Reader Mail : How Does One End Up An Airplane Geek?

A little over a week ago I wrote What Does The Future Hold For Young Airplane Geeks?,  this post lead to some interesting discussions, and an email I received from Lynn Young, from Delaware, who asked, “This may be an impossible question, but how does one end up an airplane geek? My young daughter is fascinated with everything about them. This fascination goes back as far as we recall and it certainly didn’t come from either of her parents.”


Lynn, your question is one probably without any defined answer. I can tell you how I likely ended up an airplane geek, but I think most serious enthusiasts have their own stories to tell. I have frequently written about growing up at the end of a runway at New York’s JFK International Airport. From the earliest age I recall … or anyone who knows me recalls … I have always been fascinated with airplanes, spending hours just staring up at the sky watching anything with wings go by.  When the Concorde on short-final is a frequent alarm clock, it is not hard to fall in love with airplanes.


While many sit outside and watch airplanes or have to travel to an airport to go plane spotting, all I had to do as a kid was look out the window or sit under the skylight. Many nights of my youth were spent listening to an old radio tuned to JFK’s Tower as I looked out the window counting the moments between hearing an airport bid the airport’s tower farewell and then watching them fly over my house.


All to frequently I knew I was up to late watching planes when I’d hear the Japan Airlines Cargo flight depart and watch it climb overhead. The JAL Cargo 747 disappearing over the horizon was a sure sign that I’d have trouble waking up for school in the morning.


So , while I have a good idea of how I ended up an Airplane Geek, this hobby and lifelong interest was not shared or brought on by my parents, is only shared by one of my two brothers and none of my friends in growing up were excited to watch the planes fly overhead


I’d love to know how other airplane geeks ended up as airplane geeks … if they even know how they got hooked on airplanes.  If you’re an airplane geek, aviation geek, plane spotter … whatever you call yourself … let me know how you got hooked on things with wings,


Below are a few photos shot last weekend from the front lawn of the house I grew up in … they should give you a good idea of how I ended up as an airplane geek.


Oh … and first person to properly identify all the aircraft types in the photos, in order, wins a prize!


Happy Flying!

















  1. Im not nearly as ‘bad’ as you but I love planes too . If you have an iPhone there so many flying app that an airplane lover like you can fly to your hearts desire ! Skies of Glory , Rise of Glory , Dogfight , the list is long and very pleasurable for a geek like you .
    You will love it , they even have Jetliners Xplane , Space Shuttle fan ? Wanna land it or ride the rocket to the skies ? It’s amazing what they can do wit smartphones !

  2. Lufthansa 747-400, Delta CRJ-900, JetBlue A320, ?? 757-200, Cayman Airways 737-300, AA 767-200, JetBlue E190, El Al 747-400, TAM 777-300, Omni Air International 767-200

  3. As an official Airplane Geek myself — no really … — I started out very young too, maybe eight or nine.

    My two cents is that airplane geekdom is much like horse, or swimming or tracking the backwoods. Kids are given an opportunity and some latch on, some don’t.

    Me, I went whole hog … model airplanes hanging from the ceiling, Air Progress pictures on the walls, know the names of the guys who flew the Bell 47 on Whirlybirds.

    Now, 50 years later I still look up. I was just out in the backyard as an A340 climbed slowly NE out of ORD. Just had to look up.

    Trust me, this is an addiction … a nice one, but like being a theatre geek … airplanes are something no one ever leaves behind … at least not for long.


  4. That should have been quite obvious actually as those engines are rather small for a 777, right? If not that, a CRJ-700? Or A321, not 757?

