My Experience at Northrop Grumman as a Freshman

by Devon Kisfalvi

A picture of me at Willow Lake near the Embry-Riddle Campus.

My name is Devon Kisfalvi and I’m a part of the class of 2023. My major is Electrical Engineering with a minor in Systems Engineering. My amazing internship experience started January of 2020 before the start of the Spring 2020 semester. This internship wouldn’t have been possible without Embry-Riddle. I had just finished my first semester of freshman year, and became a member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Club on campus. Through them I was able to get a membership with IEEE, learn about the 2020 IEEE Rising Stars Conference, and was able to attend. There I saw Northrop Grumman had set up a table. I went over and introduced myself, and after talking with them they asked for a resume. One of the managers from the Gilbert, AZ office who was at the conference offered me a summer internship.

The internship started May 2020 and was amazing! Even though coronavirus affected most of the in-person events being held, Northrop Grumman was able to still offer multiple opportunities for the interns to meet people and learn more about the company. During my internship I was working with the avionics team on two different projects. The first was working with the internal research and development team on looking for new parts to improve one of the critical systems of a satellite project. This research involved replacing one of the components that would have to be specifically constructed to meet the requirements set by Northrop Grumman and NASA. I communicated with a handful of companies that manufacture those components to ensure that they would meet Northrop Grumman’s and NASA’s requirements.

The second task I worked on with my mentor was collecting documentation for the Landsat 9 (L9) team on the Integrated Electronics Module (IEM) focusing on End Item Data Package (EIDP), which is the final stage of after environmental testing. The documents that needed to be included were parts lists, assembly drawings, among other reports.

Construction of the Landsat 9 at Northrop Grumman.

Even though I was just a freshman, the relevant coursework I have taken so far helped me out a lot, like Intro to Engineering (EGR 101), Digital Circuit (CEC 220), and Digital Circuit Design (CEC 222). EGR 101 has helped develop my teamwork skills to effectively communicate and work with teams of any size. CEC 220 helped me understand the coding of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), logic of electrical circuits, and how logic circuits connect to create complex devices. CEC 222 helped me understand the basic components of electrical circuits and how they worked. All these classes helped me with my internship.

The Landsat 9 that I worked on at Northrop Grumman.

Even though you might only be a freshman there is still a possibility for you to be able to do an internship with a company. One thing that employers look for is how you act and how you present yourself. One key aspect is communication, both verbal and written. Anyone can come up with amazing ideas, but you need to be able to communicate them. You also will most likely be working with teams of people and you need to be able to communicate with your team to be successful. You also have to remember how you present yourself to employers. You must be professional, but you also must be yourself. Go into any possible situation with a smile and make sure to introduce yourself. Start a conversation with them. For example, you could ask a question about the company or something specific that interests you. This shows that you are interested in their company, and leads them to asking you questions about yourself. Embry-Riddle has helped me out so much and as you stay open and professional, anything is possible.

Internship During the Times of COVID

by Stephen Mouhanna

My name is Stephen Mouhanna and I am a Senior majoring in Software Engineering. This past summer I got the awesome opportunity to intern with Microsoft as a Software Engineer in the Cloud and AI Security Group. I was born and raised in Washington State, growing up 10 miles from Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters. As a Senior in the Software Engineering program at ERAU, working as a developer for Microsoft is a dream occupation for me.

Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, Washington

I belong to an organization known as Lime Connect which partners with companies in providing scholarships and internship opportunities for high school Seniors and college students. Microsoft is one of those partners and they reached out to me through email. They said after reviewing my resume, they thought I would be a good fit for their internship program and if I were interested, I should apply. I did and a couple weeks later they scheduled an online test to check my coding skills. If you pass this test, then you move onto a phone interview. The phone interview mainly consisted of questions regarding why I am interested in working with Microsoft and what I know about the company. At the end of the interview the recruiter asked me two tech related questions. Both questions involved me explaining a certain piece of technology. The first question was no issue, but the second was to explain what threads are and what they are used for in a computer. I was honest in my reply stating that I did not know the answer, however I made sure to mention that I would be taking an operating system’s class during the Fall semester where I would learn about threads. The recruiter seemed happy with that answer and told me that I would hear back on my results in just a couple weeks. A couple weeks eventually turned into a month and I was starting to wonder if I would ever hear back but finally I got a message in my inbox informing me that they would be interested in doing a second round of interviews with me; this time in person at their headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

