Pilot of the Month- February 2024 Zach Blackburn (blackburn-aviation)

Pilot of the Month- February 2024 Zach Blackburn (blackburn-aviation)

We would like to Introduce you to Mach Coatings Pilot of the Month for January 2024. Zach Blackburn  An up and coming pIlot in aviation. We interviewed him recenlty and asked him what his passion is for aviation.
Read it here or Watch now on our YouTube Channel the full Interview! 

This interview took place on January 29th, 2024 around 8 P.M EST. 

Mach Coatings:
So tell us a little bit about what got you into aviation? 

Zach: It's not the typical story. Everyone's always got the dream story, I grew up dreaming about it, and as a kid, I was into it, but I kind of grew up in a farm family, so it was always kind of like one of those unattainable, I didn't think I could do it kind of things. Another big passion I had was racing cars. So I did automotive racing for four or five years. And the running joke was always like, oh, if I don't end up a professional race car driver, I'll end up a pilot. Well, I kind of hit the point where I'm like, you know, I've never looked that deep into it. Like, what about it? And I kind of started the dig, and I'm like, oh, man, I think I could actually kind of do this, and then I think three months later, I ended up buying a plane and going all in. 

Blackburn Aviation

Mach Coatings: So you did automotive racing before?? Thats really cool!
So what did you race? Did you do starting the kart series, or did you start with full cars? 

Zach: I went from racing dirt bikes as a kid into racing rcs, and then I did that at the national level, and then I was like, well, I can race a toy car. I can race a real car kind of thing. So then my first car was an 85 trans Am. That's now, like, only halfway an 85 trans Am. These days, it's more track car. So I set that up for time trials, like NASA and SCCA. Like time attack racing and hill climbs through the NHA and did that for three, four. 

Mach Coatings: Thats so cool! So what type of training do you have with your licensing so far? What have you passed? 

Zach: So I've just got the Private right now I'm about halfway done with the ground school for the instrument. And then kind of while I'm doing instrument, I'm also just building as much hours as possible because that's all going to count towards the commercial. So it's kind of like whenever I can fly, I'm up in the air. 

Mach Coatings:  So that's the goal? Is to maybe reach out for a commercial license in the future? 

Zach: Yeah. So the end goal is to shoot for medical transport, flying. So whatever I can do to get myself there is what I'm doing. The thing with medical is it's more than a paycheck, I like the work schedule, the seven on, seven off, kind of deal. But also, even beyond that, it's just the helping people, I guess, because the way I grew up is I had an interestingchildhood. And so I like the whole feeling of If I can help people at their worst times its a great feeling. 

Mach Coatings: That is so cool. Its nice to know there are still good people out there who want to help others. With that in mind,  what advice would you give to someone who is considering a career as a pilot? 

Zach: Make sure you're not doing it just for the money, I think would be the big thing, because depending on what you're doing, it can be pretty volatile, like in the job market. But even just beyond that, I mean, at the end of the day, if you're doing it for the money, it's still just a job and you'll end up unhappy at some point. So you really have to love what you're doing. 

Mach Coatings: So what type of challenges did you have when it came to your training? Unexpected issues or anything like that you had to get past? 

Zach: Do you want me to narrow it down a bit? Because I had a very interesting training experience!! So my CFI even said, coming out of it, he's like, well, at least you're well rounded because you've had pretty much every scenario imagined. So living in Oregon, I guess one that was reoccurring is living in Oregon. It rains constantly, and I started my training in end of January last year. And so all through spring was pretty much. I finished my training, started summer. So all through spring was flying in the rain, really like rain and not great weather. And so one reoccurring issue was water. Whether it was water in the pitot-static or water in the fuel or just water. 

