How to Fly a B747

It’s been two weeks since the fall semester began and this semester is already so special in many different ways. Firstly, COVID has greatly changed the atmosphere of our campus as most classes are now taught online or in split format. Students are all wearing masks, cleaning their work stations and getting their daily wellness checks done. Secondly, it is the beginning of my senior year at Riddle and senioritis is slowly peeking around the corner to drain my motivation for school. However, there is one class that I want to share with you and I think it’s safe to say this is one of the coolest and the most favored class by aeronautical science students.

This class is one of the upper-level AS courses called EFMS (AS435). EFMS stands for Electronic Flight Management System and in simple terms, it’s learning about the programming and the operation of flight computers in a complex aircraft. Now for this class, that complex aircraft is a Boeing 747-400 which is a famous large passenger / cargo aircraft that many might recognize as the Queen of the Skies.

Boeing B747-400 – Artheau Aviation
Queen of the Skies

In this class, you will learn how to operate the Mode Control Panel (MCP), Control Display Unit (CDU), Air Data Computer (ADC) and the Flight Management Computer (FMC). Now you might be wondering, what the heck are all these acronyms. Well, don’t be intimidated by these letters because these computers are simply designed in a way that you can fly this giant airplane by pushing buttons and turning knobs. *Spoiler: Yes, this is how all the major airlines fly in the air when you are flying back home. Those pilots in the front are just pressing buttons.*

Now let me show you what these devices look like and what you can expect from a higher level AS course when you come to Riddle. It’s not a bad classroom environment to show off to your high school or hometown friends in different schools.

So many screens and buttons!

First thing you will notice is the classroom / “lab” is full of these little stations that surround the edges of the room. Each student is now responsible for each station (due to COVID restrictions) but before the pandemic, two students would share one station and take turns flying the airplane.

That brown device with orange buttons (left bottom) is the control display unit and I like to think of it as the keyboard of your airplane where you can push in all the letters and the numbers for your flight plan. Of course you have the joystick and the throttle lever (bottom right). That long device with buttons and knobs is called the mode control panel and that is what you use to fly this airplane.

Just plug in where you want to fly to!

This is by far one of the coolest classes I have taken and I would love to recommend this class to anyone who is in the AS program. You can fly a B747 without worrying about the passengers in the back or burning tons of money for jet fuel in real life. I hope everyone is staying safe and enjoying any cool classes or side projects you might have.

An Aeronautical Science Lifestlye


Morning pre-flight

Hello reader,

My name is Zachary Wilkinson and I am the new guy on this page. I am a Junior living Aeronautical Science here at the DB campus. I said living because ‘studying’ simply doesn’t cover it. For me this degree is indeed a lifestyle, and I work to learn more every day.If you are considering this degree or are currently practicing it, then let me share a little bit about what I feel makes an AS student successful.

Number one You must be willing to go the extra mile to learn

Your activity doesn’t cease once you exit the classroom or leave the Flight operations building. From day one the standard expected of you is that of a professional pilot. So make it an objective to spend some time at the end of the day to think about what you have learned in your classes and how it can be applied, application is a higher level of learning. My favorite way to actively increase my Aeronautical knowledge is to read aviation related books. I believe that the more perspectives I can gain for myself the better prepared I will be for when I encounter something new. If you don’t like reading, then you will have trouble, because the amount of information you must know just for the Private Certificate is very extensive. The FAA and our library has all kinds of great publications.

Furthermore, The Flight program here at Embry-Riddle is more than just about hours and airplanes. You also accept the safety culture of ERAU and the standards of the best Flight University in the world. The reality is that only about  60% of first-year AS students remain in this degree program. Don’t let that statistic scare you, let it prepare you. Many students find out that the degree just doesn’t suit them, they switch degrees, and continue happily with their change. There is nothing shameful in choosing what is better for your future.

