You need maths to fly an aeroplane

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By Frances GrangerKS2 tutor

Surprise children by linking numeracy to the exciting prospect of flying their own plane


‘Good pilots can always work out calculations in their head. You can’t rely totally on computers,’ points out Ed Blundell, a recently trained pilot.

‘If you’re gliding at 30,000 feet, and the aircraft will travel three nautical miles for every 1000 feet it descends, you make a quick calculation to ensure you land in the correct place. You can’t make the runway longer – it’s vital to know where to start your descent. Calculators can be used when you’re planning a route, but not when you’re in the air! Estimating the distance, speed and time needed is an essential skill.’

Tom McGrath, RAF Squadron Leader, agrees. ‘When you’re in the military, you have to expect the unexpected,’ he explains. ‘I couldn’t do my job without maths. I plan the load of an aircraft, calculating how many people and weapons it can carry, how much fuel it will need and how far it has to go. Then you have to distribute the load correctly on the plane you’re using.’

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