I was overjoyed with the news. To prepare for the next round of interviews that was just a couple weeks away I got the book Cracking the Coding Interview. This book breaks down interviews by company and what questions are typically asked by that company. It was a great buy because several of the technical questions I was asked were directly out of the book. this was all extremely exciting because this was the first time that a company has flown me anywhere. I was contacted by the Microsoft Travel team which organized everything I would need for a round-trip flight and two-night stay in Washington State. After I confirmed my travel plans with Microsoft, I then spoke with my professors about the class time that I would be missing and makeup work.

I was nervous the morning of my interviews when I arrived at Microsoft Building 111. I spent some time with the other recruits at a pre-interview breakfast. While we ate the organizers talked about the company and what to expect throughout the day. After breakfast, each interviewee was assigned a room where the interviews would take place. We would spend about an hour with one interviewer and then the interviewers would rotate to another person. I was interviewed by four different employees that all worked for the same group. Two of the employees asked questions about me and my background and the other two asked me more technical questions that involved me writing code on a whiteboard that was in the room. When writing code on the board we could write in any programming language that we wanted. Most of the other interviewees chose to write their code in Python, I decided to go with C# as that what I was most familiar with and I knew that it was the main language used by many Microsoft developers. All in all, the interviews took about 6 hours from arrival to leaving the building with breakfast and lunch included.

I flew back to Arizona satisfied with my performance during my interviews. I was told that I would hear back in about two weeks. Luckily, I only had to wait about three days when I got a call from my recruiter congratulating me on my job offer. All I had to do to accept it was go to Microsoft’s career site and sign the document digitally. I worked with my recruiter to flesh out some details such as start date and I could relax for the rest of the school year knowing I had a job for the summer.

Not long after accepting my offer I was assigned the team I would spend the summer working with. I was contacted by the team manager who wanted to introduce me to the team briefly over a video call. Since I was going back to Washington State for Christmas break, I suggested that maybe we could do an in-person meeting instead. They thought it was a great idea and I got to have lunch with the team in one of the Microsoft cafeterias. My mentor from the team gave me some documentation for a tool that I would be using to review before I came back for the summer. They also gave me a tour of the building that I would be working in.

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to work on the Microsoft campus because the pandemic began before my start date. Microsoft employees were ordered to work from home beginning in mid-March and they still haven’t returned. Currently they have a tentative return date of January 2021. A decision was made to move the internship program to remote internships. This caused managers to scramble to reinvent how an internship was done. Interns who were not living in Canada or the United States would lose their internships for this summer and for those close to graduating they would be put into the system to be considered for hiring.

When Embry-Riddle went to online classes in March 2020, I decided to move home to Washington State to finish my classes and do my internship. In April, I was contacted by my mentor on the team and we kept in touch via email until my start date when he could officially talk to me over Microsoft Teams. All my computer hardware was shipped to me prior to my start date. The team administrator had sent me an email notifying me to be on the lookout for a box of components to be delivered within two weeks of my start date. Every time a package would come to the door I would run down and interrogate whoever had brought the package in if it was coming from Microsoft or not. The box of hardware happened to arrive only a day or so before I was due to start, resulting in many points of false hope at seeing a delivery truck pull up to the house only for it not to be the package I’d been anticipating.

Opening my hardware shipment.

The hardware I was given included a Microsoft Surface, docking station, a nice monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I worked with my mentor who helped me get oriented with the code base and threw in some useful tips about the tools I would be using. There were some minor hiccups relating to being remote but overall, it was a smooth on-boarding process.

My team had one meeting every day where we would talk about what our plan was for that day. My end goal for the summer was to create a data aggregation and insights tool so that my team could better understand how our service was being utilized. I would work with my mentor, talking with him every few days, creating a road map on how to reach this goal. My first task was to access the usage data for our service using CosmosDb. Once I could access the data, I would have to present the data on our website. From there I gradually added insights on the data, which compiled useful information about the data.

Doing the back-end of the website was easy for me because it was all done in C#, however I do wish I had known more JavaScript before my internship. JavaScript would have been a huge help adding more functionality to the website and would have given me more tools for adding graphics to the site like various charts.

