Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Be Mortons, Not Chrysler

Every engagement, contact, conversation, interaction is a opportunity. An opportunity to give good customer service. Customer service is expected to be and should be a core focus of each of our businesses. Customer preferences and brand loyalty can shift quicker than you can blink an eye, especially if they perceive or receive any form of mistreatment from your business. As much as you can control, don't give them a reason to perceive or receive you and your business in a negative light.

There are a few simple customer service tenets, which are easy to learn and employ. What are the keys to success in customer service nearly every time? You will be surprised to learn that while all of them require investment, they don't have to cost you much "out of pocket."
  • A Genuine Greeting - Muster a smile, eye contact, positive body language and a cheerful 'hello,' if you're interacting in person. If you're interacting via digital vehicles, use engaging and affirming words and tone, it goes a long way to starting off a transaction or interaction on the right foot.
  • Gratitude - How many years did our parents spend teaching us verbal etiquette and the importance of an attitude of gratitude? Many years and many lessons later, here's your chance to put it into practice. Your customers help keep you in business, let them know that you appreciate that. Something as simple as "thank you" is a good place to start, but it doesn't end there. Handwritten notes, coupons, discounts, contests and giveaways, and more - there are numerous ways you can show your gratitude.
  • A Sincere Apology - Every time something goes amiss with one of your processes, services, products or the like, you have an opportunity to make or break the relationship with the affected customer(s). Don't be afraid to apologize. The words "I'm sorry" are extremely powerful and meaningful.
  • Responsibility - If something went wrong and it was your business's fault, own up to it. And, share what you steps you're taking to right the problem. If the steps you're taking are a matter of intellectual property, operations security or the like - obviously only share what's not proprietary, but certainly let customers know that you're working on it, and acting as quickly as you can.
  • A True Interest - Customer feedback (positive or negative) can be invaluable, especially if you take the time to listen, process and act upon it. That's not to say every last, little modicum shared by customers will be your golden ticket, but there's potential in a lot of what your customers are saying. So listen, and listen carefully. If you're receiving this feedback in person, stop what you're doing and attend to the person with eye contact and full attention. People (no matter how angry, neutral or positive), like to know that their opinion is important.
  • Helpfulness - Even if there's not immediate upfront gain for you; it pays to be helpful. You never know when the extra mile you went for someone can pay you back twofold or more. A customer may remember your business and it's kindness extended, and how that fact differentiated you from a competitor, at a time when they're ready to buy. Besides, how many people do you think that customer you went the extra mile for, told about the assistance your business offered?
Your current and potential customers may know more about your business then you realize, as they have a world of information available to them within a few clicks online. We're in an era where consumers can blast their experiences, good, bad, or ugly, via those real-time consumption vehicles - social media. So, be sure you're treating 'em right. Don't give them a reason to share, blog, post, or review your processes, products, and services poorly. Give them the tools to rave about you to their social networks both online and offline!

Wouldn't you rather be known across the web as a Mortons as opposed to a Chrysler?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Doing the Research...

I am putting the finishing touches on a post regarding how product research plays out across search engines and social networks, but I need a bit more input.

Are you more likely to research a product via your social network or the classic search engine approach?

Thanks for contributing your feedback!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Anatomy of a Social Customer

The widespread adoption of social media has altered the way customers are communicating with businesses and has facilitated the shift of a business-centric marketplace to a customer-centric one. Your once static patrons have become dynamic social customers. This new breed of customer is shaping and more often then not, leading the way we market our businesses, products and services.

Are you aware of the defining characteristics of Social Customers?
  • They are hyper-connected - The smartphone or internet-ready device is the constant companion of this audience. The Social Customer treats a smartphone more like a pocket computer then a phone.
  • They readily reach out to peers and influencers - Social media give customers wide spread access to the opinions and experiences of their family and friends, people they trust. Let's be honest, people care about what others think and certainly like to draw upon the past experiences of those they know. So if three of their friends tell the Social Customer they love a particular product, the customer may be a bit more inclined to buy it.
  • They are constantly researching - Review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google Places, etc., offer customers the opportunity to voice their praises and complaints of a product, service or business for future customers to read and evaluate. The good, the bad and the ugly about past customers' experiences is available for research and review.
  • They are share what they think of you - It's not uncommon for Social Customers to use the very sites where they researched your business to also trumpet their thoughts about your business. The beauty of many of these tools is the fact that you can respond to these questions, comments and concerns quite expediently. If a Social Customer lodges a complaint via social networks and review sites, you can respond accordingly, too.
  • They expect brands to engage them - Due to the real-time nature of social media and the precedent set by many businesses of near instant response to customer feedback, many Social Customers are expecting the same of all brands they patron. They want the information and response they desire when they want it.
  • They control the purchasing cycle - The business no longer tells the customer when it's time to buy, the customer tells the business when they're ready to buy. When groups of Social Customers have the ability to band together online in favor of or against a product or service, that collective voice has strong influence over a their extended network of influence. If a large enough group finds disfavor with your product or service, watch out! It could be catastrophic to the life cycle of that product or service.
Keep in mind, these are general characteristics. Each industry and sector will have niche demographics specific to its audience. Don't let this untethered communication access get the best of you. Focused research, a strong strategy and a dedicated effort on the part of the business will assist with interacting with the Social Customer at the speed of social media! The way we communicate with current and potential customers has been revolutionized. Social customers are at the helm and businesses need to have their proverbial finger on the pulse of what's driving their audience.

What strategy have you developed or steps are you taking to learn about the characteristics of your Social Customers?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Culture of Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is a long standing tradition of family, food and American football. What's not to love? Thanksgiving provides a reason to share a languid day of feasting and celebrating, till our hearts are content, with those we cherish most.

Don't take this opportunity for granted, and for pete's sake consider making it a daily (or as often as you can) experience. Gather your family around the dinner table, spend time reveling and sharing in each other's company! The pace our society has adopted as a "normal" rate of living life often leaves little room for slowing down to appreciate the moments that can be all too fleeting.

What's to stop us from creating a culture of Thanksgiving in our homes, in workplaces, or in the most fundamental of places, our own hearts? The content of our heart is where our character stems from, it's the source of the words we chose to impart, the attitudes we hold and our perceptions of the world around us.

I'd challenge you (and me too!) to reflect tomorrow (and every day) upon what's important to you, what drives you, what you're thankful for, and what's at your core. The culture of your life, begins with you. Consider marking it a culture of Thanksgiving.

To you and yours, I wish you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weekender: Humanize Your Brand

Today's Weekender revolves around the latest push from social media practitioners, humanizing your brand.

How do you humanize a brand? This isn't rocket science! The person or people that are strategizing, creating and implementing your business' content should be encouraged to include:

^empathy
^personality
^transparency
^care
^honesty
^etc

Are you getting the point of humanizing a brand? Be human! People (your fans, followers, subscribers) want to know that there is more than just an automaton behind the content they're consuming.

