Tiquita Wilson, a promising sixth-grader at a troubled elementary school in an impoverished corner of rural Mississippi, used to scoff whenever her teacher raised the possibility that she might be well-suited to a career in aviation. The teacher, Sheila A. Williams, raised this topic often–and not just with Tiquita.
Like so many of the nearly 500 students at B.L. Moor Attendance Center in Crawford, Miss., Tiquita just never gave the idea much thought. The dream of flight seemed pretty far out of reach for someone attending a resource-starved school in an isolated town surrounded by cotton fields, a school in which most students had never even seen the inside of an airplane.
Air Force pilots operating chunky T-37 and sleek T-38 trainers from Columbus AFB, Miss., near the Alabama border might fly overhead once in a while. Townsfolk might spot USAF personnel in their uniforms if they ventured some 30 minutes up the narrow country road to Columbus, where training operations have been under way since 1941. Other than that, there was no contact.
“It’s a very rural area,” said Williams, “and the students do not have access to things that most of us would take for granted.”
But Sheila Williams–the Aerospace Education Foundation’s outstanding teacher for 1998–is a contagiously enthusiastic educator who had a childhood longing for a career in aviation but found her first love was working with kids in classrooms. She set a challenge before Tiquita, who took it up.
She was challenged to participate in a demanding nine-week, classroom-based “pilot training” program for students. Created by Williams, the course blended a no-nonsense, boot-camp atmosphere with study of aviation to spark students’ interest in math, science, history, and social studies.
Winning Her Wings
Tiquita Wilson did not only take up the challenge; she triumphed. She won her “wings” in the exacting program and also emerged as the “Top Gun,” edging out classmates with her higher grade point average and better performance in the personal pilot interview-sessions conducted in many cases by active duty Air Force personnel.
On the mock “assignment day” staged by Williams for each student aviator, Tiquita chose one of the most demanding aircraft of all–the F-117A stealth fighter aircraft.
“I’d been encouraging her all along the way,” Williams recalled. “I’d tell her, ‘You need to be an aviator.’ ” Tiquita always shied away, replying: “No way.”
It took a spin in the civilian Cessna of Air Force Capt. Frank DuCharme, a member of the 37th Flying Training Squadron at nearby Columbus AFB, to change Tiquita’s mind. Williams had arranged with DuCharme to give her top four students their first flight.
“When she landed and got off that plane that day, I asked her, ‘Do you still feel the same way about flying?’ ” Williams recalled.
“No,” Tiquita replied. “I want to fly.”
“She had blossomed,” Williams said. “That really touched my heart.”
Williams has transformed her own youthful interest in aviation into a one-woman crusade that has benefited almost every student who has passed through her classroom door in the last six years.
“I wanted to be an aviator–the first female in my family to fly,” recalled the 34-year-old dynamo, “but coming from a family of teachers, that was a field my family wanted me to follow. My eyesight wasn’t that wonderful either by the time I hit the 11th grade, so I realized that being a pilot was not an option.”
Williams attended Mississippi State University and then transferred to the University of Mississippi to graduate in 1986. She attended graduate programs at both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University before embarking on a full-time teaching career.
She won successive permission from school administrators in Columbus; Fayetteville, N.C.; Crawford; and now back in Columbus, to create a military-style atmosphere in her classrooms. The program provides hard-pressed students a structure, code of conduct, and predictable series of rewards that has helped many avoid waywardness.
Williams happened upon the idea while serving as a fifth-grade teacher in the early 1990s at New Hope Elementary School, in Columbus. Williams’ students were studying flight.
“I called Columbus AFB and asked if they could send over a pilot,” Williams recalled. “The pilot came; he talked; the next day my kids were motivated. So I said to myself, ‘Why not integrate this into my classroom?’ “
Williams turned to the Federal Aviation Administration for help developing an aviation-oriented, real-world curriculum that would satisfy the grade-level requirements of the school districts.
Williams devoted classes to Charles A. Lindbergh, the first pilot to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic; Amelia Earhart, the aviatrix lost over the Pacific in 1937 while trying to fly around the Earth at the equator; and Chuck Yeager, the Air Force test pilot who in 1947 first broke the sound barrier.
Spotlight on Heroes
With her classes made up of mostly Africa-American students, Williams delved into aviation lore to spotlight contributions by black aviators who also had helped America become the premier aviation nation in the 20th century.
