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.


  1. So fun! I already know Paul but I definitely learned a few things I didn't know about Paul. This is a great series. I am not a die-hard AV geek myself however I am pretty fascinated with planes and I love to fly. It's my favorite form of travel. Also, my uncle was a pilot and so is my brother, both served in the USAF, my brother is still serving at Yokota in Japan for the USA.

  2. Thanks, Kirsten! Would you be interestedin being interviewed for the series too?