There's no harm in being real, being available and being human. Want to take it a step further? Interject a touch of brevity, too! C'mon who doesn't love a sense of humor?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekender: Social Mashup

Take the relationships you're building online and develop them offline. Met an insightful contact via social media that you'd like to put heads together with on a project? Invite them out to a cup of coffee! Found a group of folks that love Hershey Bears hockey as much as you do? Meet up in betwixt periods and compare notes on the puck play and player fights! That's one of the small beauties of the Interweb, you can Mashup online and offline relationships, maximizing and leveraging the network of connections you're amassing. Don't be afraid to be social in person, not just online.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reflection on Jobs

Yesterday evening the world caught its collective breath as we heard word of the untimely passing of Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs and his business partner Steven Wozniak are undoubtedly two of this era's greatest visionaries in the technology sphere, bringing us Apple Computers in a garage in 1976.

Jobs' life drew to a close as he lost the 8-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He is by no means a saint, but he was a technology revolutionary. Not only did Apple change the realm of personal computing, but the company introduced us to the concept of the smartphone with the debut of the first iPhone in 2007.

Through the early years, his departure from Apple, and eventually his return to Apple in 1997, Jobs never lost his sense of curiosity, exploration and pushing the envelope. It is under his leadership that innovation thrived at Apple and Pixar. He was a genius that looked to hire like-minded individuals and encouraged his teams to never lose their sense of adventure.

He left us with a series of undeniable leadership and life lessons:
  • The most enduring innovations marry art and science.
  • To create the future, you can't do it through focus groups.
  • Never fear failure.
  • You cannot connect the dots forward - only backward.
  • Listen to the voice in the back of your head that tells you if you're on the right track or not.
  • Expect a lot from yourself and others.
  • Surround yourself with the most talented people.
  • Stay hungry, stay foolish.
  • Anything is possible through hard work, determination and a sense of vision.
I am admittedly one of the millions whom have had their personal and professional habits influenced by the innovation spurred by Jobs and the Apple developers. I travel daily with my iPhone and iPad close at hand for calls, emails, appointment keeping, social networking and more. The music heard in my Volkswagen is fueled by the playlists on my iPod touch. I run countless miles with an iPod shuffle clipped to my person.

If I might close with a quote from the 2005 commencement address that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever
encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost
everything - all external exceptions, all pride, all fear of embarrassment
or failure- these things fall away in the face of death, leaving only what
is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are
already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart...Stay hungry.
Stay foolish.

While the world has lost a visionary, we've not lost his legacy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekender

It's time for another installment of Socially Speaking.

Socially Speaking for 9.17.11:
Be trustworthy.

Do what you say and say what you mean. If you promise something, follow through and
deliver upon that promise. People are more apt to do business with those that they trust. An authentic way to build trust? Build relationships; take time to get to know and genuinely care about what your customers and clients want from your products and services.

Are you someone with whom people will want to conduct their business?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Like Mindedness

I have a series of questions.

Why does it take a natural disaster -earthquake, flood, or hurricane- to pull us back together as a community? Why can we not maintain a like-minded pursuit of "I've got your back," through the course of the daily grind? When did we our default position as a nation, state, region, and community become individualistic?

Do you have the answers?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Originality

What's in a name? A lot. What's in someone else's name? Certainly not you.

People - family, friends, colleagues, and taking it a step further; fans, followers, and other audiences want to engage with you, not a semblance of you, or you parroting someone else.

Your thoughts, your beliefs, your faith, your dreams, your musings, and your opinions - that's what we are hoping to engage and learn. Worried that someone's not interested or that you're uninteresting? Lies, all lies. There's always someone that is ready and willing to celebrate your uniqueness with you.

Whether you're speaking, blogging, tweeting, writing, conversing, posting - whatever the communication form may be, punctuate it with you.

Be yourself, you are much more interesting that way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekender

Note: I am starting a new tips series called "Socially Speaking" and it will appear on -you guessed it- weekends.

Socially Speaking for 8.20.11:
Transparency lends itself to credibility.
If you mess up, admit it. If you don't know the answer to a question, admit it. If you're inexperienced, admit it. If you're willing to admit that you're not perfect, a work-in-progress, or open to suggestion, your audience is more likely to take you more seriously. You build your credibility and trustworthiness. The quickest way to lose credibility? Lie or attempt a cover up.

Be honest, be real, be transparent.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Social Media: Rules of Engagement

Every social media professional will guarantee you that their "rules of engagement" are the best. If you boil it down to the nuts and bolts all prescribed rules are basically the same repackaged core principles. I've combed the web and assembled my favorites.
  1. Be Transparent. Your honesty (or dishonesty) will be picked up right away in social media communities. (src: www.marketlikeachick.com)
  2. Embody the attributes you wish to portray and instill – operate by a code of conduct. (src: www.briansolis.com)
  3. Listen before you talk. (src: www.usemyhead.com)
  4. Stay relevant. (src: Charlene Li, author of Groundswell)
  5. Keep the conversation going. (src: www.britopian.com)
  6. There's not much, if any room, for automation in social media. (src: blog.webdistortian.com)
  7. If somebody goes out of their way for you in social media make sure you reciprocate the gesture. (src: www.kunocreative.com)
  8. Travel with your networks. Go virtually with your friends, followers, subscribers, etc on their adventures...take part in their lives via social networking. (src: me. I like to "do life" with the people I engage with.)
  9. Be cautious. Protect yourself and your privacy. (src: www.talentzoo.com)
  10. Always, without hesitation, say thank you. Show gratitude even in the simplest of scenarios. It goes a LONG way. (src: common sense)
Pack light, virtual travel doesn't require a lot of baggage.
Did I miss anything you think should have been included?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tweet, Retweet & Repeat?

New to Twitter? A seasoned tweeter? It doesn't matter. Before you get started or if you're already thousands of tweets old; learn the rules of engagement.
  • It's not all about you and/or your business.
  • If you wouldn't say what you're about to tweet to someone's face, best to leave it untweeted.
  • Someone's content is really interesting? Retweet it!
  • You like a tweet and wish it was yours? Don't steal it, give attribution.
  • 50 tweets in five minutes? Not necessarily a good idea.
  • Auto-tweets all day, every day? Go away.
  • You're a buzz kill? Hey that's fine, but keep it to yourself.
  • If people retweet your content or say something nice to you, it doesn't hurt to say 'thanks.'
  • Would you kiss your momma with that mouth? If your tweet is more than 75% expletives, maybe reconsider how you're phrasing what's on your mind.
  • If your tweet has anything to do with your bathroom habits; don't share it.
What does this all boil down to? The Golden Rule. Tweet others as you want to be tweeted. Try universally applying these thoughts to all social networking. Heck, apply 'em to life in general!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

ROI: Return on Investment

You ever heard the old addage, you reap what you sow? Well it's true.

If you don't invest in relationships, over time you will find yourself without relationships, or at least with little in common with those that you care about.