Number two: Be humble

The fastest way to end up sidelined is thinking that you are ‘God’s gift’ to the aviation industry. At this university you are blessed to be surrounded by professors and instructors who have decades of experience. Respect them, get to know them,  and learn from them. Also, Think on this quote for a while:

“Every pilot is a student pilot, whether ten hours or ten thousand”

—Robert Parke

The FAA has compiled a list of Hazardous attitudes which can make a pilot dangerous. They are: Resignation, Anti-Authority, Impulsivity, Invulnerability, and Macho. You can tackle Invulnerability, Macho, and Anti-Authority by being a humble learner as long as you operate and aircraft. You will find it interesting to know that the most dangerous pilot is not a young student pilot with less than a hundred hours. That student pilot is most likely a bit nervous still, he or she is cautious, they may be afraid the airplane could rip apart at any moment due to the blistering 100 kt. cruise speeds. Simply put, They are humbled by the aircraft. The most dangerous Pilot  is the one who is comfortable, they likely have over 1,000 hours and operating an aircraft is second nature to them. This is when danger can set in.

Number three: Be of Good character

“Experience is plentiful and easy to buy, but Character is Priceless” —Calvin Coolidge

The leaders of best companies the industry are not just looking for a pilot to fill a seat with minimum qualifications, they are looking for a well rounded individual who can be trusted with $100 million dollars of liability. A pilot with Integrity of character will be highly sought after and your decision making skills will be evaluated. For example, It is very common for Air carriers  to look into you before you even set foot in an interview. Things like Background checks, reference checks, and even credit checks are done. They may even browse your facebook page. When they look into how you manage your life as a whole and it will tell them a lot about how you will perform as an operator of their aircraft. Make yourself employable and as always, be careful with how you portray yourself on Social Media. Nothing is secret.

Number four: Love what you do

“Science, beauty, freedom, adventure; what more could you ask of life?”

—Charles Augustus Lindbergh

I think this would qualify as the most important of the list. The road ahead will not be easy, that is why you must be absolutely certain that this is something you want to do. Flying has to be important enough for you to be willing to retrain an activity 10 times and still put on your ramp badge and walk out onto the flightline and be ready give it another shot. The inner drive that wakes you up at 5 AM for a flight and keeps you awake till 3 AM on weekends making lesson plans is a Love for what you do.

One of my favorite things is morning activities. The air is smooth and brisk.  I get to watch the sun rise as my instructor and I fly out to the practice area. It is during these times that I know I am right where I want to be. The Florida sun is often glowing in long orange rays which peak between slowly lumbering Cumulus clouds off the coast. You haven’t seen a sunrise until you have watched it aloft.


What I am most excited for is when I complete my Flight Instructor certificate and can teach students how to fly. A flight instructor is a teacher,and I cannot wait to teach! But until then, I am satisfied with trying to impart some of the wisdom I have gained through this Blog.  I hope you will take some of these words seriously but more importantly I hope you enjoyed it. Thankyou for reading, you rock!

Feel free to contact me with any questions about pretty much anything:

What am I reading right now?        ‘The Proficient Pilot’ by Barry Schiff


Out of the Holding Pattern.

Rocking my SCHEYDEN sunglasses!

March, already?! Time change, already?! 7 more weeks of school, already?! I guess it’s a good thing when the time flies- you know you’re enjoying yourself. Either that, or you’re way too busy to notice! I’m excited to finish off most of my gen ed classes and Commercial Pilot Operations- it’s been such an adventure so far. This Wednesday I will be leaving for the Women In Aviation Conference in Nashville, Tennessee! This will be my first time attending the WAI conference and I could not be more excited than to spend it with the Women In Aviation ERAU Chapter. Spring Break is also next week and I will be posting some photos and blogging about my adventures, so keep squawking the blog!

The best fuel I had this past week, found in this quote: “Fear and excitement. Two emotions that come hand in hand when you commit to the important work of flying blind and of doing something completely unique.” In this process we call college, we’re still finding our way; we’re still ships exploring new horizons..but the cool thing is being able to live unbound during the process. When you realize how many opportunities you have, how limitless your boundaries truly are, let that fear and excitement motivate you.