I got to learn about a lot of tools that typical software developers use. One of these tools being Key Vault which is used as a way to access what we call “secrets” in code. A secret is a string that we don’t want just anyone to have access to. A typical secret would be something like a connection string to a database or an authorization key. one last interesting tool was our internal deployment visualizer. This tool is my favorite by far. Not because it’s a particularly interesting tool but because watching my service deployment progress gave me an intense feeling of satisfaction and pride to know that I was able to contribute something meaningful to a company as important in the tech field as Microsoft.

Visualization of the Deployment of my Service

The last week of my internship was a busy week of what is called “Intern Check-Out”. This included recording myself giving a PowerPoint presentation of my project since we were unable to meet in person. The Leadership Team viewed the intern presentations then we were assigned a Q&A session with the Leadership Team. Since we didn’t know what questions were going to be asked, we needed to be prepared and make sure our projects worked so we could demonstrate them. Check-out time also included reviews from my manager and my mentor. I was given feedback on my strengths and weaknesses. Then my manager gave me an invitation to come back next summer and intern with them again. I immediately said yes but I was warned it was up to HR if I could return to the same team even though my manager put in a request for my return to them. I have committed to returning to Microsoft, but they will not tell me where I have been assigned until later this Fall.

During my internship I applied and was accepted into the Microsoft Student Ambassador Program. If you are interested in a software engineering position at Microsoft please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to expand on my experience or help you in applying for your own Microsoft internship. You can reach out to me at StephenMo@studentambassadors.com.

A Great Start to Senior Year

by Bria Booth

Hello everyone! Summer has finally ended. This year, I felt so ready to get back into classes. It’s been about six months since I’ve been able to see friends and learn in a classroom. I moved back to Prescott two weeks ago to celebrate my friend Vee’s birthday.

Our freshman year, Vee and I lived in the same dorm! We met on the “Schools App” a few months before move-in and got to know each other. Though we don’t live together anymore, she’s become one of my closest friends. The people that I met my freshman year are all so important to me. We’ve grown and faced challenges together. Our friend Grace falls into that same category. She was a part of my orientation group, and we ended up getting along really well. Grace and Vee have been my family while away from home. We all made sure to socially distance before seeing each other in person. We’ve been keeping to pretty small social circles during the summer, so it was nice to be able to hang out with friends.

To celebrate Vee’s birthday, we visited Grace’s parents in Tubac. We spent a few relaxing days there swimming, looking after newly acquired plants, and making pizza. When we got back to Prescott, Vee planned a socially distanced birthday outing with a larger group of friends. We all brought blankets and masks and shared stories from summer.

Classes are quite a bit different than last year. About half the time, I meet with my class online, and when classes are in-person, we sit at every other chair. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t going to be an odd semester, but I’m really looking forward to my classes. So far, I’m the most excited about my Capstone. Yesterday we were assigned our groups and projects. I’ll be working on Attitude Reaction Wheels. Our group is picking up where a capstone team from last year left off.

At Embry-Riddle in Prescott, an Engineers Capstone project takes two semesters. The first is focused on Preliminary Design and the second is Detail Design. The goal is to have a prototype built by the end of our senior year. It’s still hard for me to believe that I’ve started work on the biggest project of my four years at Embry-Riddle.

Over the last week, I’ve had so many people reach out about my first blog post! I’m happy to see that so many people seem to be excited about it. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences on campus, but I’d also love to hear from you about what you’d like to hear about. Feel free to comment on this blog post with subjects you’d like me to write about!

Honeywell Urban Air Mobility

By Henrik Hoffmann

Hi, I am Henrik Hoffmann a rising Aerospace Engineering senior, and during my junior year I had the privilege to work on the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) project with Embry-Riddle’s Undergraduate Research Institute (URI), which was sponsored by Honeywell Aerospace for the fall and spring semester. Through the support of the URI, Dr. Johann Dorfling, and with the support of Honeywell engineers, UAMs flight testing and data analysis started at the end of our summer internship and is planned to finish during the 2020 fall semester.

