Pipers and Preparations

Hello Reader,

Thanks for stopping by the blog page again, I’m quite certain all of my fellow writers here will agree that we appreciate the opportunity to share our lives with you. I received a few emails from folks who read my first post and it was a blast to respond to their questions and welcome them here.

I should introduce myself more fully.

My full Name is Zachary Benjamin Wilkinson and I was born in Bradenton, Florida on November 4th 1992. (That makes today my 21st birthday) Happy Birthday to me! My Hometown is under the Northern shelf of class C airspace at ‘KSRQ’ for those of you who are aviation-inclined. Follow the link to look it up on skyvector. I did my first flying out of Cirrus Aviation at Dolphin Aviation, the FBO there. The tail number of the first plane i flew was N393SP.

From a young age I grew up amazed at the wonder of transportation and adventure. My bookcase was filled with storybooks about planes, trains, ships, and automobiles.  I built articulated flying creations of Legos and K’nex and i would imagine them cruising across the wide expanse of my living room. It wasn’t long before my eyes picked the sky as my favorite method of getting from point A to point B. My father always encouraged me to take steps  wherever I wanted in life, in this case my steps were towards the local airport for a discovery flight. Not long after that I heard about Embry-Riddle, and the rest is history. Other things that interest me are Model Building, Paintballing, Videogames, Reading, kayaking, fishing, and Hiking.



On October 31st  I passed my In-house Checkride for the Single Commercial course, it was a great start to an exhilarating Halloween Day. I awoke to the sound of my alarm at 0500 to prepare for activity start time of 0630. This portion of my checkride would consist of an Emergency approach to landing, an emergency descent, short field takeoffs and landings, and soft-field takeoffs and landings. All in a PA-28r-201, lovingly known as the Piper ‘Arrow’.  I leave plenty of extra time to prepare for a flight just in case something comes up before start time. A tip for the current flyers or pilots-to-be: always give yourself plenty of time buffer before an activity in case something comes up, because you never know when something will occur that will slow you down and cause you to be late. A realistic example of this is faced by any pilot when it comes to Cross-Country operations.


In-flight fuel use is predicted based on an expected  ‘per-hour’ burn recorded in the POH of any aircraft. Also, the airspeed you travel at aloft is relative to the winds at your cruising altitude. Before a flight we as pilots are trained to research the forecasted winds aloft  and determine an expected groundspeed. This data will allow us to have an idea of how much fuel will be needed to complete the flight. Fuel burn and time aloft is critical. Do you see a theme amongst my italicized words?

The number one cause of Aviation accidents and incidents is Fuel starvation or improper fuel management.

Once  inflight the actual conditions could be much different. Sometimes a headwind will be greater or a tailwind much less than expected. A diversion for weather could be required, lengthening your route. Traffic along your route could restrict you to a different altitude than planned, changing many factors of flight.  If under IFR ATC delays or holding could leave you in the air for much longer than you expected. If not prepared with ample additional fuel a pilot could be quickly thrust into an emergency situation. The least of your worries is being caught with less than your legal fuel reserves as required per 14 CFR §91.151 for VFR flight. A long lesson put short is, expect the unexpected. You may go through 500 hours of flying without a single incident but one day something will go wrong and extra preparation will suddenly be worth it. It could even save your life.

Only a little bit of extra time is required before flight to ensure you are properly prepared. If you are new to aviation or just beginning, then now is the time to make preparation a habit. The sooner you start the better. Expect the unexpected and  you will always be fit with the confidence that you are prepared. All of the factors in red above are just in-flight circumstances. In everything we do we can encounter slowdowns, changes of plans, delays, missed assignments, and hardships. We must be ready for when those times come.

Many joys of flight await you here at ERAU or wherever you reside. If you feel led to the sky, start your journey today. Look up your local airport and schedule a discovery flight much like I did back home in Sarasota. Once you know it’s for you, then please  ask me about flying at Embry-Riddle.

My email is always open: wilkinsz@my.erau.edu

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will always long to return”

–Leonardo Da Vinci


My favorite Airliner, the Boeing 757-200. You could say I’m a dreamer.




Spring Break has come and gone. Now for the home stretch!

Spring Break is now over, and we are down to the last month of school before finals and summer break.  I can’t believe just how quickly time has flown over this past year and I am weeks away from completing my freshman year of college.  If I went to another school, I don’t think I would have learned as much about flying airplanes, meeting airshow performers, or sharing the passion of flight with all my friends.

During spring break, I went home and enjoyed a week of home cooking and relaxation.  I spent most of the week in the workshop getting my new Control-line contest plane polished and ready to fly.  The weather was too cold to run the engine, but I’ll be able to do that in a couple of weeks when summer break comes around.

Since spring break has ended, I have been out flying my CarbonZ Yak54 with the RC club on campus a couple times a week.  Now that it doesn’t get dark until 8pm, I’m able to get a few flights out of it before the darkness of nighttime sets in.  I have now learned how to fly rolling circles and rolling loops with it.

On the full size flight training side, I needed a couple refresher flights to shake the rust off from spring break, and now am hoping to get signed off for my check-ride by next weekend.  I grounded myself because I’m currently battling a cold.  I learned my lesson the hard way of why not to fly when you have any sort of congestion.  On my solo cross country to Melbourne, I had a very mild cold, and even then, I felt like my head was going to explode when I was on descent.

The next two weekends I am planning on traveling to West Palm Beach for the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction, New Smyrna Balloon and skyfest, and Sun ‘N Fun. I am looking forward to attending these events and will hit on the highlights for the next entry.