If you constantly spew out negative language, people will evenutally ignore you, move on, or hit the mute button.

If you spend the time carefully researching and developing products and services, you are bound to find one that's a homerun.

If you treat customers with care and prioritize their needs, you will find yourself with a plethora of brand ambassadors.

Think about it, how hard is it to take the extra time to give of yourself, or to do something the right way the first time? In most circumstances and situations, it's not that difficult.

You have a lot control over the quality of investment you make, or the lack thereof.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Humility is an Honest Quality...

On Wednesday evening, I (and 2499 of my "closest" friends) spent our time with the President. Former President George W. Bush, that is. "W" is a man who spent 8 years under the scrutiny of a nation and the national media. His every step being monitored, questioned, and judged. For his term as President was marked with a national tragedy unlike anything seen my generation or many others. An act of terrorism was committed on our soil and it was up to "W" to lead 280+ million people as cohesively as he could.

Was this an easy feat for any man? No. Would any man make mistakes along the way? Yes. How many people had the privilege of leading our nation prior to Bush? 42. Did this fact go to his head? No. One Wednesday evening, we were treated to a night of comfortable conversation, good natured humor, anecdotal nostalgia and the occasional plug of his new book.

"W" took center stage at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce's Annual Dinner at approximately 8 pm and shared with us the highs and lows of his presidency. Making no apologies for being committed to faith, mission and serving the people of the United States, Bush recounted his thoughts and feelings behind some of hardest decisions made as the Commander in Chief. He was relentless in his praise of our armed forces, his emphasis on the need for a principled mind and moral fiber to run the country, and of course in his desire to never criticize his predecessor.

The common theme that peppered every quote, joke, and story he shared? Humility. This man ran our country. He's one of 44 to have this commendable privilege. Did it go to his head? No. He's real, raw and at times, self-effacing.

Am I looking to convert you to his fan club? No. In fact, all I hope to accomplish in this musing of mine is to share the fact that I enjoyed my time listening to the President. I admit I was riveted by what he had to say, because I hold a great deal of respect for the office he formerly held. If I could impart only two (of the many) impactful points he spoke, I'd choose:
  • "How can I point out the speck in your eye, when I've got a log in my own. The most important verse for any President."
And,
  • "I will not criticize my predecessor. I believe when you leave the Office, you exit the stage."
Thank you, Mr. President. It was a sincerest pleasure.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An April Fool...

Wow, where did the month of April go? All I can recollect of the experience is the rain, rain, and more rain. I feel like a fool for not savoring the 30 days of showers that April had a bit more, for earnestly seeking the May flowers.

That thought lends itself to a conversation I recently had with my husband. We were reflecting on the fact that at times, life takes place in the details. And, if you overlook the details in pursuit of what's ahead, you may just miss some of life's greatest moments passing you by!

Were the April showers really that bad? Honestly, no. The outcome and benefits of the rain? The May flowers!

Not only does attending to the details make you stop and take pause from time to time, but it's character building as well.

Don't be an April fool and miss out on some of the greatest aspects of life for being in hot pursuit of the greener grass.

How will you make time to stop and smell the roses in the month of May?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beware the Ides of Facebook...

Fast typists beware of hitting return when replying to a post on a Facebook wall! As yesterday, March 15 (the Ides of March), Facebook rolled a new wall post procedure. Gone is the button to post, in it's place a press of the return button now posts your comment or reply.

How do you get around this user interface (UI) change? Simply retrain yourself to use shift & return keys if you desire a hard return in your commenting or reply. Or, learn to self-govern your commenting and replies, or you may need to delete and repost a number of times before you get the hang of it.

Don't let this change to the UI be the death of your Facebook wall interactions!


Friday, February 25, 2011

A Southern Hospitality Infusion

I experienced, as I have on previous trips to Texas, some of the greatest measures of customer service and hospitality that I've encountered. You'd be surprised how far these simple gestures will carry you in business, and in life.
  • Smile, even when you don't feel like it. Every person I encountered in Texas from the concierge at my hotel to the police officer whom I encountered while strolling downtown Fort Worth, offered me a genuine smile.
  • If someone takes an interest in your day, take an interest in theirs. Enough said.
  • Treat everyone-absolutely everyone-with respect. I witnessed a man in a business suit stop and assist another man (the latter was dressed in tattered, worn-out clothing and saddled with numerous plastic bags) in his efforts to clear the Fort Worth sidewalks of littered cigarette butts.
Think about this next time you pick up the phone to answer a service call you don't really want to deal with, or the when your co-worker shows up at your office door to ask you the same question for the umpteenth time.

Folks, this isn't rocket science. It's common courtesy.

Will you join me in an effort to treat others how we want to be treated?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #10

Today's entry in the blog series is an interview with a lady #avgeek, Karina. Karina is known on twitter by her great sense of humor. Her twitter bio says it all: "Attn in the boarding area..the gate agents have left due to the HUGE amount of stupid questions." Already acquainted with Karina? Than maybe you will learn something new about her. Or, if you don't know her, please allow me to introduce her:


When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?

I discovered my love for aviation at a young age. Call it crazy but I would love to take family and friends to the airport and I would always wait for the planes to take off. I was amazed by how quickly we could get to our destination by such a machine. I just was fascinated by the workings of how the aircraft were different in size and watching the pre-flight and just loved sitting there at the airport and hear planes take off.


Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?

I wouldn't say I have an aviation hero…no one specific, I mean Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart come to mind. But to me any heroes are those who are reaching the boundaries of air travel. Pushing towards new aircraft and new ways of travel.


In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?

I think anyone that can be called an avgeek, are those who could sit like me at an airport with their scanner and not be bored. Or go to their local airport and just get to meet pilots, hang around the hangar. I think also that those who stop and stare at an aircraft going overhead. It just comes into your blood, you just can’t get enough of seeing, hearing, and smelling the jet fuel of the airport and aircraft.


Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?

I would say I've already kind of sucked them in…they are starting to use phrases like jet-way, atc delays, and my favorite, I’m training them the airport codes. They are also getting better at traveling and not so worked up about when flights are delayed amongst other things that happen.


What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?

In the airline business it has become too much of the fact that the passengers are always right and never wrong. I also believe that at times the media doesn’t get their facts straight and reports wrong things making our jobs even harder. Weather is something that the airlines will always being dealing with, what amazes me is passengers who live in for example; SFO, KNOW that ATC delays happen. It’s an everyday thing, but yet they yell and get angry at the gate agents. Too much of the public has made their schedules so tight that if they have a bump in their schedule they get all riled up. I think all airlines it doesn’t matter who you work for get blasted…but yet we don’t take the time to realize how MANY of these airlines are up in the sky and yet only when an accident happens is it spread across the entire web. I think that until several passengers or some of the media step into our shoes, they will never know how complex the airlines are. It’s not like we could make an aircraft appear out of no where to replace the broken one. Passengers need to have much more patience and the media needs to report the better things about the airlines. It was wonderful to see the coverage of 1549 that landed in the Hudson, it was just showing the public that we all train for emergencies and when they happen, it’s wonderful to know that we have trained professionals and staff that will step up to show that the airline hasn’t completely lost touch with passengers. But at times we do still need to have that human touch and make sure that the passengers will realize that we do care, and at times some of the decisions are completely out of our hand and are done by upper management that are NOT in touch with the front lines. I wish at times they were more in touch.