  5. And to answer your original question, not quite sure how I got hooked on airplanes as I’m the only aviation nerd in my family. We didn’t even grow up near an airport like you, not even flying as a family. My dad flew a lot for work, and I always loved going to the airport. Sometimes I’d even beg my parents just to take me to watch the planes. I had to beg my dad to take me on a plane, so for my tenth birthday he flew us to San Francisco in first class with some AA miles, though due to an AA pilots strike (if I remember correctly, this was 1999, and I wasn’t even quite 10 yet!) we were rebooked on US Air. Quite a way to start flying, and it slowly turned into me wanting to go on even more fabulous trips. I also remember going to the library and reading aviation encyclopedias and anything they had on airplanes in general. I would also frequently use the yellow pages to call the airlines to price out fantasy trips over the phone, then with the internet I became even worse. I remember finding flights to London for less than $300 around 2000. I started saving all of my money to go, but then I didn’t have a passport nor a supervisor, so I was never able to take advantage of the great deals I was finding! Now I do most of my traveling alone!

  6. I became an Avgeek at an early age. In the late 50s early 60s, I used to spend the day at work with my dad when he was Continental’s station manager in Amarillo, Tx. Besides Continental’s DC-3’s and Viscounts, Braniff flew Electras, Convairs, and an occasional DC-6B, Central had DC-3s, and TWA (the only city in Texas they served prior to deregulation) flew Connies. Then dad was transferred to LAX, and we lived in El Segundo on the southern edge of LAX. I could see first generation jets, turboprops like Electras and F-27s, and the last of the great propliners from my family’s apartment, then our house. There i also discovered aviation books from England, many written by William Green and/or Gordon Swanborough. The bookstore in nearby Westchester carried many English aviation titles, including the most wonderful book, The Observer’s World Aircraft Directory. This small volume listed all of the world’s air forces (including Iron Curtain ones) with the types of aircraft they flew, all the world’s airlines with their fleet makeups, a section on air force insignia, a section illustrating all the aircraft powerplants in use at the time, and a large section on almost all the different types of aircraft active in the world in 1962. I still have my copy, and it opened my eyes to the big world of aviation. I was hooked.

  7. LH 744
    DL CR7
    B6 320
    DL 752
    KX 733
    AA 762
    B6 E90
    LY 744
    JJ 330
    OY 762
    I think at least half have either the airline or airplane right.

  8. I think becoming an airplane geek is rooted in something deeper. The love of exploration and travel perhaps. In days gone by a child (male usually) that loved travel would go to sea. I’m sure there were people in the pre-aviation days that had as much a fascination with ships. Wondering where they are going, who is on board, and what adventures await those lucky souls. The love of airplanes I think is derived from that.

    I think, despite the hassles, there is still a mystic about airplanes. They are, in effect, time machines and teleporters however crude. You step into one at DEN or ORD and in 8-10 hours you are thousands of miles away in LHR or CDG. A distance that would take much longer to travel by foot and boat, especially if we look at sailing ships who fight the vagrancies of the wind.

    There is also something raw and carnal about airplanes. They may ‘soar’, but they only do so using brute force. I think this plays more into the popularity of the military aircraft with young (and young at heart) boys. While a 757 is something to experience inside and out it just doesn’t hold a candle to the raw force of a pair of P&W F100-PW-229s on full military power (bonus points for knowing the airframe for a pair of those engines!).

  9. I believe Kris nailed it, but I’ll clarify that the TAM is a 332.

    LH 744
    DL CR7
    B6 320
    DL 752
    KX 733
    AA 762
    B6 E90
    LY 744
    JJ 332
    OY 762

  10. As a kid my Dad would take me to LGA, JFK and EWR Once we even took the helicopter from the top of the (then) Pan Am building to JFK. Yes, he was an airplane nut.

    My dad died in 1971 so it tells you how long ago it was that we did this. In those days you had almost unrestricted access to the airport and there were observation areas at most airports. I remember a photo my dad took from the parking lot on top of the Pan Am terminal at JFK. I still remember the picture of the 747 at the gate just just feet from the parking space.

  11. I have a Avgeek for long as I can remember my earliest memory of being a geek was reading a aircraft book my Granddad bought me and maybe that got me interested I do remember the book reading it after that I bought the Observer series of all the worlds aircraft every year and then study it from cover to cover but mostly the military types .So as you say Steve we all start differently as Avgeeks .

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