The purpose of this project for my junior school year and summer internship was to characterize the power requirements, climb profile, and descent profile capabilities of various simulated UAMs. I also helped define required UAM flight capabilities, most efficient flight paths, and UAM limitations. Multiple configurations and concepts of UAM aircraft are being proposed, designed, and built by a variety of companies such as Airbus, Joby Aviation, Kitty Hawk, Lilium, Terrafugia, Uber Air, VA-1X and Volocopter. Concepts for these UAMs include multirotor, fixed wing, and rotating rotor wing designs.

Me (third from right) with the rest of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University UAM Team after presenting to the Honeywell representatives.

To join this project, our team had to submit a resume and letter of recommendation to Honeywell to get an interview. Our team consists of six Embry-Riddle students, our mentor Dr. Dorfling, as well as multiple Honeywell engineers. The major job of our first semester was to submit a survey to Honeywell that included a design of our drone, flight test plans, wind tunnel test plans, and a characterization of our drone compared to previous UAM designs. During the second semester we built our UAM, and 3-D printed a compartment designed to better help predict and characterize UAMs similar to ours.

Due to Covid-19, our project was not finished over the school year and got pushed into our summer internship. As a result, our internship was conducted virtually, and our project’s progress was slowed. But over the summer, small test flights took place along with error analysis, and I worked with Honeywell Aerospace’s Electrical Power Group in Torrance, California on the Next Generation Jammer Program (NGJ). My work with the NGJ tested mid band as well as low band performance calculation of the Ram Air Turbines Generation (RATG).

Over this summer of 2020, Bell conducted the first customer flight test of UAM designs our team worked on, and I can see where the research my team and I are doing will be implemented in the future. Our team’s UAM project will continue over the 20/21 school year and will include our first test flight. That will allow us to analyze the data to predict the optimal flight takeoff and landing paths for our UAM design. The upcoming Honeywell UAM Team will include a mix of returning team members as well as new juniors to finish off the project. Once our project is finished up the same process will be restarted with another UAM type, and could include multirotor, fixed wing, or rotating rotor designs.

Our visit to the Honeywell location in Deer Valley, Ariz.

The experiences I gained with my team and during my summer internship has been amazing. Working on this project has allowed me to apply what I have learned from the classroom and to see how our work will change transportation around the world. Our internship has also allowed me to experience Honeywell’s corporate environment and further my understanding of UAM. I have enjoyed this project and would highly recommend this opportunity to anyone!

The Road to Senior Year

by Bria Booth

Hello! My name is Bria Booth. I am an Aerospace Engineering and Systems Engineering student at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus. I’m excited to say that I will be a student blogger during my senior year! While our fall semester will be quite a bit different than usual (social distancing, hybrid classrooms, and masks), I look forward to telling you all about it while sharing some of my favorite stories from the last three years.

Next year, I’ll be Member Development Vice President of Alpha Xi Delta (one of our campus’s sororities), Editor-in-Chief of the campus newspaper, and working on my Capstone project. Three things that I’ve been hoping for and looking forward to since my first year on campus. Even though the year is shaping up to be quite a bit different than I would have expected three years ago, I’m excited for everything that I have planned.

Now that I’m entering my last undergraduate fall semester I’m ready to get back to the classroom. I won’t lie, it’s been nice to have time to slow down and de-stress over the last few months. My summer has been slower than expected, but I wouldn’t call it un-eventful. I’m working on a virtual musical, fostering kittens, and taking online classes. I’ve done my best to stay busy and connected with friends and my community while staying safe.

I may be an engineering student, but in high school and middle school, I was a committed thespian. Whenever I’m home, I volunteer at the children’s theater that I grew up participating in. I’ve assistant directed, assistant choreographed, and stage-manged for several of their productions since I’ve left the stage. Their adult company is working on a virtual performance of In The Heights, which I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. It’s always been important to me to find a creative outlet when I’m stressed, so this show couldn’t have come at a better time.

I started fostering kittens for spcaLA a few years ago, and it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I take anywhere between 1 and kittens and get to teach them to play and snuggle. Honestly, there are no downsides. I got the call from spcaLA that they had a kitten for me the day that I finished my spring finals. Since then, I’ve had 4 kittens come through my house this summer. Right now, I’m looking after a little black and white ball of fluff named Chai. He’s one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever met, and the perfect foster to finish the summer on.