In customary fashion, Williams peppered her students with examples of blacks who triumphed in aviation. Eugene J. Bullard, an early aviation pioneer, traveled to France to join the French air corps in order to fly combat missions in World War I. The highly decorated African-American aviator became known to his French comrades as the “Black Swallow of Death.” The students also learned about Bessie Coleman, the first African-American licensed to fly in the United States.
“Many of my kids didn’t even know that black people were allowed to fly airplanes when they started my program,” Williams said. “I want my students to know that aviation isn’t a black thing or a white thing–it’s for everybody.”
Williams’ approach was well under way by the time she transferred from Columbus to a teaching job as a seventh-grade teacher at South View Middle School in Fayetteville, N.C., in 1994.
With typical gusto, Williams suggested to the school principal, Jim Surles, that she implement her pilot training with the school’s 150 seventh-graders. The school operated with the motto, “Making a difference, one child at a time.”
“Do you think you can get 150 seventh-graders to march, salute, and walk down the hallway in a line?” Surles asked.
“Sir, I’d really like to try,” Williams replied.
“Go for it,” Surles said.
Of the 150 students in the seventh-grade program that year, 123 went through Williams’ program to earn pilot wings. Williams’ efforts won the praises of her new principal, who recommended her for teacher of the year. Williams was a “conspicuously dedicated” educator, Surles wrote, adding, “She is a student advocate who will go beyond the responsibilities of teaching to assure success for her students.”
It wasn’t long after that that Williams got a call from home–from her mother, Lillian Thomas, now 61, a career educator who was serving as principal of B.L. Moor Attendance Center in Crawford. Thomas’ school served a community without stores that was huddled around a post office and a classroom-sized library. Families were broken. Incomes were irregular. Dreams were a luxury few could afford. Many students came from single-parent families. Student test scores were so dismal that state authorities were on the verge of taking control.
“I Need Someone”
“The disciplinary problems were so bad that my mother had already lost two of her teachers when she called me in the middle of the school year,” Williams said.
“I need someone to get this under control,” Thomas told her daughter.
“I said, ‘Okay, Mom, I’m on my way,’ ” Williams recalled.
Williams launched her pioneering program in earnest. She insisted parents get involved, by sending her students home with a contract that had to be signed by parents and students alike, stipulating that if the student failed to complete course work, they would not earn their wings.
Williams required students to wear jumpsuit-style uniforms. Salutes became standard. She took the rank of major; her students were lieutenants. Her students learned cadences and close order drill, albeit the amateur version.
Williams imposed a scaled down version of the armed forces’ dreaded PT. As punishment for infractions, she used push-ups rather than the paddling that is still permitted in Mississippi public schools.
“We got smoked this week because people were acting up in the lunchroom,” the students wrote in their graduation class book at the end of Williams’ course. “We spent a long time doing exercises we had never heard of. We never wanted to get smoked again.”
Williams decided that nothing was out of reach for her kids. She challenged them to learn 101 words in the aviation glossary (see below) provided by the FAA, from “aerodynamics” to “zoom.”
“Some educators said, ‘They can’t even spell ‘school’; how do you expect them to spell ‘aerodynamics’?” Williams said. “These kids had been told for most of their lives that their test scores were so low that they couldn’t achieve anything.”
Williams continued: “Well, you know what I told my kids? ‘You have to spell 101 terms and you have no choice.’ I just didn’t give them the option to fail.”
Williams used every inspirational trick in the book. A banner stretched across the blackboard at the front of the classroom, declaring: “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?”
Williams brought in well-paid commercial pilots, like Northwest Airlines 1st Officer Jill McCarthy, to address her class.
Williams made arrangements for her students to attend pilot graduation ceremonies at Columbus AFB one month into her program. None of her students had ever visited the air base just 30 minutes away.
“I wanted my kids to feel what a graduation ceremony was like,” Williams said.
She had her students carry out community service as a unit. They picked up litter around the school weekly for a semester. Her class sponsored an anti-drug program dubbed “Shakedown” for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The “pilots” presented a drug-free rap and performed drill and ceremony.
Got a letter in the mail.
Do drugs and you go to jail.
It’ll be so long
Till you get on back home.
Williams created a cadre of second-year participants, making them “instructor pilots” if they maintained a spotless disciplinary record and an 85 average–well above the C average required of her other students. Her instructor pilots made a presentation and won the hearts of local community leaders, who quickly donated $250 to the program.
“My students are learning that people out there care about them,” Williams said. “And now they know there’s another world out there to explore.”
