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.