So we had issues with water in the fuel on climb out because not all that was able to get sumped out and then your engine is kind of cutting out at 100ft and there's a home depot underneath. You had anything from that? To. My second time soloing, had water in the pedo static and didn't catch it until I was probably five to 10 miles from the airport. And then as I was getting ready to kind of come back, had a Cherokee six that was shooting out of the clouds pretty quick. Kind of catch me by surprise. I've had carb ice. We had carbice over the cascades one time on a cross country. There wasn't really a lot of outs. 

I came out of it with a lot of, I don't want to say emergency awareness per se, but learning that you can't get complacent ever because it'll be like with the carb ice, were cruising along, just kind of chitchatting and within a few minutes we got a first little thump. And these continental two hundreds are ice boxes. So, I mean, we got a little thump and by the time we kind of looked at each other to make sure that we both felt that it wasn't just like that mountain flying kind of thing going on. And by the time we got the thump, reached for the carb heat, I mean, it dropped from 2400 rpm down to like 1200 rpm. So, I mean, we pulled the carb heat in full power and it hesitated and caught itself. But that close to the motor dying. From there, it's a lot harder to recover that. 

Mach Coatings: I would have hated to be your training officer LOL 

Zach: Well, so it helped that my CFI is like, I want to say he's mid to late sixty s and he's been flying since he was 14. So he's been through every situation imaginable. So, I mean, we're sitting there fighting the motor over the peaks that cascades, and he's all like, oh, that was a little exciting. No big deal. Keeps going. 

Mach Coatings: So in your training, is there something you learned that you thought to yourself.... This is something I will never forget...

Zach: That's a pretty good question LOL. I would say the same with the complacency thing is you really can't get complacent. Even up at cruise? Yes. You're just cruising in a straight line for a couple of hours even. But I'm constantly monitoring oil pressure and engine temps and just keeping an eye on everything at all times because it'll catch you by surprise if you dont pay attention. 

Mach Coatings: Absolutely. Okay, cool. So how do you see the field of aviation evolving? Do you see any trends or opportunities that presents for future aspiring pilots or anything that you see, like, all right, this might be the future of aviation? 

Zach: Well, there's a few things. I think that it's definitely being more accessible now, having a lot of these part 141 programs mixed in with the colleges. Like, I've got a fairly local community college that has its own 141. And so the people who can't pay out of pocket every single month or every hour of flying for 61, and if they're already in college, it also counts as college credits. So it's kind of a win. Makes it easier to get your foot in the door. And then I would say another big thing is, honestly, the evolution of the whole electric stuff kind of going on is if they can get that figured out and safe, then that would lower the operation cost, the hourly operating costs a ton because you're not having to pay the $7 a gallon for fuel. 

I personally will probably stick with my good old continental for primary training. If you're just burning laps in the pattern, then I'd be more comfortable using something that's electric because, I mean, you're in the pattern anyways. And that's when you burn the most fuel is landing and takeoff. 

Mach Coatings: How do you balance your personal life with also a pilot schedule? 

Zach: I'd like to put a cherry on top and be like, oh, yeah, it's great. But in reality, it's not like that all the time. It's like yesterday, for example, the plan was for my fiance and I to stay in to kind of have, like, a relaxing day. And we woke up and the sun's out. We're like, well, guess we're going flying. And we ended up in the plane, like, just about 4 hours cross country time yesterday, and were supposed to relax and stay in bed all day. So I guess my whole flying and normal life balance is kind of out of whack because being in Oregon, you don't really have a choice when you get to either, you know, I'm doing it now, or I'm not going to for a week. 

Mach Coatings: Well First, congratulations on your engagement. That's awesome, and yeah its hard during the winter to fly when you want. You fly when nature says you can fly. So let me ask you, is there an aircraft that you absolutely love that you're like, one day I will own this airplane or this aircraft? 

Zach: Yeah, well, it depends, I guess, on prices. If they keep going crazy, we'll see. But I had my heart set on a 185 on, like, alaskan bush tires and fully set up to be able to throw some mountain bikes in the back and go with my budies, know, go out into Idaho or Montana and go mountain bike. 

Mach Coatings: Thats really cool! Any words of encouragement for those pursuing a career in aviation? 