Her students, gaining pride and a sense of accomplishment in a school system where both had been hard to find, gave Williams’ program a distinctive name: SHAKER–Student Helper Aviators Keeping Everything Right.
Williams steeled her students against criticism and teenage temptations by instilling “unit” pride.
“A lot of the things my students had to do made the other kids laugh,” Williams recalled. In the school cafeteria, for example, her students had to stand at attention in chow formation, chant, “Ready to eat,” and wait until “Major” Williams got her tray before sitting down to eat lunch.
“They don’t know it yet but they are learning to take pride and to resist peer pressure,” said Williams.
Williams credits many for her success. Sherry Medders, a civilian public affairs officer at Columbus, helped her forge her initial ties with the sprawling air base. Medders, who has since transferred, helped Williams track down Air Force pilots at the base who would be willing to serve as “flight buddies” with the students, corresponding and coming out to the school to help in the classroom.
Capt. Gil Williams, a T-37 instructor at Columbus AFB, taught flight plans to the class and never forgot it. “When I come out here, I feel like a big brother coming home from college,” the pilot said.
Still the founder of the program had to work hard to stay one step ahead of her inquisitive students. She had never flown an aircraft before launching her students on the aviation adventure of their lives.
Air Force Capt. Robert Ivy offered to fix that.
Ivy arranged for Williams to spend an entire day with pilots at the air base. She flew in a flight simulator. She went through pilot briefings. She did everything except actually fly an airplane.
Williams’ aviation studies proved to be “a good motivational tool” for her students, said Ivy, who has since left the Air Force to fly for Delta Airlines. “It teaches kids that you have to work hard for what you get.”
That’ll Teach Her
When her students challenged her credentials to conduct a military-style program without ever having served in the armed forces, Williams transformed their challenge into her classroom incentive.
“If everybody in the classroom gets promoted to seventh grade,” Williams told her sixth-graders in 1997, “I’ll join the Army.”
They did; and she did. One sixth-grade student who had been held back three times finally passed sixth grade.
“They all just wanted to see me suffer,” Williams recalled, laughing. “They all passed and I enlisted.”
Williams completed the grueling nine-week basic training course in the Army National Guard at Ft. Jackson, S.C. She returned to school in August 1997 just four days before the start of the school year.
She kept her sense of humor throughout. An instructor sergeant at grenade training saw Williams, twice the age of the rest of his trainees, and demanded, “My God, how old are you?”
Williams replied: “Sergeant, don’t you know you should never ask a woman holding grenades how old you are?”
Williams cherishes the experience. “I came back to school with hands-on experience,” Williams recalled. “I’d say, ‘Don’t mess with me.’ And they wouldn’t.”
Her students flourished. Courtney Kemp, 13, came away from her year with Williams convinced that she could fulfill her dreams. “I know now that whatever I want to do in life can come true if I set goals, learn the skills, and study hard,” Kemp said.
Jermaine Spencer, who turned 13 in October, said he liked being in Williams’ pilot training because “it lets you see how it feels to be in a real military.”
Attia Watt submitted a book report during her studies with Williams that examined the book Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk by Donald J. Sobol. Watt not only praised the book, she illustrated the Wright brothers’ historic first flight in 1903 with a drawing that featured Wilbur shouting, “Hey, Orville. Come on, let’s get the plane started, man!”
“OK, man!” replies Orville, standing in the doorway of the shed the brothers used to house their aircraft.
Williams capped her program with an overnight survival course that included a 10-mile road march. She also staged a three-day field trip to Ft. Rucker, Ala., the 63,000-acre home of Army helicopter aviation. She kept her students busy on the eight-hour bus trip, reading maps, estimating mileage, and doing drill and ceremony routines at rest stops. The students toured Rucker, met helicopter pilots, and spent the night, much to their delight, billeted on the base.
They went on the next day to visit Tuskegee University, where they toured the George Washington Carver Museum and Booker T. Washington’s former residence. On the way home, they stopped in Montgomery, Ala., the hotbed of civil rights activities in the 1960s, where they got a break with a “shop op” at a mall, ice skating, and laser tag before returning to Crawford.
A Family Tradition
Williams credits much of her success in the classroom to her religious faith and her family. Her mother helped persuade her to follow in “the family business” and pursue a career in education.
Her father, James T. Thomas, played professional football as a running back with the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams as well as the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos before suffering a career-ending injury. Thomas coached football at the University of Mississippi and served as head coach at Mississippi Valley State, recruiting NFL star Jerry Rice.
