Chuck Yeager is the famed American airplane pilot who was the first human to guide a craft to shatter the sound barrier. He frequently points to one of the basics for excellence in handling of planes and spacecraft: Good hand-eye coordination.
Good pilots, whether military, commercial or in general aviation, must be able to see, judge and react in a way that meets the critical and demanding challenges of the skies. That was necessary in World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam, and it's as vital as ever now that Americans are flying the unfriendly skies of the Persian Gulf war. Could those kids who ``fooled around'' too much with video games actually have benefitted to the point their careers as pilots were enhanced? With today's complicated flying machines, hand-eye coordination seems even more vital.
It is interesting to note that World War II hero Yeager and many others who have been involved in the training process are quick to credit the video craze with imbuing many ``cadets'' with important hand-eye coordination that might not have been developed in other ways.
Granted, there are many other factors in producing topflight fliers for crucial situations, including education, special training, experience and maturity.
``The youngest a fighter can be today is usually 23 to 25,'' says one expert. ``They have to be college graduates, then typically have two years of flight training.'' David Grissmer, a Rand Corp. military personnel expert, says a 34-year-old pilot could well be at the top of his game. ``Ten years of experience is a very strong plus,'' he adds.
Meanwhile, say analysts, the next generation of fighter pilots may be some of today's most frequent visitors at the neighborhood video parlor. Some experts have warned that modern, high-speed aircraft require so much hand-to-eye coordination that ordinary human beings cannot safely operate them. All the better reason to prepare them young, even with games.
``Some people think that what is required is the generation that is growing up on video games and is familiar with joy sticks and that kind of thing,'' said one training official. ``We've already seen evidence this has helped, and it could become an even bigger factor as time goes by.''
How many other societal gains may result from the video game craze that so long has hypnotized our youngsters?