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 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'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?

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