I’ve had a lot of fun things to do this summer, but it was important to me that I was doing something productive while stuck at home. Through Embry-Riddle Worldwide, I’m taking Chemistry, Chemistry Lab, and Probability and Statistics online. When I added a Systems Engineering Minor to my track, my schedule got a bit cramped. I chose to take classes during a few of my summers so that I would still be able to graduate in four years. Embry-Riddle has made it so easy to do because of the options for online learning. My academic advisor helped me walk through my 4-year plan and map out what could be taken over summer to best free up time during the school year.

I am looking forward to next year, whatever challenges it may bring. It is so crazy to think that I am (hopefully) just two semesters away from graduation! I still can’t believe that I’ve been able to get through the last three years. It really doesn’t feel like it has been that long.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll come back to this blog as I write about my senior year as an Aerospace Engineering student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott Campus!

Top Outdoor Spots on Campus

by Richard Santi

The Embry-Riddle Prescott Campus is covered with absolutely beautiful scenery. What’s even better is the fact that we get over 300 days of beautiful weather in Prescott. On any given day, students love to sit outside and socialize, do homework, or merely sit and enjoy the outdoors. There are a number of awesome spots on campus that provide nice outdoor spots to sit and enjoy the day.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Quad

One of the awesome parts about going to school here is that we have Wi-Fi coverage on pretty much the whole campus. If you want to do work on the grass or by the benches that are perfectly sun protected with awnings, you absolutely can! Though most people like to use the quad to throw the frisbee around or host some other recreational event when the weather is nice (which is pretty much all the time).

Center of Campus

We have a beautiful green space right in the center of a number of classrooms. A lot of students will hang out and socialize here until the next class starts. The large trees nearby make for great shade! There are a number of campus services located nearby, including the Cashier’s Office, Mailroom, Campus Safety, and our barbershop on campus known as the Hairport!

The Patio

Right outside of our STEM Education Center, we have a beautiful new patio that is great for hanging out with friends and waiting for the next class to start. It is covered with beautiful trees and has nice new benches that face each other so that you and your friends can interact!

Outside of AXFAB

Our Aerospace Experimentation and Fabrication Building is used by our Aerospace Engineers to complete their capstone projects. On the outside of the building, we have a large propeller which comes from a Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was one of four propellers mounted at the same height it would be on the actual aircraft. It makes a pretty stunning sight to sit at one of the benches outside looking right up to it.

Patio Outside Student Union

Underneath the Embry-Riddle colored awnings outside of the Jack R. Hunt Student Union, we have an awesome patio area that is used by a lot of different student groups and organizations to host events. It is also a great place to eat lunch after going to our World of Wings Cafe or our Rocket Deli & Salads, both located right inside of our Student Union!

Arizona Adventures

by Richard Santi

A beautiful Prescott sky during monsoon season!

Hello again!

Prescott is home to one of the most unique cultures in America with old shops, saloons, beautiful trails and outdoor scenery unlike anywhere else. The old west charm and multitude of possible activities make Prescott an ideal place to explore, and a great location to fill your free time with fun adventures. Embry-Riddle truly has a great hometown.

Every once in a while, it can be fun to get out of town and explore the surrounding area, and Prescott lies in the very middle of numerous attractions that make great day or weekend trips. I want to share with you some of my favorites!

Jerome, Arizona

45 Minutes from Campus

Nestled on the side of Mingus Mountain, this old western mining town will bring you back to the prospecting days of the 1800s. Truly what is in my opinion one of the most unique treasures of the West, you can walk the streets totally unaware of what century you are in. It is home to numerous shops and great restaurants and is supposedly one of the most haunted cities in America! You could spend an entire day there, or even just drive in for dinner.

Sedona, Arizona

1 Hour 20 Minutes from Campus

The beautiful red rocks of Sedona make for a fantastic nature trip.

The red rocks of Sedona are probably one of the prettiest sighs you’ll see in the whole country. The unique geological formations are perfect for a cool nature hike, or any other outdoor activity. Everywhere you go, there is not a bad view. You could easily drive over and spend a couple hours taking it all in with your friends. Us pilots are especially lucky as one of our practice areas includes Sedona!

