A Riddle Student’s Spring Break!

Spring Break 2014 is a wrap from all of us here at ERAU!  I just wanted to have a short “photo” blog on what an “ERAU Student Spring Break” might look like…

Inflight meal service via Biscoff cookies is a must on ANY flight!

Inflight meal service via Biscoff cookies is a must on ANY flight!  Enroute to Sebring, Florida for the 12 Hour race night practice to kick off spring break.

Flying with my dad and girlfriend is always a great time!  Here we are enroute to Muncie, Indiana from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Flying with my dad and girlfriend is always a great time! Here we are enroute to Muncie, Indiana from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I had a few chances to go flying over break and my dad's 1950 Piper PA20 Pacer was exercised quite a bit!
I had a few chances to go flying over break and my dad’s 1950 Piper PA20 Pacer was exercised quite a bit!

Descending into ATL from IND on a Delta A320.

Descending into ATL from IND on a Delta A320.


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!

rolex2 rolex3 rolex4

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.


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.



Weather… or not?

Hey there readers, stop scrolling and remain here for a spell.

Some of the most difficult choices  I’ve had to make as a flight student here at Riddle are when it comes down to the classic “Go or no-go” decision. Sometimes, it can be a very daunting task. If conditions for safe flight are not prevailing, then  your instructor will cancel the flight for weather. If conditions are fair, but not conducive to a productive flight (Such as scattered clouds at 2,000 when ground ref is to be done, or 20 kt gusting winds when your soft-field landings need work) your instructor will cancel the flight for weather.
Or worse, they will leave the weather decision for you to make.

Of course, I am only kidding. Making decisions for yourself as a pilot is the best way to prepare yourself for being a top quality Aeronautical Decision Maker. It puts a lot more pressure on you as a flight student when you have to make the call. I remember myself thinking of all of the variables in such a decision:

  •  An urge to complete the activity, a desire to progress to an end. —Impatience.
  •  A fear of making the wrong decision and being forced to turn back, the wasted money and time. —A potential for real risk.
  • An uncertainty of my instructors intentions, does he think we can go but just wants to hear me say it? is it a test?  —A pressured decision.

To say the ultimate truth, being a pilot is far more than just flying the plane…

Professional pilots are Decision Makers.

Aeronautical Decision Making is defined as a systematic approach to the mental process used by aircraft pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances.


So, Moving on…

“Yeah, I got weathered today” — ERAU flight students, thousands of times a year.

It happens to the lot of us and It is not uncommon for students to get backed up pretty far in their training due to cancellations for weathered activities. It’s really easy for frustration to set in. As a private student with a mid-morning flight block in the Fall of 2011, I experienced my fair share of cancellations. I believe I stopped counting after 20 or so. The uncontrollable external circumstances led to an internal struggle for me with confidence in the airplane.

At the cost of being very cliché, let me extend a healthy invitation for you  to weather the storms you may encounter in life. Though you may feel blinded by zero visibility with nothing around you but stinging rain and shattering lightning, the storm will always pass. When I look back on the storms in my life I see the growth I have sustained due to those experiences and how I was sharpened and improved by them. Long ago a wise man wrote in a book  that as Gold is refined through fire, a man is refined by his experiences in life. And surely I can attest to this fact.

When storms roll in, I find assurance in taking a long-term perspective

Here at Embry-Riddle you will have the resources to bring you far in life as long as you aspire to work hard each day and weather the storms when they build. Looking back at myself as a freshman student pilot who barely knew what the parts of an airplane were I’m amazed at how far I’ve come in  a short two years. I keep in mind the fact that I will always be a student of the skies and there will be more to learn with each change in the winds. The future is truly bright.

An action Point: Being a weather minor at ERAU and a member of humanity, I must add that we be mindful of the current relief efforts in the Philippines during the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Those people have gotten the brunt of nature’s effects and need help. If you feel compelled, please consider donating to relief efforts. You can find many organizations to donate to with a quick google search

Thank you for reading, I wish you a pleasant day

God’s blessings be with thee.

You may always contact me at wilkinsz@my.erau.edu with questions or if you just want to get to know me.

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.