The Flight of a Lifetime!

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Anyone who has known me for a long time, knows that I have a mild obsession with blimps. I’m not really sure why but since I was a little girl I have always been fascinated by them. I can remember seeing the MetLife Blimp over southern California and exclaiming “mommy a bimp”  So when I received a call last week from Jill Meridith (she oversees all of the Riddle bloggers) asking if I wanted to ride in the Goodyear Blimp, I couldn’t have been more excited!! Dreams really do come true!!! Earlier in the year Embry-Riddle had teamed up with Goodyear and featured an ERAU alumnus and current Blimp pilot based out of Carson, California in different magazines! This partnership opened up the opportunity for a few select members of the Embry-Riddle family to get a once in a lifetime ride on the blimp! I was so lucky to be one of these selected students!

On Presidents Day I was accompanied by 10 fellow Embry-Riddle students as well as a few faculty members to the New Smyrna Airport just south of Daytona Beach. As we all gathered together in the waiting area we couldn’t have been more excited. Two of the pilots walked in and immediately all of our faces lit up! They began with a little bit a small talk and then went into speaking about the current winds and weather conditions, and suddenly it hit us. I got that immediate sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized they had to weather (cancel) the flight due to the unstable winds. You could hear a pin drop in the room! The look in everyones faces was such shock and disappointment. Although we were disappointed, as students, pilots, and professionals in the aviation industry we understood that safety always comes first.

Luckily the day was not all lost, the pilots and maintience crew compensated by taking us over to the landing field for the blimp! We were able to watch the blimp come down for a landing which was scary yet awesome! It was then tethered to a mast and stabilized by distributing sandbags throughout the gondola. We were able to meet three different pilots and speak with them about how the blimp flys and also what it takes to actually become a blimp pilot! We each took turns going inside the gondola and being able to sit in the pilots seat! Even though we were disappointed about the flight being cancelled; just the opportunity to be so close to the blimp and also really get to see and speak with the crew was an unreal experience!

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Coming in to attach the nose to the tether!

 

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Hanging out with the chief pilot for Goodyear

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The following day I got a call saying that five spots had opened up on the blimp for the following morning, and that the Embry-Riddle students had made such a great impressions of the Goodyear staff that they decided to give the spots to us! I could not have been more thrilled; I now had yet another opportunity of a lifetime!!! We woke up early and headed over to the airport again, this time more nervous than excited! We didn’t want to be let down twice in a row. We get all the way to the blimp and are just about ready to board when the generator fails!! Yet another heart wrenching disappointment!! Except this time the amazing Goodyear crew fixed the problem and replaced the generator. Suddenly I found myself headset on, adrenaline running, sitting in the gondola of the Goodyear blimp ready for takeoff!! Finally!!! 

We took off and headed east over Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna Beach!

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Beautiful day to fly! And if you look really hard you can see the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building and launch pads all the way down the coast!

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The coolest shadow I’ve ever seen flying!

 

 

We flew up and down the coast for about an hour, the pilot showed us the difference of flying a blimp in a headwind versus a tailwind. In a headwind the blimp practically hovers, making it ideal for shooting events like the Daytona 500! To my surprise the ride was extremely smooth, we were able to move around the gondola and take pictures of the beach, the inlet, the Embry-Riddle campus, and even the speedway!

 

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Special thanks to Deb who made this all possible!

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The last few days were definitely a roller coaster of emotions, but it was one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my life. Not many people get the opportunity to get up so close and personal with the Goodyear blimp, the pilots, and the crew. And even less can say that they have actually taken a flight on one! I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity, and it is all thanks to the amazing reputation and connections that Embry- Riddle has.

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ERAU Alumnus William Bayliss and current Goodyear pilot!

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Dreams really do come true when you least expect it! Its official I can cross a blimp ride off my bucket list! I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and I can’t thank Embry-Riddle and Goodyear enough for this once in a lifetime opportunity!!

Until next time!

-Kealey

Rockets, Racecars, and other fine things

Hello readers, it’s been a while since I’ve shared some stories with you, but let’s catch up!

It’s been a busy first few weeks this semester, mainly because of my new position at The Avion Newspaper, which I believe I mentioned before. I work as the News editor, and I manage the content which we run each week. It’s an honor to do, and I love all the new things it has been teaching me. You can read all of our issues by clicking here

My classes this semester are:

Physics 2, Turbine engines, Crew Resource Management, FMS Systems, and Aviation Legislation. It’s a pretty good variety of subjects and will keep me busy. I’m starting to get to the point in my degree program where the courses are much more specialized.

On to the cool stuff now!

My press badge. SO COOL. In the background is the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

My press badge. SO COOL. In the background is the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

On January 23rd I got the opportunity to drive down to KSC, (or Cape Canaveral, The Kennedy Space center, or whatever you prefer to call it) There, I was covering a rocket launch and had full PRESS accreditation as a reporter from The Avion Newspaper. I went with my managing Editor, Matt Micholowitz. We spent the evening hanging around the press area before we got on the bus to go to NASA static test road to watch the launch. United Launch Alliance was launching their TDRS-L satellite, which is a communications satellite for NASA’s Space Network. The Rocket was a Delta V-401 configuration and launched at 9:33 pm. It was really cold that night, and i was surrounded by a few dozen other anxious photographers waiting to get the perfect shot. My best photo we included in the Avion after I wrote a story on the launch, you can see my photo below. It was so cool to get to attend this launch, and I couldn’t have done it without being involved in The Avion Newspaper.

