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Aviation Merit Badge Help

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Non Scout here... I'm the Deputy Commander of a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) unit who is working on a plan to assist our local Scouts with their Aviation Merit Badges.  We have two aircraft, dozens of pilots, and meet at an international airport... so we're glad to help!

For those who have been through this before, I'm looking for clarification on "how" the requirements need to be performed/verified by the Scouts.

1)  Who is responsible for for "signing off" that the Scouts completed a specific activity?  The merit badge guide doesn't include any certification forms, nor a process to get things checked off.  Is this the responsibility of a Scout leader to be present for the training and perform the necessary sign offs, or do our CAP members conducting the training need to sign off on something?

2) For certain "hands on" requirements that we plan on conducting for this activity, such as performing a pre-flight inspection of our aircraft... does each Scout need to individually walk through the process in order to achieve credit, or can it be done as a "watch and learn" activity with a group of Scouts observing and learning from one of our pilots?

3)  Similar to question one... One of the items asks Scouts to explain the purposes and functions of various instruments and how they work.  Do activities like this need to be verbally recited to someone, or do Scouts prepare a paper report on the topic?

Thank you all for your assistance -- I look forward to hearing back!


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Aviationdude, welcome to the forum!

I will try to give you brief answers to each question:

#1:  The person who signs off that the Scout has completed a merit badge, or particular requirements within that badge, is the Merit Badge Counselor.  Anyone, including someone who is not otherwise involved in Scouting, can be approved as a merit badge counselor for a particular merit badge if they have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, etc. for that subject area.   I am not quite sure what qualifications would be required to counsel the Aviation MB.  I would think you would have to be a pilot at the very least.  Merit badge counselors are registered through the local council and there is some paperwork, a criminal background check and Youth Protection Training (prevention, recognition and reporting of child abuse within the Scouting program) involved.  There is some basic information here and here if you are interested.

#2: The Scout must do exactly what the requirement says.  The requirement you are referring to says:  "Under supervision, perform a preflight inspection of a light airplane."  That is what the Scout must do to pass the requirement.  Watching and learning is not sufficient. Of course, the Scouts do need to learn what they are doing before they actually do it, but then they have to do it.

#3:  Well, you know what, that question has been the subject of so much discussion and debate, both here and on an official BSA blog (and elsewhere I assume) that I am going to let someone try to summarize it, and maybe comment on it later.  :)


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I'm registered as a Counselor for that badge.  I'm an Instrument rated private pilot and a huge aviation geek.  Sadly, I've never counseled a scout on the badge.

re. number 1.... the scout first needs sign-off from his scout master (SM) to work on the badge.  then they have to find a registered Merit Badge Counselor (MBC).  No doubt some of your adults could fill that role, if they are not already registered to be an MBC, they need to contact council.  The MBC is the adult that the scout works through "the book" with, demonstrating, etc.. and the MBC would be the one to do the sign offs.  I'm not familiar with the CAP structure....is Deputy Commander of a Civil Air Patrol an adult position or a "youth leadership" position?

If you are 18 and have extensive knowledge and experience in the subject, then you can register as MBC.


re. 2 & 3.

traditionally, the way a MB should work is this.... a scout either has a need to complete a required MB, or just has an interest in the subject.  That scout....or maybe a couple scout friends choose to do it together, would approach their SM for ok to work on it.  Then they would find a MBC registered for that badge.  The SM or other Troop adults can assist them in finding a MBC.  that MBC would work with them, answer questions, advise, steer them to resources, etc.... This may happen over a course of time, weeks or more even, self study, etc...

More commonly in practice though, they are offered as a class....where you would invite scouts as a large group....and things would be like sitting through a class at school.  I personally don't care for this model....


this may be of some help to you.



Side note..... you might consider approaching Cub Scout packs in your area too.  That could be a great source for membership for your unit as those young boys get older.  they don't have a badge, but there used to be a belt loop in the old program.  don't know if there is now....but I know that most packs are always looking for guest speakers at their pack meetings.  When I was Cubmaster, i approached the local CAP but never was able to pull it off.  The most I was able to do was arrange a Den trip to the local airport tower and meet with some folks from the local airport's pilot club.

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If you want more in depth information, there are also a couple of PowerPoint presentations available at the link below:

The Essentials of Merit Badge Counseling

The Merit Badge Program


I don't know if any of the new Cub Scout adventures deal specifically with aviation or not, but I think some of them deal with weather, kite flying, and science.  So you could fit them in there.

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You don't have to be a pilot, but you should have the skill and knowledge.  The key is that you are registered with BSA as a counselor.  That makes it legit.  From there, if it's an "event", you could build teams and to make sure everything is covered.  

The MB idea is "interaction".  So if it says perform or explain, usually it means person-to-person and/or actively involved.  Writing a report or fill out a workbook does not replace "perform" or "explain".  When workbooks are "REQUIRED" (... quoted because you can't require them ...) it's because the counselor wants evidence the scout did it even though the counselor doesn't have time to cover it himself.  

IMHO ... Make sure you have a registered counselor.  Make sure you have people with expertise the scouts will enjoy.  Beyond that, focus more on giving the scout a good and inspiring experience.  Worry less about the legalism except what is explicitly written.  

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If you or one of your members don’t want to register a merit badge counselor in order to sign off on the badge, you can contact the council to get a name & number of one and then do the merit badge on their behalf, providing the lessons, instruction space, etc. Of course they would be there to supervise and all, but you would share your knowledge before fulfilling the requirements.

Boy Scout Summer Camps work that way. A staff member (usually 6 in a Program area) teaches 2-3 Merit badges, but are usually under 18 and can not register as a MBC. So the director of the area is usually the MBC and signs off on the staff members behalf believing that all the requirements have been fulfilled.

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You can have another MB counselor present when they do the tasks.  For the preflight you could have a small group of boys walk around the plane with you and each take turns at the different stages, for example checking the fuel for water.  Besides each will want to do that requirement.  For #3, they can answer this verbally to you.

If they get the chance to fly, they will remember that experience forever.

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