Take flight, share something about yourself that you don't think was covered in these questions...

I’m happiest when I am allowed the time to park over on Sunset and I have my scanner and listen to the aircraft land and take off. I also love flying to new places and old ones to see family and friends. I think it’s just incredible watching a 747 take off, and now the A380 taking off. I am completely amazed at how far we've come. I have the airlines in my blood and I can’t get it out. From watching the Red Bull Air Races (Kirby Chambliss is my man) to just being at the airport and experiencing families seeing an Armed Forces veteran coming home after being away from a year, to just helping passengers get to their destination. I’m blessed to be able to travel for free and just being around some absolutely crazy (we have to be a little insane to be in this business) friends. I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #9

Today's entry in the blog series is an interview with a lady #avgeek, Julie Vessigault. She self descries as liking airports, airshows, airplanes, flying, hangar flying, says she called the airport gypsy or hangar maiden and that she's "Chasing the Dream." Julie and I have been tweeting one another for many months, and I look forward to meeting her at an upcoming "fly in" tweetup in March! Already acquainted with Julie? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know her, allow me to introduce her:

When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?
August 27, 2006, Let me start out with my earliest memories. When I was five years old, my dad's mission in life was to teach me everything he knew about airplanes. When I was six, I was taken from my parents and put in foster homes. The aviation "training" I had faded away.

Twenty-five years later, in the summer of 2006, I met someone who had just been hired by a regional airline and was about to leave for training. I was attracted to this guy, but while he was very aloof and I never heard from him again, something about working for the airlines appealed very much to me. I had lived out of a suitcase for three months and loved it, so a flight attendant's lifestyle seemed to be the ticket. Besides that, suddenly that preliminary aviation training I had 25 years before became fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday.

It's rather poignant to share, but before August 27, 2006 was over, I "knew" my calling in life was to be a flight attendant, and I began studying aviation safety religiously.

When several airlines didn't hire me for flight attendant jobs, I knew I couldn't depend on the airlines to get me airborne. I discovered General Aviation and airshows. The first show I volunteered at was Sun 'n Fun, and in 2007, the theme was "Living the Dream". Three words never before made such an impression on me, and it soon became obvious that aviation saved my life- gave me confidence and wiped out severe depression following my divorce. Two months after Sun 'n Fun, I found myself in the cockpit of my first general aviation plane. I was amazed how within reach the dream of flight was!

After four years of volunteering at Sun 'n Fun, last summer I also volunteered at Oshkosh Airventure plus 4 California airshows.

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?
My first aviation heroes were Robin Fech, an ASA flight attendant who saved many lives in the crash of ASA529, and Captain Al Haynes of the crash of UA232.

As I discovered General Aviation, I adopted Corkey Fornof, Howie Keefe, Bill Brennand, Gus McLeod, Bob and Sharon Stebbins, John and Rose Dorsey, Duncan Miller, and so many others also as my heroes, their individual stories and roles inspire.

More recently, I have established a military aviation hero, known by us on twitter by his callsign, "Shotgun".

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?
  • It could best be summed up in one's travels: When I go some place new, I have to visit the airport. Most recently on a roadtrip to Las Vegas, I stopped at Tehachapi Airport, circled Mojave Airport, skirted Edwards AFB, stayed at a hotel overlooking McCarran Airport, visited and enjoyed a flight out of North Las Vegas Airport, and experienced a tour of the flightline at Nellis AFB. Also every AvGeek has a trip to SXM (St. Maarten) on their "bucket list"
  • A celebration isn't complete without an element of aviation, the past two New Years Eves I rang in the new year at the baggage claim area of SMF and enjoyed "airliner fireworks"
  • You collect model airplanes, airline memorabilia, and aviation-themed t-shirts. You also have a healthy library of aviation books and movies.
  • You spot even the most obscure airplane depicted in a restaurant wall hanging. Identifying the elements of aviation and aerial videography in movies comes natural.
Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?
Aviation saved my life and gave me dreams to live and chase like nothing else could.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?
The biggest challenge is probably the cost of being involved in aviation. But I have overcome that challenge "paying" for my experiences with time and passion.

Do you collect aviation memorabilia? Which airshows are your favorites?

Friday, February 11, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #8

Today's entry in the blog series is an interview with Chase Larabee. He self descries an entrepreneur interested in tech, aviation, and entourage, in that order. Works in private aviation and the founder of @PilotAway. Already acquainted with Chase? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know him, allow me to introduce him:

When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?
I guess I never really discovered my passion for aviation, I was completely raised into it. During my youngest years, my dad was bush flying up in Alaska, and I was shown videos of me sitting in the right seat, along with an image on an old Alaska Airlines 727. Growing up in the Seattle area between Boeing Field, Paine Field, and Renton my dad would always take me to those airports on the weekend. Whether it was to get a picture of me in front of the brand new 777, or to see 737 fuselages coming off the train in Renton, I was addicted. Later on I would begin flying with him all across the country and I knew I wanted to work in aviation as well.

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?
For as long as I can remember, the Blue Angels have been coming to town every summer and watching those guys perform, along with the sights and sounds, every single pilot was my hero (although I really liked the 2 solos). About five years ago though, I attended the Arlington fly in and got to see Bob Hoover perform in his Aero Commander. That sure was a sight. To me, anyone who is going to roll a Commander with no engine power really gets my vote, so I bought his book and learned much more about that very impressive man.

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?
I would honestly like to say that anyone who can appreciate the smell of 100LL stained clothing, or Jet A in the morning but I know I cant stop there. In my personal opinion, what makes someone an avgeek is something who completely lives the lifestyle. They work in aviation, either fly themselves or enjoy flying with friends, come home to a coffee table full of AIN, Flying, AviationWeek and many more great magazines, and then still has time for a little flight simulator here and there. I myself know that even after a long day of work, and travel I can simply never get enough of aviation because in all honestly I am just too damn passionate about it.

Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?
I recommend that my friends and family become avgeeks, because it is too easy. Regardless if you have a favorite airplane, or even favorite airline, somewhere in there your head is turned toward the sky. It is a hobby that can be started with a few magazine subscriptions and plane spotting weekends, and once someone takes their first flying lesson there is no turning back.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?
Personally, I think that in today's day and age, our biggest threat is the financial downfall. Although it may seem like only a slump in private jet sales, people are flying less in their free time due to high fuel and maintenance costs, flying lesson costs rising, forcing people to re-think a career in flying, and lastly the entire general aviation industry struggling with new and used aircraft sales, hurting thousands of passionate avgeeks.