Scottsdale/Phoenix, Arizona

1 Hour 45 Minutes from Campus

If you are looking for some big-city fun, Scottsdale sits just on the northeast end of Phoenix and is home to fun restaurants, shopping malls, museums, and much more. Embry-Riddle students are incredibly fortunate to go to school in one of the prettiest natural areas of the nation with large mountains, forests, and beautiful prairies. However if you area city person, or are even simply craving a city adventure, America’s largest state capital is just a short journey away from campus.

Payson, Arizona

1 Hour 54 Minutes from Campus

On the ground at the beautiful Payson airport. A perfect destination for pilots.

This one is mostly for the pilots, as it’s a short flight. You could make it there in about 30-45 minutes, and the airport has a fantastic diner! You could rent a plane and easily make the trip with your friends to have a great breakfast while watching planes land. An added bonus is the beautiful forest that surrounds the town.

Grand Canyon National Park

2 Hours from Campus

One of the seven natural wonders of the world is just two hours from campus.

Perhaps one of the most amazing sights you’ll ever see is just a couple hours north of campus. It’s a great location for a day trip with friends, and there is simply nothing like it. Enough said.

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

3 Hours 9 Minutes from Campus

Lake Havasu will give you the feeling that you are on a different planet!

Arizona is a desert state, but if you like water-skiing and other water related activities, there’s all of that and more in Lake Havasu. It is one of the quintessential spring break locations. The town has unique resorts and restaurants, and it is a popular flying destination for pilots.

Tucson, Arizona / Pima Air & Space Museum

3 Hours 18 Minutes from Campus

Some of the world’s coolest airplanes are on display just a few hours south of campus.

If you are looking for a cool aviation-themed getaway, the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson will make a great day or weekend trip. There is a large indoor and outdoor display with some of the industry’s most iconic airplanes.

There are many other locations around Prescott that make great adventures. These are just a few of my personal favorites. In Arizona you can make your own adventures, as every town and every mountain has its own cool charm. Adventure awaits you here at Embry-Riddle!

A Flight Team Saturday: Grading Landings

by Richard Santi

One of the best parts about being on the Flight Team is our landings practice which takes place every Saturday, starting bright and early in the morning! We start the day by driving in a van out to runway 21R at the Prescott Regional Airport. We have special permission from the airport authority to put tape down on the runway and mark our “box.” This is the area we will be trying to land the aircraft. One line stretches across the runway, which is known as the “zero line,” and is the exact point we are trying to have our wheels touch down on. One hundred feet short of this line marks being out of bounds short, and two hundred feet long of this line marks being out of bounds long.  

An airport employee safely escorts us out on to the runway and we place markers along each of these lines plus smaller markers to help us determine the distance between them.

The competition landings event is pretty straightforward. The pilot flies two laps in the pattern making two landings, trying to get the wheels to touch down as close as possible to the zero line. For every foot that the pilot is off the line, that is one point (points are bad)! It is actually split up in to two different events: Power-On and Power-Off landings. They are very similar with one minor difference. In the Power-On event, the pilot initially pulls power, and cannot add any power, but can keep some power in, gradually decreasing it until landing. In the Power-Off event, the pilot must completely pull all power while abeam the touchdown point and cannot add it back in without getting a penalty.

The “Power Off landings more or less mimic the “Power-Off 180” maneuver practiced by commercial pilots.

In addition to making an accurate landing, there is a very long list of potential penalties a pilot can get in the landing event. Some of these penalties have to do with the energy of the aircraft, some have to do with how the pilot flies the traffic pattern, and some have to do with how the pilot actually touches down on the runway. These penalties make the event incredibly challenging and force the pilot to fly very accurately. 

After marking the lines on the runway, we will next bring out our two Cessna 150s, known as “Eagle 1” and “Eagle 2.” Throughout the day we take turns going into the aircraft and flying our respective slots. When we aren’t flying, we stand beside the runway with clipboards grading our teammates. Usually one person films the landing so we can slow the video down, looking exactly where the wheels touched to get an accurate reading. It is hard to see the exact distance with the naked eye, as in one second the airplane travels about 80 feet.

Most of our grading is looking for penalties and marking them on our grade sheets if we see them.

We of course learn a lot about flying by getting practice ourselves in the airplane. Doing competition landings really helps the pilot to get a heightened sense of how accurate his or her flying is. Being even just a little bit sloppy will result in massive points off of penalties and distance. I have to say, however, that spending much of the day watching other people land and seeing the view of a landing aircraft externally can be really helpful. As a pilot, you do all of your flying with an inside view, seeing references based on how the cockpit glareshield looks compared the horizon and reading your instruments. It’s easy to forget how the aircraft is actually flying. 