Williams’ brother, Darryl, with whom Sheila shared her childhood dreams of flight, played football for the University of Mississippi before taking up coaching. He now serves as head football coach at B.L. Moor. Her youngest brother, James Terryl, is a Navy lieutenant, stationed in Japan.
Williams’ two children, Phillip, 13, and Kristin, 9, continue the family tradition. Her son gave a hint of his mother’s determination in an autobiographical essay he wrote when he participated in her pilot program at school.
Phillip, vowing a career in aviation, declared: “Daring careers have always been a way of life in my family.”
Williams left B.L. Moor Attendance Center in 1998 to take up teaching duties at West Lowndes Middle School, back in Columbus, where her teaching career began. Once again, the newcomer stirred things up. School administrators asked her shortly after her arrival to provide her classroom discipline plan.
“There’s no paddling in your plan,” officials told Williams.
“That’s because I don’t paddle,” Williams replied. Other teachers on the faculty looked at her skeptically.
“What do you do?” they inquired.
“My students do push-ups or they jog around the building a couple of times,” Williams continued.
“If you think you can make it through the year without paddling, I’ll be surprised,” one colleague told Williams.
“I have yet to paddle my kids,” Williams said, well into the school year. “But they’re getting in shape!”
At Lowndes, Williams modified her program to reach 88 students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. She and her faculty colleagues are carrying out the effort through a school-hours club that met every Tuesday in the fall and will meet daily in the second half of the year. “The kids are going to learn everything, but it’s going to be more demanding because I don’t have them in class every day.”
Talking With T-Birds
Williams got the kids invited to a VIP exhibition at Columbus AFB by the Air Force’s demonstration flight team, known as the Thunderbirds. The 78 students who took part that day got the autographs and personal attention of the pilots.
“I’m already making progress,” Williams said proudly. “One of my kids says, ‘I’m going Air Force.’ These are nontraditional students who never looked at aviation as a possible career. They just never thought about it.”
If history is any guide, Williams’ commitment and her enthusiasm promise to pay dividends for her new students just as much as they benefited her class last year in Crawford. Williams gave as much attention to honoring her students’ accomplishments with a memorable graduation as she had given to preparing their program.
She arranged with Columbus AFB to use the Officers’ Club as the site for her students’ graduation May 8, 1998. Starkville Mayor Mack Ruthledge and School Superintendent Walter Conley gave awards to the students.
Sinbad, the well-known comedian and actor, wrote, “Each and every one of you represent the future. … Success is out there. It is up to you all to make it happen.”
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) wrote the graduates to say that he hoped Williams’ program “sparks many careers in aviation or the functions that relate to flying.”
Rep. Charles W. “Chip” Pickering Jr. (R), the local member of Congress, congratulated Williams and her students upon graduation, adding: “This achievement is a tribute to your outstanding leadership.”
Even President Clinton wrote from afar. “Young people like you represent the future of our country,” Clinton’s letter said. “I hope that you will continue to work hard in school, help out in your community, and pursue your education to prepare for the challenges ahead. You can make a real contribution if you always do your best.”
Each graduate received a certificate of achievement.
Williams crowned the ceremony with an address by an African-American hero–Gen. Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton, commander of Air Education and Training Command, headquartered at Randolph AFB, Texas. Newton, who overseas 13 bases, 43,000 active duty forces, and 14,000 civilians, accepted Williams’ invitation as soon as it hit his office door.
True to fashion, Williams seized upon Newton’s visit to give her students just one last challenge before graduation, insisting they learn “Fig Facts” about the visiting general. Her students scored well on a test that questioned them about Newton’s distinguished career, including his 4,000 flying hours, his 269 combat missions from Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, including 79 missions over North Vietnam, and his service with the Thunderbirds.
“We’re talking about tomorrow’s leaders, here; we’re talking about tomorrow’s United States capabilities here,” the four-star officer told the students and guests at the graduation ceremony. “Don’t be afraid of tomorrow,” Newton continued. “It is what you learn today that will allow you to walk through the door to tomorrow.”
Williams’ work came to the attention of the Air Force Association’s Golden Triangle Chapter in Mississippi. It selected Williams in June as a candidate for AFA’s Christa McAuliffe award, given each year to an outstanding teacher in honor of the New Hampshire schoolteacher who died in the explosion of space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Billy M. Boyd, AFA state president for Mississippi, wrote to the national organization that Williams had surmounted every conceivable obstacle to forever widen the horizons of her students.