Take flight, share something about yourself that you don't think was covered in these questions...
I wanted to take a second to talk about social media and aviation. A few years ago, when first starting out on Twitter and Linkedin, I never thought I would see social media spread within aviation. I would like to say, I was completely wrong. Now more then ever, my twitter stream is filled up with aviation news and to me, it's like a professional playground of avgeek activity. There are days I get aviation companies who want to follow me on foursquare, and others I am following a company on Linkedin and Twitter, and it is not only impressive, but I am completely proud with how far social media has spread within our community, because even as early as last year some companies were just introducing themselves to social media.

What aviation companies are to following on aviation or are following you? Have you ever seen the Blue Angels at an air show?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #7

Today's entry in the blog series is an interview with JL Johnson. He self descries as a Business Analyst whose an info sponge. He enjoys documentaries, science, tech, travel, nature, airliners, photog and NPR. I've not yet had the privilege of meeting JL in person, but great enjoy our twitter conversations on all things aviation. Already acquainted with JL? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know him, allow me to introduce him:

When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?
Ever since I can remember I've been interested in planes and aviation. I believe my first exposure to aviation was via stories told to me by my Grandfather, a retired USAF Colonel. There are however a few key events that stick out as catalysts for my earnest curiosity.

When I was a very young child my mother worked at the Deer Valley Airport in Northern Phoenix, AZ. Every now and then I would visit her and we would watch planes taxi about. In those days there was a distinct military presence on the field, I remember how the fighter jets would vibrate the windows of the building to the extent that I was sure they would come crashing down on us.

Just a week before my 10th birthday I flew as an unaccompanied minor from OKC to RIC. I distinctly remember the captain calling me to the flight deck twice, once before takeoff and again while in flight. Each time the captain briefly dismissed the co-pilot out and gave me his seat, perhaps just long enough for the co-pilot to visit the lavatory. On that trip I was awarded my wings, a memento I have to this day. That experience was awe-inspiring, something that I wish more airlines continued today.

My interest in aviation continued over the years but without a community or any mentors to fuel my interest it was just that, an interest. Looking back I view my interest more as a pilot light waiting for the fuel that only a community could deliver, something that could evolve my interest into a true passion.

One evening in the summer of 2009 I prematurely exited one of Kansas City International's economy parking blue buses. This single mishap was the catalyst for what ultimately became my passion for aviation. I had no idea where my car was so I leisurely strolled up and down each section looking for my car. I quickly noticed that every three or four minutes a plane would fly very close overhead on descent to land on a nearby runway. It occurred to me that with planes this close to a public area I could take some pretty great pictures. That evening I became what I later learned the aviation community refers to as a planespotter, or plane spotter if you aren't a fan of portmanteaus, as I am.

Shortly after my first true planespotting experience I found planespotter.org, and then @tailnumbers, a twitter account that tweeted (floods) of aviation information. From @tailnumber's re-tweets I found other aviation enthusiasts, and from them even more. I eventually stumbled upon the #avgeek hashtag, and suddenly had a community of like-minded individuals to feed off of. I've since unfollowed @tailnumbers due to the tweet floods but my circle of aviation gurus and enthusiasts continues to grow. Twitter I would say has been the single biggest contributor to the massive expansion of my aviation knowledge and like minded contacts.

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?
I can't think of any single hero. The men and women who fly for our military and those who support the business crucial commercial and private aviation industries are my everyday heroes. If I had to choose a single individual it would likely be one of the fathers of US aviation: Howard Hughes, James McDonnell, Bill Boeing or Donald Douglas.

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?
There are so many versions of avgeeks. You've got insiders, outsiders, spotters and pilots, historians, futurists, commentators, generalists and even artists. The number of subcategories is just mind boggling. That is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects about our unique community: While we are all interested in the same general topic there are so many different subcategories that one can delve into. Perhaps I'm being a bit too sentimental but I would venture to say that anyone can find a piece of aviation that interests them.

Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?
I'm particularly interested in planespotting and recommend that everyone spend time at planespotting parks or areas where they can watch aircraft come and go. I recently visited a planespotting park in Houston where over the hours I witnessed over a dozen families stop by and watch the planes pass overhead. Taking children and young adults planespotting is an opportunity to inspire them, to get them interested in science, math, physics and technology. And, quite frankly it exposes them to one of the few growing industries with workers whose jobs aren't easily exported.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?
I believe the single greatest threat to the future of aviation as we know it is the volatility of fuel prices. The greatest threat to the planespotting community is the increasingly hostile stance that various law enforcement and security personnel take towards enthusiasts in possession of cameras. It is my hope that as the enthusiast community grows, industry leaders and insiders will understand that aviation enthusiasts are not a threat... If anything, we add to security as we are additional sets of eyes on and around the aerodome. Any enthusiast would certainly report anything suspicious or threatening to the industry and properties we so dearly love and admire.

Take flight, share something about yourself that you don't think was covered in these questions...
I think I've shared too much already :-)

Do you agree with JL that finding even just one aircraft that interests you makes you an avgeek? Or, is it a more vetted process to achieve avgeekdom? What challenges do you see facing the plane spotting community?

Friday, February 4, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #6

Today's entry in the blog series is an interview with Kevin Epstein. He is an aviation geek that owns and maintains Aviation Photographic and has a long-time, genetic fascination with flying, aircraft and all things aviation. Already acquainted with Kevin? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know him, allow me to introduce him:

When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?

I can't remember not being interested in flight / aviation. My earliest memories of being interested in flying were back in the day when my dad would take me to the end of the runway at Johannesburg International airport (back then it was called Jan Smuts Airport), which at the time had a waist-high chain link fence, and we'd watch planes taking off and climbing out directly overhead. I think I may have been 4 or 5 at the time.

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?
Yes. Scully Levin. A south African pilot. (South African Air Force, South African Airways, Team Lead - Flying Lions aerobatic team, Team Lead - Gabriel Wings aerobatic team)

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?
Aviation is in my family DNA. My Brother is a commercial pilot, I flew recreationaly, my uncle held a PPL, My dad got into sky diving and para gliding. I'm happiest somewhere above the earth looking down - open or closest cockpit, it doesn't matter! In my books anyone who hears a plane overhead and has the involuntary reaction of looking up to see what's passing overhead - that's an avgeek. Lastly, My pin-ups are planes, not naked woman.

Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?
I don't! You're either wired this way or you're not - I am. Sure I'll take a buddy out to the end of RWY 24R at LAX. Because I'm an avgeek, I'll have already checked FlightAware to make sure a couple heavy's are coming in. Nothing will impress more than a B747, A340, or A380 coming in low and slow, and finishing off the landing with a nice white puff of smoke from the tires.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?
I'm not going into the details of each that I list below, just listing key issues the industry has to figure out. Let me know if this is what you're looking for.
  1. Rate of innovation. It's expensive to difficult to build new and efficient aircraft - 787 is a testament to that.
  2. airlines are going to have to figure out if running a larger fleet of smaller long range aircraft, or relatively fewer large long range aircraft makes more sense. (Boeing's 787 vs Airbus' A380 for example)
  3. Airports have to figure out what airlines are doing in #3 so that they can adequately plan expansion where necessary.
  4. Security! Clearly there's a long way to go to providing security that's effective, and efficient. I feel strongly that we can have both efficient and effective security, but we definitely don't have that today.
  5. Making travelers "want" to fly again. Most of us do it out of necessity now, and often enough traveler will describe their travels as an ordeal, rather than a trip or adventure.
Take flight, share something about yourself that you don't think was covered in these questions...
I'm South African, living in Southern California. I got my MPL (Microlight Pilots License) in Johannesburg, rated for trikes, bushbaby's (that's me in the cockpit) and xair's. My Disney Land (happiest place on earth) was Petit Airfield near Putfontein a couple miles East of Johannesburg International Airport (FAJS/JNB) until I had to quit flying due the ever increasing costs. Now whenever the time permits you'll find me somewhere in the vicinity of LAX, LGB, SNA, TOA watching and photographing planes arriving at, and departing from those airports. Some of the photos I take will end up on my site http://www.aviationphotographic.com/ which is a web site where fellow enthusiasts can register and upload and share their photos.The most exciting aviation related thing I have done on the ground was getting to go to the South African Airways maintenance hangar as a kid and watching them crank up a jet engine on the workshop test bed.

Do you agree with Kevin's analysis of the challenges facing the aviation community? Are you convinced that avgeekiness is something you're either born with or not?

Would you like to participate in this #avgeek series? Tweet me at @airport_girl for more information.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #5

Next up in the series is Mike Morgan. I was acquainted with Mike just over a week ago when he came to visit MDT for an airport review to appear in his blog. He self describes as an avgeek and entrepreneur who loves planes and @Taco_Bueno more than one should. He loves Concorde and B747-400 (and -8i). And, he writes an avgeek blog. Already acquainted with Mike? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know him, allow me to introduce him:

When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?
In 2007 I moved to Orlando, Florida. I was attending Full Sail University for a BS in film. My apartment was half a mile away from ORL and in the landing pattern for MCO. (It's probably not important to note here, but I also lived in the landing pattern for GRR (Grand Rapids, MI) back in 2004-2005.) On sunny days when I needed to get away from the film world, I would walk up the street to stand just beyond the threshold of runway 7. I would listen to LiveATC and watch planes come and go. As time moved on my obsession became stronger. I moved to Elizabeth, NJ, so that I could work in the film industry in New York City. But my house was just five short miles from EWR. While there, I found a thriving community of #avgeeks on twitter. I also flew over 80,000 miles in 2010. I managed to get to meet @juliewillfly and created friendships with many others online.

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?
To say I have one aviation hero might be a lie. I greatly respect anyone who works in the aviation world. I don't just mean pilots and flight attendants, I mean workers at Spirit Aerosystems, Bag Handlers at Southwest, Metorologists working for Delta, honestly anyone who works in the airline world. But if I had to pick just one. William E. Boeing. He starting the Boeing Corporation 67 years and 1 day before my birth. Of course, then it was known as Pacific Aero Products. I respect him for having a very large dream, and making it come true.

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?
My wife would tell you that I love and value planes more than her. When we're driving down the road and a planes flies overhead I stop talking and just watch. Once the plane is out of view, I pick up where I left off. I've made special trips to Boeing's Headquarters, the Evert factory, and the Boeing office here in Oklahoma City, just to check in on Foursquare. I would die without planes. I think that's the kind of spirit that makes one an avgeek.

Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?
I don't. I've tried long and hard to convince my friends and family that airplanes are the most amazing thing in the world. But if you don't have an inert love for flight, I don't know that you can get it. My Granny is an avgeek because she is amazed every time she sees a plane take off.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?
I firmly believe that the biggest challenge that the aviation industry faces right now is the lack of "love of flight". General Aviation is being hurt by a loss of expendable income and people blow off private ownership. The airlines are treating commercial flight like a bus service, and caring less and less about customers and more about CEO bonuses. Until airlines and the common person fall in love with flying again, the aviation industry will continue to hurt.

Take flight, share something about yourself that you don't think was covered in these questions...
With a mix of my love for aviation and my entrepreneurial spirit, my hope and dream is to start an airline. This is a dream I've had since early 2004. I want to create an airline that loves flying and loves making the travel experience a great one!

What should Mike name his future airline? Are you a fan of general aviation, what do you think can be done to perserve private aircraft ownership?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #4

Next up in the series is Phil Derner Jr. I had the privilege of meeting him at a Google Travel tweetup in NYC several months ago. Phil is a pro plane spotter and he is half of the dynamic duo behind NYCAviation a site and forum specializing in plane spotting photography and aviation news. Already acquainted with Phil? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know him, allow me to introduce him:

When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?

I grew up in an apartment overlooking La Guardia, and like any little boy, aside from watching fire trucks, police cars, I was watching the planes. Binoculars in hand, studying books that I had gotten from the library to identify types and airlines....it was a natural fascination from early on.

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?
When I first came across aviation photography online when I was 19, I was amazed by the quality of the first Digital SLR camera capabilities, among them from shooter Chris Sheldon. His La Guardia shots from inside the terminal were not only of gorgeous aircraft, but also showed my town clearly in the detailed background. He became an instant legend to me, and that's what got me rolling into planespotting. There are many photographers that are like sports heroes to me (Ryan C. Umphrey, Tom Turner, Rudy Chiarello, to name a few), and I'm lucky enough to call them friends as well.

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?
Just anyone who loves what flies. It's natural to be mesmerized by the fact that we, humans, take to the air, thanks to advancements made in technology that are so very recent compared to how long our species has been on Earth. It's something to be celebrated, and you don't have to be all-knowledgeable to do so, or to be considered a bonified geek. It's all in the heart.

Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?
Because it's good, clean fun. To spend a day at the airport with fellow enthusiasts taking photos, we get to relax and enjoy those friendships we've formed...it's the planes that bring us together and allow us all to have a good time even if there aren't many planes flying that day. The comaraderie among friends I've made along the way make me love the hobby even more.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?
Our biggest challenge, no matter what your interest or profession in this industry is, is the public's perception of it all. Ever since TVs started popping up in homes across America, the only times people would see aviation is if there was a terror attack, a crash, or catastrophic delays. It's unfortunate, misleading, and something that needs to change. That is one of the primary goals of NYCAviation, to teach people that it's ok to look up to the sky and be proud of our technology, how safe it really is and to take advantage of our ability to travel thousands of miles in mere hours! Turn off the TV and all of the negativity and come fly with me instead.