Standing out on that field by the runway below a beautiful Arizona sky, watching an airplane make its downwind to base turn, and seeing how the wings gracefully glide through the air has given me different perspective on flying. Every control input the pilot makes will not only pitch the airplane up and down, or roll it left or right, but it will change the energy state of the aircraft in a very significant way. I look forward to every Saturday for this reason, wondering what awesome flying experience I will have. 

Just an Average Day…

by Richard Santi

Hello again! As a Flight Student at Embry-Riddle, I wanted to share with you what my average day looks like. I can honestly say that no two days are the same, and from week to week I am constantly working on a new challenge in flight training or classwork, so it is pretty hard to try and formulate an “average day”. For help, I went back and consulted the calendar on my cell phone where I keep my basic daily schedule. This day is modeled after a random Wednesday this past January.

8:30am-10:00am Flying Eagle Two!

I wake up as I do on most days when I am flying with a bit of extra excitement, though nowadays that happens about five or six days a week. My practice slot for flying Eagle Two starts promptly at 8:30am. As much as I love coffee, it is dehydrating so I will wait for my morning cup until after I’m done flying. I’ll have just water for now. I want to arrive about 20-30 minutes early so that I can look over the weather and see if there is any specific airport notes for the day. Plus I want plenty of time in the aircraft to make sure I can start my preflight aircraft inspection early.

As a member of the Golden Eagles Flight Team, we get a set amount of practice slots flying our specialty Cessna C150s. Part of our competitions are the competitive landings events, where our goal is to land with our wheels touching down as close as possible to the “zero line” (a line of tape on the runway). My personal record is 4 feet off, so I am still looking to my ultimate goal of touching down perfectly on the line. As simple as that sounds, the real trick to the competition is that there is a multitude of different penalties you can get, all related to not flying a perfect pattern. Penalties such as floating, dragging, ballooning, overshooting, undershooting, plus many more, can all be called against a pilot who does not perfectly manage the aircraft’s position and energy. A lot of practice is required to really nail down the technique. As much fun as it is, the practice slot I have this morning will be hard work requiring a lot of focus and attention.

I do my preflight inspection, hop in and start up. I am able to fit in about 12 landings before I have to call for a full stop. Overall, a productive practice slot.

10:00am-11:00am Heading Over to Campus

I finish my slot at about 10 o’clock and head over to campus. I go to Scholar’s Café in the Library to get one of their delicious cappuccinos… finally getting my morning coffee. I know my day will be a busy one, so I head upstairs and sit in one of the big comfy chairs by a window that overlooks campus for the next 30 minutes to relax and enjoy the view of Granite Mountain out the window. I review my Eagle Slot, thinking about what I could do better for next time.

11:00am-2:00pm Class

My first class of the day is AS.408 which is Flight Safety. During the lecture, we review a couple of different topics, but we spend most of the time reviewing a major aviation accident that occurred in the past few decades. We look at the NTSB report, and meticulously dissect what the pilots did that affected the outcome of that accident, either for good or bad. I leave the lecture with a new perspective on airmanship, as well as a lesson that might save my life one day!

I head to my next class which is AS.380, also known as Pilot Career Planning. Given I am a second semester Junior, it is an appropriate time to start thinking about how to plan for my career. Today we talk about proper etiquette and good strategies to have while doing an interview with an airline. Obviously something that will come in handy!

My last class of the day is AS.405, or Aviation Law. My professor is a licensed Aviation Attorney who always has something very interesting to talk about. In today’s class, we play a fun game of Jeopardy! to review for an upcoming test. One of the topics I find most interesting is federal airspace authority, and how different aviation businesses have gone to court when a state government tried to in some way regulate their flight operations, claiming it a violation of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. I leave class and grab a quick lunch before my next activity!

2:00pm-5:00pm Student Job

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to be a tour guide on campus, working as a Senior Campus Ambassador at our Admissions Office. There are tons of student jobs one can get on campus, from working in one of the academic departments, to one of the business offices, and much more. I have friends who are even dispatchers at the Flight Line! Today I’ll be taking a few families and showing them around our awesome flight department!