The Rocket lifts off at 9:33 PM, it lit up the entire area, it was awesome!

The Rocket lifts off at 9:33 PM, it lit up the entire area, it was awesome!

A few days later on the 25th  I got to go to the ROLEX 24, which was a 24 hour Endurance race featuring some of the most powerful supercars in the world. I spent 8 hours at the D  a  y  t  o  n  a    S  p  e  e  d  w  a  y with some other Avion Photographers: Trey Henderson-Editor in Chief, Matt Micholowitz-Managing Editor, Richard Weakly- Advertising Manager, Austin Coffey- Photo Editor, and Lynsay Hurilla-Business Manager.  I held a Canon 60D close and took some great photos!  it was the first time I got to use a professional quality camera and glass. The atmosphere was in an uproar of revving engines and screaming tires. I stayed from early afternoon until late at night, this allowed me to get a great variety of photos at the event.  It was the first time I had been at the track and will not be soon forgotten. I had a blast spending a day there, take a look at my favorite photos below.

A lot of power in this picture!

A lot of power in this picture!

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So as you can see, it’s been quite a ride so far this semester, my opportunities have opened up a lot through being at the Avion. These are the lives of students at ERAU, we get to do incredible things. It’s an honor to share them with you on this blog, as always, you are free to contact me with any questions about flying and life. It’s fulfilling to write this page, but the real value in it for me is when someone contacts me and wants to talk.

I get pretty busy here at school, and sometimes it can feel discouraging. It wears me down. Throughout last week I had a song in my head, it was from Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory. All week long it played over and over:

“If you want to view paradise,

Simply look around and view it,

Anything you want to, do it

Want to change the world?

There’s nothing to it.”

So, you know what I did? I took time in the middle of the day to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory. Sure maybe I had other things to do, but the time i spent refreshed me to get through the week. It was much more important that I was focused and relaxed.  Sometimes you just have to escape into paradise for a while, and that’s what I did. Those words have become sort of a motto for me. If you want to make an impact, then just go do it! don’t let anything hold you back. If you look for the good things in life and take joy in them, you’ll be propelled by that Joy to do things you never felt possible. I’ve done things and gone places while at ERAU that I never imagined I would do.

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Please email me at wilkinsz@my.erau.edu if you have any questions or just want to talk to someone about ERAU.

 

A banner tower circled above us for most of the daytime. I couldn't resist snapping a photo.

A banner tower circled above us for most of the daytime while at the 24. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo.

 

 

The best advice you could ever take

Hello Readers!

 I hope the New Year has been a good one for you so far. There are many exciting new things happening on campus to kick off the New Year. Our campus has been graced with a beautiful new building, the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS). I took a walk through it on this past Monday and what a sight it is! Five stories of the most modern classrooms and labs you’ll see, topped with the largest collegiate telescope in Florida. I have a physics class in the building and I’m quite certain it will be my favorite class simply due to its location there.

The New College of Arts and Sciences

If I could provide the best advice for success while at Embry-Riddle it would be summed up in one simple phrase…

Get involved!

Here at ERAU there is a wealth of resources available to students who are willing to go after them. 2013 was a transformative year for me at Embry-Riddle simply because I decided to do more with my time here on campus. It all began with the decision to pick up an election packet for a Student Government Association position. I was unsure of my place within Embry-Riddle and I didn’t know where I really fit in. With the election packet, I was tasked with gathering 50 signatures from the student body and writing a short essay. It was hard to ask students to support me in something I wasn’t totally certain of myself–but I did it anyway, I knew It was the right choice for me to get involved.

After a few weeks and some basic campaigning I was a student elected SGA official, specifically, a Representative for the College of Aviation.

With SGA involvement follows the opportunity to enhance student life at Embry-Riddle through the provision of services, events, and representation while providing a means for students to address issues with the administration. With my position I gained many exciting opportunities to meet staff on campus, interact with students, and do neat things I would have otherwise missed out on.

“Think of Embry-Riddle as being like a large buffet, you should chew and absorb as much as you can in your time here”

By far my favorite (and most tiring) part of 2013 was Fall orientation. From waking up at 6am to help signup new flight students for flight badges, to helping set up a dance party in the student center past midnight—I got to be an essential part of new students first days on campus. And it was a blast! What followed throughout my first semester was an expansion of my experiences and opportunities so fulfilling that I cannot even recount it all.

But that wasn’t all. I also took interest in The Avion Newspaper, which is the campus news outlet and a branch of our Student Government. Again, I was unsure if it was the right place for me to get involved but I attended meetings anyway, just to see what it was like. I wrote my first article in the paper and attended my first production on a Sunday afternoon to layout the paper. I wrote another article, and then another. I couldn’t seem to get enough, I loved what I was doing there, and the other staff members were very welcoming to me. By semester’s end I was among the top contributors to the paper, and I was offered a position as News Editor for Spring 2014. I took it.

 

 

 

 

My simple decision to get involved on campus with SGA led me down a path to many more neat experiences which have enriched my life here at ERAU. Through my experiences I was even able to acquire this blog writing position. It’s a truly humbling opportunity which I don’t deserve. Through this blog I get to interact with many prospective students like you and tell you about this great University.  Embry-Riddle has so much to offer you even beyond  its incredible degree programs. I encourage you to take a look into what is offered here, then come schedule a visit. Don’t let doubts hold you back, there could be a world of opportunities just beyond the next hill. There was for me.

You are always welcome to contact me with any questions, I am greatly encouraged by email feedback  wilkinsz@my.erau.edu

“You always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” — Wayne Gretsky