Maths and the art of flying

aircraft cock;pit
math and flying

Christina Sng for Maths@Singapore

Flying has intrigued humankind since the dawn of time. Now, we have the ability to take to the skies and many of us dream of flying. 

For those considering a career as a pilot, you may be wondering if you need to know extensive math to fly a plane.

According to the Epic Flight Academy, average math skills will suffice. As a pilot, you’ll be using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. 

“Training focuses on weather, airspace, managing radios, air traffic control airport markings, right of way rules, and emergency procedures…instruction focuses on topics other than math skills.”

That said, you need to know specific topics in math. Let’s dive in:

1.  You must know basic math, specifically, as mentioned above, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. One critical application is to add and subtract to calculate weight.

2.  You need to know basic geometry to focus on shapes and spatial relationships between objects.

3.  You must know basic trigonometry to understand wind corrections and crosswind calculations. While you can use a flight calculator app or software, it’s still important to know in case your app fails.

4.  You will be making educated estimates and that requires basic math and basic algebra for interpolation, since you are likely to be solving for x.

5.  Pilots use a good amount of mental math to make quick calculations, despite having calculators and apps to do this. With mental math, you add an extra layer of verification for your calculations to account for possible error, which as we all know, is life-and-death critical in flight. For a pilot, thoroughness could save the day.

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Thanks to Andrés Dallimonti @dallimonti for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

Find our more about our high quality online math classes based on the world-class Singapore math program from the Singapore Ministry of Education and taught by our expert Singaporean teachers