Education is an art. When done correctly, the educator is often able to synthesize understanding of a complex concept like a chef creates a confectionary delicacy. However, very often it is disguised in assessments, pencil and paper tests, and data. When this happens, the ability to approach a complex subject is lost. The learner is reduced to a passive participant, digesting the material using only one sensory input.
Nowhere else is this more evident than in the reports of airline emergencies. More often than not, the transcripts of these events are recorded and documented. The text of the crew, their actions, the response of the aircraft, all of these written in black and white to be analyzed and interpreted for years. While the data is important, there is something lost: the voices of the individuals. Much like certain educational subjects, these aviation events are anything but simple. Instead, they are incredibly complex requiring a unique approach to their teaching. Most of the times, these events are read. However, through the readings, we lose the nuances and interactions between the crew; we fail to see the emotions, the conflict, grief, anger and despair. The film Charlie Victor Romeo brings these incidents to life, allowing the viewer an intimate look into the situations that lead to these events; providing an incredible and unique educational opportunity.
Using the art of theater, Charlie Victor Romeo projects the human element to these often tragic emergencies. As a result, the film is a must see for everyone involved in aviation. At Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, students learn about many of the incidents portrayed in the film. The students read and discuss the emergencies: what occurred, how the crew handled the situation, what they did well, what they could do better. What the text lacks, Charlie Victor Romeo brings to life.
As is true of any theatrical representation, the actors are able to showcase the hidden parts of the transcripts. The dialogue of the actors is derived entirely from the “black box” transcripts of each of the six aviation emergencies highlighted in the movie. However, missing from the transcripts is the perspiration, angst, and frustration the actors demonstrate through each of the events. The ability to watch a person go through the stress of these situations adds another dimension to any collegiate or professional discussion.
The use of this film as part of any academic discussion regarding these aviation emergencies should be highly considered. Using the film in conjunction with the actual transcripts allows the educator to blend the art with the science. Melding the faceless black and white text with the gamut of emotions projected by the actor, a student begins to see the events in a different light. They are able to witness the dedication of the crew, their ability to fight through the situation, and sometimes their inability to perceive the situation unfolding in front of them. While the transcripts lack the intensity of a John Grisham novel, the actors are able to infer the gut-wrenching emotion felt by the various crew members represented. Ultimately, what the movie brings to light is the human element.
To highlight the benefit of using the film Charlie Victor Romeo in order to educate future aviation professionals about past aviation incidents, all one must do is think about Shakespeare. Many a college freshmen has sat through a class on Shakespeare: reading and discussing the Bard of Avon’s work. Students would read, decipher and write about the various sonnets and plays, but they rarely connected to them since the text always lacked a certain “pizazz.” The wonder of Shakespeare required a student to sit in an auditorium and watch “Macbeth” come to life. The interpretation and presentation of the actors filled in the missing components. All of which led to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the original tale. The production added nothing to Shakespeare’s words; however, the work of the actors provided that “little bit” which helped to generate a more a complete understanding of the source material. The actors in Charlie Victor Romeo provide the same opportunity for those wishing to understand the nuances in the explored aviation emergencies.
The ability to immerse a student into a subject is paramount to learning. Many times, educators have found that to educate, one must also entertain. Marshall McLuhan summed it up when he stated, “It’s misleading to suppose there’s any basic difference between education and entertainment.” By combining the educational value of analyzing these aviation emergencies with the entertainment medium presented through the art of film, students are able to submerse themselves fully in the examination of these events. Hopefully, through careful examination, the experiences of the past will help to prevent similar events in the future.
Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation was proud to be the fourth professional screening of the film Charlie Victor Romeo. Students, faculty, staff and the public were invited to the screenings that took place on April 9 and 10, 2014, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Kalamazoo, Mich.