A License to Learn


Posing with My check pilot after completion of in-house checkride on Halloween Day. The mask WAS NOT worn in-flight.


Hey there readers, I hope you are doing well:

I write to you as a newly certificated Commercial Pilot! I completed the DE checkride process on the 20th of last month and it was quite an adventure. The Commercial certificate is where you take everything you’ve learned and polish it to a professional shine. The desire is to get paid for flying one day after all!

Next I will be beginning my Flight Instructor Course (CFI). I will be staying some extra time into Christmas break to get a head start on it. The Flightline is open until the 24th. I’m staying until the 20th.

Right now we are entering the final week of regular classes here in Daytona, and everyone’s eyes are glazing over at the amount of work ahead of us. Or is that just me? I currently have two classes with grades right on the B/A margin and it’s the most aggravating feeling. I have to Ace two final tests to make those B’s become A’s. A wise man once said that the private certificate is a license to learn.Therefore, everything that proceeds from that is continual pursuit of aeronautical knowledge. Remember what I spoke of in a previous post about being a Student of the Skies? Learning never stops in an aircraft, no matter the pilot’s level of experience.

Single-Engine Commercial Course at ERAU (FA321 P141)

You will fly two aircraft: CE-172 NAV III    and the    PA-28r-201

  •  Stalls and slowflight are re-visited, with the addition of accelerated stalls and Spin Awareness. Note: Your stalls will be recovered at the onset of a buffet, full stalls are not practiced per the Commercial PTS.
  •  A new ground reference maneuver is introduced: Eight’s on Pylons in the Cessna.
  • Three new Performance maneuvers are done: Chandelles, Steep Spirals, and Lazy-Eight’s to accompany your steep turns.
  • Our old friends,  the short and soft field takeoffs and landings are demonstrated again in the PA-28r. You will have 100 feet to make your point, reduced from 200 feet in the Private PTS.
  • Pilotage and Deduced Reckoning, Use of Navigation systems and Radar Services, Lost Procedures, and a Diversion will be redone,  refined, and re-tested from your Private level of experience.
  • Emergency Operations are practiced: You will demonstrate an Emergency Decent, a Simulated Emergency Approach to landing, and the fabled Power off 180° (short approach) in the Arrow. You will also  brush up on your knowledge of survival gear.
  • New Aeronautical Knowledge of High-Altitude operations, Pressurization, Oxygen systems, Complex gear and prop systems, FAR’s, and Commercial Pilot Privileges will be added to the knowledge from your Instrument and Private course.
  • Yes, you still have to know all the past subjects, and in finer detail!
  • The End of Course process is L  e  n  g  t  h  y  !  After a successful Pre-prog Oral, Cessna flight, and Arrow flight; you will be signed off for Checkride. First  There is an ‘In-house’ checkride process which includes an Oral, a Cessna, and Arrow flight with an ERAU check Airman. After completion of the inhouse, you graduate Embry-Riddle’s Commercial flight course. But you must then pass a Designated Examiner Checkride (DE) In order to get your actual certificate from the FAA. It will cover all of the same material and maneuvers as the Inhouse but with a Certified Examiner outside of the Embry-Riddle culture. If you  passed once with Riddle, you can do it again. The DE’s are really neat guys, I had Ken Luckett. Once you pass the DE, you are a commercial pilot, and will enjoy the satisfaction of being handed your signed certificate then and there.

I started working on my Commercial Rating over the Summer, so it’s been a long process and I’m very satisfied with the result. I can’t wait to see what more lies in  store for me through the Flight Instructor course. Now I’ll get the opportunity to practice teaching something that is close to my heart. It is that shared experience of piloting an aircraft that keeps props turning here at Embry-Riddle. The love of flying and the desire to do it for life is what drives our Eagles to soar.

Are you thinking of looking into ERAU? well I implore you to take your first step right now.  Send me an email with any questions you have and I can point you in the right direction.





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.