Like Phil, did you have the privilege of growing up with an airport in your backyard? How do you think media could help to improve their reporting and influencing of the public's opinion or air travel and the aviation industry?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #3

Next up in the series is Marvin Smith. I've had the privilege of Marvin's acquaintance via Twitter. He aptly self-describes as a graphic designer from Austin, who loves airplanes more than most things in the world. So much so that he created youlikeairplanestoo.com as a place to share aviation-related media. Already acquainted with Marvin? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know him, allow me to introduce him:

When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?
I've certainly had a passion for aviation since I was 3 or so, however, I only feel I've really been a part of the aviation community for the last year or two. After starting my website over a year ago, I quickly discovered that there were many people just as plane-crazy as me -- which was an awesome discovery. This first became apparent to me upon the creation of my website persona's Twitter account. Slowly but surely I found or stumbled across like-minded pilots, spotters, private companies, and enthusiasts with a passion for aviation and the aviation community at large. My passion was further enhanced upon my arrival to Oshkosh, Wisconsin to attend AirVenture 2010 last Summer. Never had I met a kinder, more enthusiastic and genuine group of people who all had one thing in common -- a love for aviation. I found that aviation lovers in general will jump at the chance to talk about their passion, offer you a ride in their aircraft, answer your questions, and do anything they can to foster and nurture a person's interest in aviation. Experiencing all of this and meeting various aviation lovers over the last year or so has made the time very special for me.

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?
It's hard to come up with just one hero or person in aviation whom I really admire, but I must say, after having read North Star Over My Shoulder, I was instantly a fan of Bob Buck and the life he spent in the aviation world. It should be required reading for anyone who even remotely likes airplanes.

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?
I don't think there's too many requirements for considering yourself or someone else an "avgeek" or "prophead." In my case, I came to the realization years ago. It was clear to me that I loved airplanes more than most things in life. Family and friends of course will hold the #1 spot, but right behind them is airplanes. I've never seen an airplane I didn't like, I absolutely must look up if I hear one, and given the chance I'll talk airplanes for hours. I suspect that these three traits are not unique to me and I'd consider anyone who shares even one of them an "avgeek."

Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?
I generally don't try to force my love of aviation onto others, but if they show even the slightest interest in airplanes or aviation in general it's off to the airport we go! Here in Austin I think spotters are pretty lucky in that there are several excellent spotting areas to go to around the airport depending on the weather. I've found that airplane spotting and being able to get close to the airplanes really piques someone's interest when they've previously never been able to witness aviation from that perspective. In this case, I like to take people to one of my favorite spots where the airplanes pass overhead at close distance as they're coming in to land. The sound of the engines and the rush of turbulent air followed by the whistle of the landing aircraft's wake often leaves the newcomer grinning and wide-eyed. "Welcome to my world," I say. It's a wonderful feeling to know that I've planted a seed of interest in that person.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?
Since I'm not employed in the industry it's hard for me to speak about the challenges the aviation industry faces. However, I think most aviation lovers would agree that interest in general aviation has been waning in recent years and there's been an effort on the part of many in the industry to boost interest, especially in the younger generations. Documentaries like One Six Right have shed light on the fact that we're losing scores of general aviation airports every year. And that, of course is cause for concern. Those who love the industry and work in it see the benefits of general aviation very clearly, whereas many politicians and policy makers do not. And that's probably the biggest source of adversity for aviation in general and is something I think the aviation community-at-large is trying to make the general population more aware of.

Take flight, share something about yourself that you don't think was covered in these questions...
I suppose that's enough out of me. I'll take this opportunity to thank you Stephanie for letting me expound on my love of aviation and look forward to reading others responses. I always enjoy meeting and talking to other self-professed "avgeeks" and the chance to geek-out about airplanes is always one I try not to let slip by.


Do you agree with Marvin on the challenges facing private (general) aviation? How do you think these challenges could be overcome? Have you plane spotted in the Austin, Texas area?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #2

Next up in the series is Brett Hooyerink. I've had the privilege of meeting and working with Brett on several projects. He aptly self-describes as a marketing guru for a mAAjor airline. And, plane crazy. Already acquainted with Brett? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know him, allow me to introduce him:

When did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?
My passion for all things airplane runs pretty deep. It was cultivated at a very early age as I was fortunate enough to be a kid in the Antelope Valley of Southern California, a place well steeped in aviation history. My mother has joked that my first word(s) was, “hocks and peas”. In my case, sadly, it wasn’t a hearty pork dish but toddler-speak for “helicopters and planes”. I had it bad. I could identify particular aircraft types in the sky before I could utter sentences. When I went to school, lunchtime on the playground meant the SR71 Blackbird with T-38 chase-plane in tow performing seemingly endless touch-and-go’s, Lockheed L-10-11’s, KC135 tankers, and at the very least a P3-C Orion or C-130 Hercules. Most of my friend’s parents were employees of big aviation names like Lockheed, Northrop, and McDonnell-Douglas. Those who weren’t parents’ worked at Edwards Air Force Base.

The whole town came out to see all the completed Space Shuttles be rolled down 10th Street East (now called Challenger Way) for the twenty or so mile trek to Edwards AFB before they were loaded onto the back of the 747 for transport to Florida. I remember kids cheering in the playground when the B-1 Bomber flew over because their dad worked on it. School was released and everyone filed outside to see the maiden flight of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. My friends went to Joe Walker Middle School. Pete Knight was the mayor. Sonic booms were an everyday occurrence, and kids knew where to look in the sky after the familiar “double-boom” to catch a glimpse of the Space Shuttle returning to earth. (Remember when the Space Shuttle still landed in California?)

Speaking of California, it has been burning as long as I can remember, and I loved it because it meant the “borate bombers” would be flying. Where else would a kid born in the era or turbofans be able to see vintage DC4’s, DC7’s and Electra’s thundering over, insanely close to the ground with nary an angle-of-attack due to their soupy payload? One has not lived until they have felt the symphony of four piston driven engines stirring their senses. I am a big sucker for the music of (two is good – four is just gluttony) RB211-535’s spooling up, but trust me that is like Rachmaninoff versus Bjork; both amazing, but no comparison.

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?
Aviation has so many heroes, and I am not sure I can narrow it down to one. So here is an answer a bit more fun: I am going to go with Pancho Barnes. Florence “Pancho” Barnes was a larger than life character of the early days of aviation who certainly deserves better than the 1980’s something made-for-TV-movie about her starring Valerie Bertinelli. I’ll let you wiki her for the whole story. She’s cool to me because of the stories my parents told me about her when I was a kid. In addition to her aviation pursuits, she ran a fly-in ranch near Edwards Air Force Base that may or may-not have been a house of ill-repute. (Google – Happy Bottom Riding Club) Another favorite Pancho Barnes story comes from my mother, who remembers her (and her Chihuahuas) as a client of the veterinary clinic where she worked. Apparently, she died alone and was discovered by her son weeks later…and the Chihuahuas were not hungry. Yes…ewww, I know, but it goes along with the whole larger than life thing.

