely to enjoy it, as well as continue to pursue it.

We can only hope that programs like this will continue to pop up throughout the country in all the industries that rely on math and science.

January 25, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.