There is a strong need for educators to change the way they conduct aviation education to bring up future professionals in the industry. To cope with the COVID-19 challenge, creative online distance learning approaches become necessary. This article shows how an online lab approach offers social and cognitive support for engineering students to sustain their learning. A series of learning activities including flight simulation and virtual tours were held in an online lab setting by aviation professionals and lecturers at a university in Hong Kong to 35 undergraduate engineering students. The online lab encouraged students to apply knowledge into practice and develop their theoretical and conceptual knowledge through activities. Workshops focusing on aviation laboratory education aimed at students’ development of aviation theoretical and technical knowledge, collaborative skills, field-specific, and practical skills. A mixed research method was employed with the use of a motivational survey, teachers’ observation, and semi-structured interviews to understand students’ learning perceptions. This study found that the online laboratory activities could effectively motivate students to learn about aviation and improve their aviation knowledge cognitively and socially. It is recommended for online engineering educators to use lab technologies to teach aviation and related disciplines for future career preparation. Copyright © 2022 Routledge.