“If we had more energetic, dedicated teachers like Williams in our classrooms, we would not have to worry about the future of our children, our Air Force, or our nation,” Boyd declared.
AFA’s affiliate, the Aerospace Education Foundation, awarded Williams the national award on Sept. 13, 1998, at a ceremony in Arlington, Va.
“I did it all for my kids,” Williams explained. “As a classroom teacher you’re always trying to motivate your kids. I’m reaching out to touch the lives of my kids and shaping their future. I’m still getting my aviation in there, too. I’m happy.”
|The 101 Terms They Had to Know
Sheila Williams challenged each student to learn 101 terms contained in “An Elementary Aviation Glossary,” prepared by the FAA. She told them, “You have no choice.”
Aerodynamics: Study of the forces of air acting on objects in motion relative to air.
Aileron: Control surfaces hinged at the back of the wings which by deflecting up or down help to bank the airplane.
Air: A mixture of gases making up the atmosphere which surrounds the Earth.
Airfoil: A streamlined surface designed in such a way that air flowing around it produces useful motion.
Airplane: A mechanically driven, fixed-wing, heavier-than-air craft.
Airport: A tract of land or water for the landing and takeoff of aircraft. Facilities for shelter, supply, and repair are usually found there.
Airspeed: Speed of the aircraft relative to the air through which it is moving.
Airway: An air route marked by aids to air navigation, such as beacons, radio ranges, and direction-finding equipment, and along which airports are located.
Altimeter: An instrument for measuring in feet the height of the airplane above sea level.
Altitude: The vertical distance from a given level (sea level) to an aircraft in flight.
Amphibian plane: An airplane that can land on both land and water.
Anemometer: Instrument to measure speed of wind.
Atmosphere: Blanket of air surrounding the Earth.
Attitude: Position of the airplane relative to the horizon, i.e., a climbing attitude, straight-and-level attitude, etc.
Aviation: A term applied to all phases of the manufacture and operation of aircraft.
Bank: A flight maneuver in which one wing points toward the ground and the other to the sky.
Barometer: An instrument to measure pressure of the atmosphere.
Beacon: A light or other signal indicating direction.
Ceiling: Height above ground of cloud bases.
Chart: An aeronautical map showing information of use to the pilot in going from one place to another.
Cirrus: Type of high, thin cloud.
Cockpit: The portion of the inside of the airplane occupied by the person(s) operating the airplane and containing the instruments and controls.
Compass: An instrument indicating direction.
Contact: Switching on the ignition of an aircraft engine. “Contact” is the word of warning that someone is about to turn on the ignition.
Control tower: A glassed-in observation tower on the airport from which control tower operators observe and direct airport air and ground traffic.
Course: The direction over the Earth’s surface that an airplane is intended to travel.
Crosswind: Wind blowing from the side, not coinciding with the path of flight.
Cumulus: Type of cloud formed in puffs or dome shaped.
Current: Stream of air; also, up-to-date.
Dead stick landing: Landing made without the engine operating.
Degree: Percent of a circle or percent of a right angle.
Dive: A steep angle of descent.
Drift: Deviation from a course caused by crosswise currents of air.
Elevation: The height above sea level of a given land prominence, such as airports, mountains, etc.
Elevators: Control surfaces hinged to the horizontal stabilizer which control the pitch of the airplane or the position of the nose of the airplane relative to the horizon.
Engine: The part of the airplane which provides power, or propulsion, to pull the airplane through the air.
Fin: A vertical attachment to the tail of an aircraft which provides directional stability. Same as vertical stabilizer.
Flaps: Hinged or pivoted airfoils forming part of the trailing edge of the wing and used to increase lift at reduced airspeeds.
Flight plan: A formal, written plan of flight showing route, time en route, points of departure and destination, and other pertinent information.
Force: A push or pull exerted on an object.
Front (weather): Boundary of two overlapping air masses. When cold air is advancing on warm air, it is said to be a cold front; warm air advancing on cooler air is a warm front.
Fuselage: The streamlined body of an airplane to which are fastened the wings and tail.
Gear: The understructure of an airplane which supports the airplane on land or water; wheels, skis, or pontoons. Retractable gear folds up into the airplane in flight. Gear that does not retract is called “fixed.”
Glide: A motion of the airplane where the airplane descends at an angle to the Earth’s surface.