5:00pm-7:00pm Homework / Relax

I get off work with a few free hours, so I head on home and grab a snack. Depending on my homework load, I’ll spend the next few hours finishing up some homework assignments and projects, or study for an upcoming exam. However, it has been a long day so I watch a TV show to slow my mind down for a bit first.

7:00pm-8:00pmFlight Team Ground Practice

I had the awesome opportunity to fly Eagle Two this morning, but on the Golden Eagles Flight Team we also compete in ground aviation knowledge, something we are all required to participate in to earn our flying slots. For the next hour, I study some aircraft for our Aircraft Identification event (we also watch a cool airplane video to start each practice). There are roughly 3,000 airplanes in our bank of aircraft we study, so there is a lot of work that goes into keeping them all memorized. There are definitely some interesting facts I’ve learned about certain aircraft that I didn’t know before!

After 8:00pmThe End of the Day

After practice, my roommate Colin (also on the flight team) and I will go home and cook dinner, or we might go out to eat somewhere locally with a couple of friends. After dinner, the rest of the evening’s activities will depend on numerous factors. If I have a busy homework night, that might be what I end up doing, but most of the time I am able to get that done earlier in the day. We’ll usually go over to a friend’s place to hang out and just enjoy the evening. My first class on Thursdays is not until 1:25pm, so normally I might be able to sleep in the next morning. But tomorrow I am going on a training flight with my instructor and we’ll be practicing commercial maneuvers, so I go to bed to make sure I am well rested for the fun day of flying I’ll have tomorrow!

Spread Your Wings at Embry-Riddle

by Richard Santi

Hi Everyone! My name is Richard Santi and I am currently a Senior at Embry-Riddle in Prescott. I am majoring in Aeronautical Science – Fixed Wing, with a minor in Business Administration. On campus, I am a member of our national championship winning Golden Eagles Flight Team, and work as a Senior Campus Ambassador at our Admissions Office (If you come and visit campus, I might be your tour guide)! 

I am incredibly excited to be sharing a bit about my experience at Embry-Riddle with all of you, and will be writing to you regularly, so be sure to check back! I wanted to start off by introducing myself a bit more and sharing with you my journey to Embry-Riddle. I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in the Chicago area. From a young age, my eyes were always turned skyward, and I could only dream of one day working in the cockpit of an airplane. When I was looking at colleges that had aviation programs, only one stood out to me as the very best. I asked different people who were in the aviation business what school they suggested, and the answer was almost unanimous. “Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.” Without a doubt. 

I have always been a Midwesterner. Most of the landscapes I was used to were farms and skyscrapers. But after all, college is a time for adventure and I was very excited to see a new place for a few years, moving to the beautiful mountains of Arizona. I moved to Prescott in the summer of 2017. I only had about 4 flight hours in my logbook; virtually nothing. No real flight training or formal flight education. Despite this, I flew my very first week here. The first lesson was incredibly simple. How to turn the aircraft left and right using proper rudder coordination. I remember feeling very comfortable, knowing this is what I was meant to do, but I also remember the feeling that I had a long way to go.   

As it turns out, a long way is not so long when you are training at Embry-Riddle. Three more years of flight training and now I am a licensed Commercial Pilot. I have over 270 hours of flight time and have flown in collegiate flying competitions. I have a job offer from a major regional airline and plan on starting flight instructor training soon. I have learned about topics I knew pretty much nothing about before coming to college. Extensive details of aircraft systems, how the stability of the atmosphere affects thunderstorms, the detailed aerodynamics of a tailspin… All topics I had literally zero understanding of prior to coming to Embry-Riddle. All of this was done while simultaneously earning a college degree.

The reason I am mentioning all of this is that I wanted to let you all know that as I post my future blogs, I will be explaining in detail all of my cool experiences at Embry-Riddle, whether it is going through flight training, being on the flight team, or hanging out with friends and enjoying all of the awesome scenery that Prescott has to offer. But really, the main point I would like you to take away from my experience is that whatever you do here, you will learn way more than you thought possible. You will gain way more skills than you thought possible, and you will become someone ready to succeed in whatever field you go into. You will do all of it while having a blast! 

I look forward to sharing more with you!