Zach: I guess just do your best to kind of keep that fire alive. It can get blown out pretty quick, and once it's burned out, it's kind of hard to get that spark again. But as long as you stay on top of everything and keep flying and try not to get discouraged by, I mean, we all have bad flights. There's flights that you come back and you're like, man, I never want to get in a plane again. So honestly, just stick with it and try to keep the passion going.  

Mach Coatings: Okay, final question for you. How was your check flight? Or your first solo? 

Zach: I would say the week of my check ride was an absolute nightmare. The check ride week we started doing the usual. You do all these mock orals and practice check rides, and my CFI is a super, almost too polite and nice kind of guy.
So check ride time comes around, and we hired a CFI out of the local school. We do a mock. And so I did some mock check rides before the real check ride, and they didn't go bad. Like the hands on part. I'm perfectly comfortable in the plane. But during the mock oral with the CFI from my local school, we did the mock oral a day before my actual check ride. And so there was like a one day gap between the oral and the check ride. And we did it that evening. And by the end of it, he's like, I wouldn't sign off for you to go to a check ride right now. And so then we had about an hour discussion between my CFI, the school CFI and me, and we're like, okay, what are we going to do here? 

Because if we cancel now, I still got to pay for the check ride. Do we just try to kind of cram this day tomorrow and try and get through it, or do we just call it off the money is whatever at that point and reschedule? But then scheduling was like three months out, so that was another factor. And so we're like, I'm just going to go for it. And I spent that whole night, probably till, like, one in the morning, studying online, doing a bunch of practice tests and stuff. And then the whole next day was in person with my instructor. And were just pretty much were going over everything that we did in the last five or six months. And then we kind of hit the point where we're like, well, we'll do another mock oral and go for it. 

And we did the mock oral with the same instructor that was at the school, and he was like, oh, that was ten times better that time. I'm pretty confident now. And then the morning of the check ride comes, and I'm flying to salem, and the engine is not super happy, but then it kind of cleared up a little bit, and so we're like, you know what? We're just going to fly the plane. The whole thing's already all over the place. We're just going to keep going with this. And so the oral comes around. My examiner was awesome. She's actually a plane owner, and so a lot of it was around plane ownership, which that kind of helped. But, I mean, she said that I only missed, I think, one question. So compared to two days before, it was a pretty drastic change. 

So that one day worked. 

Mach Coatings: Wow! 

Zach: It gets worst!

Then the check ride comes around, like, the hands on portion and on climb out, it starts to kind of hesitate for a sec, and we're like, oh, man. And she kind of looks at me and she's like, is that normal? And I'm like, no, that's not normal. And so she was like, okay, we'll just keep an eye on it and keep going with the check ride. And it did it a couple more times. And she actually, about halfway through, said, like, oh, my controls. I just kind of want to check this out, make sure it's safe. 

And she played around with the mixture a bit and kind of, like, hung it on the edge of a stall a few times, and it would hesitate more on the edge of a stall, and then she's like, all right, your controls just has a fouled plug. We'll just finish this up real quick and head back. 

Yeah. So check ride went great. I passed, got right back to my airport, pulled the plugs, and sure enough, I want to say it was the number three cylinder plug was failed, so she was dead on. That is the story of my check ride! 

We gotta say! That might be thee craziest check ride weve ever heard! Thank you so much for being pilot of the month for February. Zach has not given up on his dreams for aviation. He works hard, and fights for what he wants. This should inspire pilots around the world to follow their dreams and keep working towards becoming a pilot.  


As a thank you for being pilot of the month for February 2024. Zach is going to receive: 
- Mach Coatings Mega Kit Including the following
-Aviation Details Spray -Waterless Wash - Ceramic Spray- Microfiber Towels- TShirt- Stickers. 
- Also 50% off all orders for life with a special code printed in his order. 
Follow @blackburn_aviation on Social Media to Follow Zachs story! 
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