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?
I truly think the symptoms of prophead can be variable. In my case it means being able to hear what kind of aircraft is flying over simply by the sound of the engines. It could be plane-spotting while bird-watching with my mother-in-law… Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Kiskadee, Qantas Boeing 747-400... and then cross referencing them with a Sibley’s Guide to North American Birds and FlightAware (it was QF 107 on the LAX-JFK leg of the trip!) when I am back home. It could be having to explain the bookmark in my browser labeled “airplane porn” is just airliners.net and not something lascivious.

Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?
I’ve tried in vain I’m afraid to make those closest to me propheads, to no avail. When you point to an ATR (honestly the ugliest thing in the sky) and ask, “What is that?” and they reply, “an MD-80” you should recognize that perhaps your prophead teachings have fallen on deaf ears. I also think the airport code game is honestly just as fun as punch-buggy or I spy on car trips as well.

On a serious note, I wish more people would be a little more avgeek. Air-transport is a resource so often taken for granted and it pains me to live in a world where so many do not understand just how much went into getting that plane off the ground. I fear we (the flying public) are heading down a pretty dark path unless we shed some light on the issues the industry as a whole faces.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today, in your opinion?
Honestly, I think a lot of what plagues the aviation industry today is not often addressed. Of course crude prices, labor relations, and the fact that bankruptcy equals “passing go and collecting $200 bucks” are huge issues, but what about technology? Why have we slowed to a snail’s pace? We’re moving much too slowly on the development of alternative sources of fuel. The entire of spirit of aviation was hinged on discovery and innovation, but we’ve got problems when innovation means repackaging and repainting.

I think a lot of the same issues face the space industry as well. We’ve been to the moon and I am lost without my iPhone, but I fly to California on an airframe design that was engineered when John, Paul, George, and Ringo were on tour? Sure we can put new engines on the A320, but can’t we do better than that. I know it’s a lot more complicated than my juvenile simplification of the issue, and I certainly understand why the 737 NG is not your father’s 737 classic…but I feel like we can do better.

Take flight; share something about yourself that you don't think was covered in these questions...
One last thing: I prefer the window seat. The aisle is great, but the window is better. I am so fortunate to be able to fly as often as I do, and I never get sick of looking out the window. Flight is still an absolutely divine concept to me. Combustion and propulsion versus gravity - such angry, violent forces, yet these combined lifts man to profound heights and gives him the power to see how small (or how large) our influence is on our environment. The amazing things I have seen from the window seat; the indescribable blue of the submerged portion of an iceberg, the sun rise twice in the same day, all of the Grand Canyon at once from 40,000 feet. For those of you who prefer the aisle seat, this is what you’re missing. Yes…you may be three deep when you have to use the lav, but trust me on this one. This is our equivalent of stopping to smell the roses.

Which seat do you prefer on when flying? I'm with Brett on this one, nothing beats the window seat! If you already know Brett, what did you find most fascinating about his interview?

Do you want to participate in the #avgeek interviews? Contact me @airport_girl for more info!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#Avgeek Abundance - Flight #1

I am a member of an avid and ever-growing community. The community otherwise known in aviation shorthand as avgeeks (aviation geeks) or propheads (propeller heads). We're a community of diverse and varied interests, but therein lies a common theme of admiration for aviation and aircraft.

A few days ago I summoned an all call to the social crowd to see if any community members would want to be interviewed. The response was overwhelming and positive. So today I unveil the first of many interviews that I received back in response to my investigative questionnaire. I will not alter the responses in any way, shape or form because I find them to be most interesting (and hopefully you will too) in their pure, unadulterated form.

First up in the series is Paul Thompson. Paul self describes as a photographer, traveler, blogger, aviation geek and sports fan. Already acquainted with Paul? Than maybe you'll learn a few new tidbits, or if you don't know him, allow me to introduce him:

Paul, when did you first discover your passion for the aviation community?
My love for aviation began at a very early age. My Dad worked for Southwest Airlines since shortly before I was born, so my first commercial flight took place when I was only a few weeks old. One of my earliest aviation memories was at about age 2, flying around in a Cessna 172 that he co-owned. We would go from the desert scrub of El Paso, TX to the mountains of Ruidoso, NM where my grandmother lived. In addition, when I was in kindergarten my Dad would lead my class on tours of Houston's Hobby Airport, where we would get to see the operations behind the scenes and tour the 737 cockpit. I found it all so fascinating!

Do you or have you had an aviation hero? Who?

My Grandfather Gene "Hack" Hackney is my aviation hero. He was a Navigator on the B-17 during WWII. He lied about his age and enlisted just to serve his country. He successfully completed a tour of 35 missions in Europe, guiding a severely crippled plane home on more than one occasion. The things he and his crew experienced - at such a young age - are amazing. I always admired him for that.

In your opinion what makes you or someone an aviation geek (avgeek) or propeller head (prophead)?

An avgeek / prophead is someone who just can't be around planes enough. They have a constant desire to fly. They can easily identify many aircraft types. They probably have a collection of photos, books and/or models of planes at home or work. (I have 37 models of various airlines at my work desk). An avgeek is someone who gets distracted at the sound of a plane flying overhead or daydreams at the sight of streaming contrails.

Why do you recommend that your friends and family become avgeeks or propheads?

There is so much about aviation that is fascinating. First of all, the physics of flight just seems magical to me. Next, there is the engineering of the planes themselves. The aerodynamics, the airframe design, and the intricacies of the controlling electronics and engines... WOW! I think so many people take all of this for granted without appreciating the brilliant knowledge that goes into designing, building and flying planes.

What are the biggest challenges facing the aviation industry today in your opinion?

The biggest challenge facing the aviation industry is the push-pull pricing battle between airlines and customers. People must understand that airlines are in business to be profitable, like every other business. For the last 10 years or so, the public has had very little flexibility in how much they are willing to pay for a plane ticket. Yet during this period, airlines' operating costs have continued to rise due to labor cost, fuel and other forces. Airlines have been forced to reduce amenities like meals and free checked luggage in some cases. In other cases, airlines have added fees for what should be considered simple customer service. These fees have only increased the animosity between passengers and the airlines serving them.

Take flight, share something about yourself that you don't think was covered in these questions...

Part of my avgeek-ness is that I'm also a planespotter, which is someone who photographs planes as a hobby. I've been honored to be published in some internal magazines and calendars at Boeing and Southwest Airlines, as well as Airways Magazine and USA Today. Some of my biggest photo accomplishments were that I was able to publish some of the first photos of Southwest's "Slam Dunk One," "Maryland One," "Illinois One," and "Florida One" to the internet before anyone else.

Those of you that know Paul, did you learn something new about him? If you're not already an #avgeek or #prophead has Paul convinced you of the merits of joining the community?

Are you interested in participating in this #Avgeek Abundance series, tweet me at
@airport_girl for more information.