flying cheap




In this lesson, students will explore the airline industry’s common practice of outsourcing flights to regional airlines and examine what caused the crash of Continental Flight 3407. Students will then simulate a simplified process that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) would use to develop safety recommendations.


Subject Area:

Social Studies, Government, Technology, Economics


Grade Level:

Grades 9-12



    The student will:
  • Examine core services of the airline industry from multiple perspectives and evaluate which services are the most essential
  • Identify factors that led to the crash of Continental Flight 3407
  • Analyze ideas for improving flight safety and reach a consensus on the top two recommendations that seem the most feasible


    Estimated Time Needed:

    One 50-minute class period


    Materials Needed:




    Opening Activity:

    • Distribute the Prioritize Your Flight worksheet and ask students to rank the airline services in the order that is most important to them. Invite students to explain their prioritized lists to the class. Point out where students ranked safety-related issues.

    • Watch the first chapter of Flying Cheap, “The Crash of Continental 3407,” which describes the country’s deadliest plane crash in nearly a decade. Consider providing the Viewing Guide handout to focus students’ attention while they watch.

    • Ensure student understanding of the video themes by discussing the factors that led to the crash of Continental Flight 3407.
    • Ask students to go back to the Prioritize Your Flight activity. Now ask students to take a different perspective on this exercise and rank these services in the order most important to other groups, such as airline executives, passengers, pilots and government regulators.

      Invite several students to explain their prioritized lists to the class. Discuss any differences from the earlier activity in how services were ranked.

    • Main Activity: Improving Flight Safety

    • Tell students that the airline industry in the U.S. is regulated by the FAA. Explain that the class is going to simulate a similar but simplified process to the one the FAA would use to develop safety recommendations:

      • Students will meet in working groups to consider safety ideas proposed by the families of those who died in the crash of Continental Flight 3407.
      • Each working group will represent a different constituency that would be affected by these safety ideas.
      • Groups will discuss the proposed ideas from their given perspective, reach a consensus about which two recommendations seem the most feasible, and present these to the executive committee (the full class).
      • The executive committee will then discuss and consolidate these recommendations into one document for the FAA to review and potentially act upon.
    • Begin the simulation by dividing the class into groups and assigning each group a particular role, such as representatives from major airlines, representatives from regional airlines, relatives of airline crash victims, and representatives from the pilots’ union.
    • Provide the handouts Focus on Flight Safety and Gameplan for Aviation Safety Improvements. Students will review the ideas proposed in the Gameplan document and discuss them from the perspective of their assigned role.
    • Have a member from each group give a two-minute presentation of their group’s findings to the executive committee (the full class). Allow the other groups to ask questions or challenge the recommendations after each presentation. Recommendations should be collected in a final “Recommendations Document” that the committee/class votes to approve at the end of the “meeting.” Explain that this Recommendations Document will be sent to the FAA for review and potential action.



    This teacher’s guide was developed by Cari Ladd. It was written by Andrew Pass. Advisers were Mark Pearcy of Braden River High in Bradenton, Fla., and Molly Lynde of Mills E. Godwin High School in Richmond, Va.



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