‘Till next time, fair skies and light winds.

NASCAR, Parent Weekend, Fantasy of Flight and more


Hi everyone. February is now coming to a close and what a February it was! During the time since my last entry, Parent Weekend came and went. Other events I’ve attended were a Giant scale RC Fly-In in Deland, Fantasy of Flight air museum and the Daytona 500.

NASCAR, Daytona 500

Daytona 500

On the weekend of February 10th, my parents flew down from Vermont for Parent Weekend. During that time, parents are encouraged to attend classes with their son/daughter, and attend different programs throughout the weekend. On Saturday I was able to take my dad flying around the north practice area in preparation for my private check ride. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience, so much so that he took a nap on the way back in to Daytona Beach. Guess I must have done a good job in giving him a smooth ride.

On Sunday, the 10th, we went to Disney World and spent the day in Epcot. This was the first time since I was five that I was able to go to Disney. I enjoyed spending a day with my parents in Epcot and I’m sure they did as well.

The next weekend was President’s day weekend, which the student body enjoyed a three day weekend. I spent one day during that weekend attending the Deland Giant-Scale RC Fly-In. I was only a spectator since I didn’t have an airplane big enough to fly there. I was incredibly impressed at the aerobatics some of these pilots were doing. Having only flown Control-line for the past six years, I’ve gotten out of touch with the RC world and forgot just how insane the aerobatics can get.

Low knife edge pass at full throttle

During that weekend, I also attended the Sprint Unlimited, a no points winner take all NASCAR race in Daytona International Speedway. After watching NASCAR racing at Daytona for years, I never thought I would be 3 feet from the fence watching them race by at 200mph.
This past weekend I went to Fantasy of Flight with the Sport Aviation Club. Fantasy of Flight is an air museum owned by Kermit Weeks. He owns all the airplanes that are there, and the ones that are on display in the museum are ready to fly. We took multiple tours of different areas of the museum, and I was amazed at all the engines and planes that he owns. In one hangar across the street from the museum, he had the fuselage to a B-29 lying there, along with more airplanes than you count. Hopefully Kermit will restore the B-29 to flying condition and fly it since there is only one flying at this current time.

A beautiful example of a P-51B Mustang at Fantasy of Flight

The next day was the Daytona 500. After hearing about the wreck in the nationwide race the day before where the engine ended up in the stands, we were expecting a good race! Once again, watching the race in person was more entertaining than watching it on TV. Jimmie Johnson became a two-time winner of The Great American Race that day.

Kasey Kahne gets loose causing a 9 car pile-up

On the academic side of these past few weeks, everything has been going well. I’ve had very little homework which is not what I would consider normal for college. I am enjoying the lack of homework since it gives me more free time to be doing what I have been doing during the weekends. I am also very close to my private check ride, which I am hoping I will have before spring break. Progress has slowed down to a crawl since we had a bad day with weather, and waiting for my turn. The instructor I was with today said one more flight and I will be ready for my check ride, which I am really excited about.
If anyone has any questions they have regarding campus life, flying at Embry-Riddle, feel free to email me at colanm@my.erau.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter, mcolan94 or subscribe to my Youtube account, flycl756355.
‘Till next time, fair skies and light winds!
Matthew Colan

November 2012

It’s about that time again, time for a new entry. The days are getting shorter and shorter and the semester is getting closer and closer to the end. We really only have about a month of classes left before winter break. Thanksgiving is next week and I am certainly looking forward to seeing my extended family in Chicago. And yes, I am also looking forward to some weather that is colder than 70 degrees, but probably only for about 4 days. This might not be the most exciting journal entry but you can go read Waverly’s if you get bored. She is good!

Anyways, the past couple of weeks have been a blur. It almost seemed like the first month of school went by really slow but it seems like the past month has just flown by. Classes are still chugging along; they are kind of starting to wind down. When I say wind down I really mean pick up because professors are starting to get us ready for finals. Unfortunately, I have two tests this week and a paper due. But the good news is that one of my classes is already ending on Wednesday, which should free up some much needed nap time for me.

This past weekend was awesome. Me and a couple of friends rented a plane and flew up to Gainesville where the University of Florida is located. It was their homecoming weekend so we took advantage of the festivities and had a good time touring the campus and tailgating before watching the Gators play a football game, then flying back on Saturday evening.

Photo: Watching the Gators play at the SwampPhoto: Nice weather on the flight back from GainesvilleIn other news I am working my way towards getting my Private Pilot Certificate. I should be soloing by the end of this week. I have my pre-solo check ride coming up next and, if I pass, my instructor and I will go up to Flagler where I will do my first solo. I am choosing to do my Solo at Flagler because I like that airport a lot. There is a restaurant called Hijackers (very ironic) that my instructor and I have stopped at for lunch a couple of times, so I feel comfortable with the area. How the solo will work is we will leave Daytona and fly up to Flagler, we will do 3 full stop landings together, then I will drop him off and do 3 full stop landings myself while remaining in the traffic pattern. I will then pick up my instructor and we will fly back to Daytona. I am really curious as to what it will feel like to be in the plane by myself. I expect it to feel like driving by yourself for the first time but on maybe a little bit of a bigger scale. Either way, I am looking forward to it and will be a great experience.

Photo: Quick picture at Flagler after stopping for a bite to eatI’ve gotten some good e-mails from readers with good questions lately. I’m glad because I didn’t think anyone was reading! My email address is johnsd66@my.erau.edu if you have anything feel free to ask!