Glider: A fixed-wing, heavier-than-air craft having no engine.
Gravity: Force toward the center of the Earth.
Hail: Lumps or balls of ice falling to the Earth out of thunderstorms.
Hangar: Building on the airport in which airplanes are stored or sheltered.
Hazard: Obstructions or objects or threats to the safety of the passenger and aircraft.
High pressure area: Mass of air characterized by high barometric pressure.
Horizontal: Parallel to the horizon.
Humidity: Amount of invisible moisture in a given mass of air.
Instruments: Dials or gauges by which information about the flight, airplane, or engine is relayed to the pilot. When the pilot flies the airplane solely by reference to the gauges, he is said to be flying “on instruments.”
Knot: A measure of speed, one knot being one nautical mile per hour.
Land: The act of making the airplane descend, lose flying speed, and make contact with the ground or water, thus ending the flight.
Landing pattern: A set, rectangular path around the airport which airplanes follow to land.
Lift: An upward force caused by the rush of air over the wings, supporting the airplane in flight.
Low pressure area: Mass of air having low atmospheric pressure.
Meteorology: The scientific study of the atmosphere.
Moisture: Water in some form in the atmosphere.
Monoplane: An airplane having one set of wings.
Multiengine: Having more than one engine.
Parachute: A fabric device attached to objects or persons, to reduce the speed of descent.
Pedals: Foot controls in the cockpit by which the pilot controls the action of the rudder.
Pilot: Person who controls the airplane.
Precipitation: Any falling visible moisture; rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
Pressure: Force in terms of force per unit area.
Propeller: An airfoil which the engine turns to provide the thrust, pulling the airplane through the air.
Radar: Beamed radio waves for detecting and locating objects. The objects are “seen” on the radar screen or scope.
Ramp: Area outside of airport buildings where airplanes are parked to be serviced or to pick up and discharge passengers and cargo.
Rudder: Control surface hinged to the back of the vertical fin.
Runway: A surface or area on the airport designated for airplanes to take off and land.
Seat belt: Belts attached to the seat which fasten around the pilot and passengers to hold them firmly in their seats in bouncy air and during takeoffs and landings.
Seaplane: An airplane that operates from water.
Slipstream: Current of air driven back by the propeller.
Stabilizer: Horizontal surface which stabilizes the airplane around its lateral axis.
Stall: The reduction of speed to the point where the wing stops producing lift.
Stationary: Something that does not move is said to be stationary. A front along which one air mass does not replace another.
Stratus: Layered clouds.
Streamline: An object shaped to make air flow smoothly around it.
Tachometer: Instrument which measures the speed at which the engine crankshaft is turning, hence the propeller speed in rpm (rounds per minute).
Tail: The part of the airplane to which the rudder and elevators are attached. The tail has vertical and horizontal stabilizers to keep the airplane from turning about its lateral axis.
Takeoff: The part of the flight during which the airplane gains flying speed and becomes airborne.
Terminal: Building on the airport where people board airplanes, buy tickets, and have their luggage handled. Flight services are frequently located at the air terminal.
Thrust: Forward force.
Transmitter: Microphone, or part of the radio that sends the message.
Tricycle landing gear: Airplane’s landing wheels, two under the wings and one under the nose.
Turbulence: Irregular motion of air; uneven currents of air.
Turn: Maneuver which the airplane makes in changing its direction of flight.
Updraft: Vertical currents of air.
Vertical: Ninety degrees from the horizon.
Visibility: Distance toward the horizon that objects can be seen and recognized. Smoke, haze, fog, and precipitation can hinder visibility.
Vortex: A circular, whirling movement of air forming a space in the center, toward which anything caught in the vortex tends to move.
Weather: Condition of the atmosphere at a given time with respect to air motion, moisture, temperature, and air pressure.
Wind: Air in motion, important to aviation because it influences flight to a certain degree.
Wind sock: A cone-shaped, open-ended cylinder of cloth to catch the wind and show its direction.
Wings: Parts of the airplane shaped like airfoils and designed in such a way to provide lift when air flows over them.
Zoom: The climb for a short time at an angle greater than the normal climbing angle, the airplane being carried upward at the expense of airspeed.
Stewart M. Powell, White House correspondent for Hearst Newspapers, has covered national and international affairs for 28 years, based in the United States and abroad. His most recent article for Air Force Magazine, “The Berlin Airlift,” appeared in the June 1998 issue.