Over the Atlantic Ocean

If dreaming is in your comfort zone, ask yourself why it is. A dream is only comfortable if we are sleeping in a warm, cozy bed, but the pursuits of a dream are, in fact, quite the opposite. They’re tough. They’re annoying. Difficult. After all, who wants to deal with the difficulties, right? You could stay in the holding pattern all day, but eventually your airplane will run out of fuel. You won’t have that excitement coupled with fear. You’ll stay comfortable, but you’ll also stay in the same spot. Here’s where the ‘what if’ comes in. ‘What if’ I could get out of this holding pattern and land this thing? See, when you’re in an airplane, you have to think quick. You have to be in front of the airplane at all times and it’s going to keep propelling regardless if you don’t. Get rid of those ‘what ifs’ because a result is going to happen anyway- the question is, is it worth the result? I’ll ask you.. would you rather stay in the holding pattern circling around contemplating the ‘what ifs’, or pick a destination and land? How long before we wave hello to the indulging and daring part of flying blind? If there’s something I realized coming to college all the way from the other side of the country, regardless if you are taking a quiet leap or kicking and screaming all the way, you still have made the risk. And wow, has it been worth it.

So try and let your fear and excitement propel you. You may come to find that not only will it push you to places you have never been before, but also that it’s a little fun. As for holding patterns.. eh, not so much.

See you at the Women In Aviation Conference.

Blue Skies

Nothin’ but AVgas & Sunoco Green E15.

POSITION: Daytona Beach, FL

Whew! What a week it’s been! It’s been pretty stormy on campus lately. I’m hoping this weather will clear up soon. So far, school’s going great. I’m only wondering- WHERE is the time going? It’s flying by my seat like the NASCAR drivers were today at the Daytona 500! The USAF Thunderbirds were in town for the race, but unfortunately could not perform today.. so the flying part wasn’t as realistic.

POSITION: Embry-Riddle Flight Line

Lots of blimps have been invading our Class C airspace recently because of the race. As cool as they are, I’m happy I don’t have to watch out for the traffic on takeoff anymore. 😉

Toyota Camry relaxing on campus.

For the many reasons, this is one in which explains why I love my school. While we aren’t going fast in the sky (ha ha) we’re into speed on the ground!

Photo from today at the Daytona 500 here in Daytona Beach.

Here’s a quick snap from today’s race! I was rooting for Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt! Such an awesome race- full of intensity and a few mishaps. Needless to say there was never a dull moment! These fields are bred for risk takers. Totally inspiring.

RNAV Circling Approach RWY 25R

My friend, Dane, took this as I was on a circling RNAV approach to RWY 25R. This is what is awesome about having observers. You get to re-live your hallmark moments when you can’t seem to get a free hand to grab a camera. I think this photo sums up my Instrument training.. a concept that is, at first, hard to grasp because everything is vision beyond sight, but once you get it- it’s the coolest thing you’ll ever want to do with a partial view. I am currently finishing up my Instrument Rating and will soon be onto my Commercial Pilot’s License. So far, NOTHING beats shooting an ILS to minimums and breaking out of the clouds to grease a landing. That’s what fuels me.

You could say my life has been pure speed these past few weeks. When you love where you are, what you do and who you are doing it with- the time seems to fly faster than you can catch it. To be honest… I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. After all, what’s wrong with a little RPM in life? See you at the track.

Update: I am now a sponsored pilot; sponsored by SCHEYDEN Precision Eyewear! I am so excited to start this new journey!

Keep squawking the blog!

Blue Skies (and black oil tracks)

September 22, 2008

Hey guys!

It’s Sunday night, I spent the weekend with my family at my grandparents for my grandfather’s birthday!!! I had so much fun, I missed them all so much and my family means the world to me. My baby cousin who is sooooo cute was there, his name is Mario and he is a year and a half old. I couldn’t get a good picture of him or I would put on up for you guys. Anyways, back to class tomorrow. My day starts at 8 a.m. so I will be trying to go to bed early.

For all of you considering aeronautical science as a major, I was supposed to go up on an observation flight with one of my roommates on Thursday but it got cancelled because her instructor was sick so it is being push to 2 weeks from now. I will let you know how it goes as soon as I get to go and will definitely have pictures up. I had a weather test this past Friday and let me tell you, weather is not as easy as I thought. I studied for hours with my roommate and we both did pretty badly. So, if you guys have to take weather classes like most of us here do, make sure you read the book and study hard!!!! There are so many “maybes” it threw me off, I am really hoping my professor made a mistake when he put my grade in though or something because I studied so hard and was so ready!!! I checked all my answers two times and still finished the test a half hour early!

