The Fastest Route to the Flight Deck

There are plenty of things that set flight training at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University apart, but for Nevada Randall (’25), it is leading-edge technology that is making a difference in his journey toward the flight deck.

Embry-Riddle student Laurayna Pick, a freshman Aeronautical Science major, conducts virtual-reality flight training maneuvers at the Advanced Flight Simulation Center. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Bernard Wilchusky)
Embry-Riddle student Laurayna Pick, a freshman Aeronautical Science major, conducts virtual-reality flight training maneuvers at the Advanced Flight Simulation Center. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Bernard Wilchusky)

Randall, a freshman in the Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science program, credits Embry-Riddle’s unique PILOT, or Pre-flight Immersion Laboratory for Operations Training program, with helping him nail down his private pilot’s license by the end of his first semester.

“The technology provided by Embry-Riddle is incredible,” said Randall, a native of Golden, Colorado. “The virtual reality labs are well-maintained, well-staffed and they are incredible for training. The simulators are top notch. And I feel like the technology is exactly where it needs to be to make virtual reality and simulator training as effective as real aircraft time.”

That’s among the goals of PILOT, which first rolled out in the Fall 2021 term. Incoming flight students spend their first four weeks learning preflight, checklist and flight procedures in VR environments, then continue to work with their flight instructors to complete oral and simulator activities.

Using Embry-Riddle’s customized VR platforms, students practice takeoffs, landings and radio communications while also nailing down the basics of key flight maneuvers. It is an immersive education in every respect, and it demands total commitment, Randall said.

“If you're the type of person who can thrive in this environment, it is incredible,” Randall said. “But you need to come in prepared for flying five days a week or working five days a week.”

Making the transition from VR and simulations to real flying was “seamless,” said Randall, who also believes that the Embry-Riddle advantage extends beyond state-of-the-art technology.

“The vast knowledge that Embry-Riddle has accumulated through its rich history of flight training is evident in everything they do, from the way the instructors behave and teach, to the way that the curriculum is shaped, to the safety structure that has been built around pilots,” said Randall, who earned his instrument rating during the Spring 2022 term. “It is one of the safest and most knowledgeable flight schools, in my opinion. The rules and regulations and training are rigorous and strict.”

As a self-described “night owl by nature,” Randall is charting a different course for his flying career than many of his classmates. 

“My ultimate career goal is flying cargo,” Randall said. “Cargo doesn't complain. There's nobody in the backseat yelling at you.”

Coming to Embry-Riddle was the right move, Randall said, and he was attracted to the school because he knew it could help him land an aviation career that fits his “goal in life to never have a job where I'm staring at a computer screen all day.”

“I feel that attending Embry-Riddle is my best track for getting to where I want to be in the aviation industry.”

And Nevada Randall isn’t the only person impressed by Embry-Riddle’s innovative approach to flight training and education in general.

“My dad [David Randall] did a whole tour of the campus,” Randall said. “He is a Stanford grad and he said that ‘in all my years of looking at colleges and touring colleges and the colleges I went to, I have never seen a school that is more technologically advanced and provides more resources to students.’”

“And I don't think that could be any truer.”