OH, back to my trip home, I got to see my puppy!! I was so excited he’s so cute! I have a picture of him for you to see his name is Toto and he is a Yorkie-schnauzer mix. He jumped all over me the second I walked into the door, it was cute. I have a ton of work to do this week, I hope it dies down by the weekend so I can finally get some rest but for now this is all I can write. I will try to get pictures up of the observation flight and write about it as soon as it happens. Besides going study crazy nothing interesting has happened lately. So that’s it for now!!!


September 22, 2008

Hello everyone, it feels so good to be back at school and getting into the swing of things. This year is going to be filled with fun and excitement, as well as knowledge that will help me succeed in many years to come. I am finishing up my last year in college and teaching young students the wonderful world of flight, what more can I ask for? I love my life!

As a senior here at Embry-Riddle, I have already taken all of my general education classes, as well as most of my Aeronautical Science/Flight courses. Because of the fact that I received my private pilot license before I came to Embry-Riddle, I was able to obtain all of my pilot’s licenses by my junior year. This has allowed me to focus on my class work and gain an abundance of knowledge from teaching others how to fly. What an experience! This past year has been very rewarding, and I look forward to what my senior year will unfold.

This semester, I am taking my last five Aeronautical Science classes. It’s going to be a blast! These are the capstone classes of the program and they will provide me with the knowledge I will need to succeed in the professional aviation environment. These classes include Airline Dispatch, Aviation Safety, Flight Management Systems, Crew Resource Management, and Flight Technique and Analysis.

Airline Dispatch is the capstone course for a program we have at Embry-Riddle known as the dispatcher program. A dispatcher is someone that works for an airline who prepares all of the paperwork for a flight. Some of the paperwork includes the route of flight, a review of the weather along the flight, and filling out a flight plan. This is something great for a pilot to have, because if he/she is working for an airline and is suddenly unable to fly, you can turn to your dispatcher certificate. This is a great back-up plan to have in your pocket in the aviation industry. I have really enjoyed this program and it is very enlightening. Most of the required courses are already built into the Aeronautical Science program. You only have to take a few required electives to qualify to take the dispatcher exam. If any you are interested, see your academic advisor for details.

My next class is Aviation Safety. All I can say is WOW! Our professor was a Marine and Naval aviator with thousands of hours of fighter experience. He also flew F-4 phantoms in Top Gun! The stories he shares with the class are truly amazing, especially how he can relate it back to the subject matter. This is definitely one of my favorite classes here at Riddle. In Aviation Safety, we investigate previous accidents and talk about how to prevent them in the future. I look forward to what I will learn this semester from others mistakes.

Flight Management Systems is also a very interesting class. Here we learn how to operate all of the computer systems and autopilot in a Boeing 747-400. It is truly amazing how accurate the Aerosim program is to programming a real 747-400’s computers. We practice loading routes of flight into the system and flying simulated flights using the autopilot. Since most of the airline and corporate world is operated using autopilot, this is a very valuable skill to have.

Another useful skill I will learn this semester is how to fly an aircraft in a two pilot cockpit. Crew Resource Management teaches us the special skill of how to work together and provide the passengers with a safe flying environment. General aviation pilots need this training because we are used to operating an aircraft that requires one pilot. This skill works great in small aircraft, but once you begin flying large transport category aircraft, the workload in the cockpit increases tremendously. Therefore, you need to know how to divide up the duties in the cockpit in a safe, yet efficient manner. This class is going to provide me with this skill.

Finally, the last course I am taking this semester is Flight Technique and Analysis. This course is the capstone course of the entire Aeronautical Science program. It takes everything I have learned over the past 3 years and ties it together into one. We use the Aerosim program just like FMS, except we perform actual flight scenarios in a crew environment. We learn how to deal with emergencies, weather, and passenger problems. The flights that we will fly are identical to scenarios an airline would present to their new hire pilots. I am very excited to see how this course will tie everything together, and provide me with a means to succeed in the real world.

As the semester continues I will give you an update on each class and talk more about the wonderful world of flight instructing. Until then, stay motivated, work hard, and fly safe!