What’s Interesting About Aviation?

I’ve been asked a lot of times “why do [I] like airplanes?” Often times, my first reaction is to correct the person asking the question by telling them that “I’m interested in aviation (and not airplanes).” This may be unnecessary – in fact it probably is – but I think that simply saying that I “like airplanes” is vastly oversimplified, and makes me sound like a child easily fascinated by moving objects. Of course,  I’m never going to be able to control others’ perceptions of my interest, and I am a person who over-analyzes things in general, so I definitely understand the perception, even if I disagree with its label. Regardless, it certainly is an interesting question, and one whose answer I have contemplated time and time again over the years.

The honest answer is that there is no one particular area that catches my interest. With that in mind, I’ve divided it up into a variety of different areas. Some are able to be explained in a few sentences. Some require a number of different bullets. Some I can’t even begin to fully explain. Either way, I thought it would be interesting to share some insight into just what it is that I find intriguing.

The “Inner-Five-Year-Old” Factor

Face it, flying is something that (most of us) don’t do every day. As such, it’s understandable that one might be fascinated with the fundamentals of being in the air, even if one has flown on a particular aircraft or particular route before.

  1. Sitting inside a plane and hearing the fans go quiet, followed by the gradual grind of a jet engine starting.
  2. The noise of engines spooling up from idle to takeoff thrust (TOGA), whether sitting in front of or behind the fan.
  3. Hearing the thuds of the wheels going down the runway as a plane embarks on its takeoff roll.
  4. Feeling gravity “push down” as the plane takes off.
  5. The feeling of empowerment as the plane climbs out of the airport with takeoff power set.
  6. Visual differences between parts of the world that are moving quickly (flying over highway interchanges) versus standing still (flying over farms).
  7. Hearing (and feeling) the landing gear “bump” as it comes out prior to landing.
  8. Flying low over urban areas, getting slower and slower, while coming into land.
  9. Seeing the airport’s landscape suddenly appear under the plane.
  10. The moment of touchdown, signaling the completion of the time in air.
The Competitive Factor

Even considering the incredible breakthroughs that we as humans have had over time, flying is arguably up there with the best – it’s the fastest mode of transportation we’ve devised thus far. And I don’t care how strong you think you are – a jet engine is more powerful. Moreover, as I explained in my report chronicling my first Boeing 747 trip, I find the idea of an airport having transatlantic service as, in a way, a successful competitive triumph. Airlines don’t just take a plunge on starting long-haul service anywhere, and “making it” as far as being able to sustain those flights is certainly notable.

Admiration by the General Population

I enjoy seeing people who aren’t airplane fanatics (e.g. the general population) take a moment out of their day to look up at a jumbo and comment on its sheer power – power that can not be matched by any human. Of course, we humans are not designed to generate the same power as a GE90, and thus a shouldn’t be expected to compare ourselves to the power of a jet engine, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be impressed by them.

Unique (and Unknown) Narrations

One of the more interesting things that I’ve found is when I’m flying home late in the day – particularly after sunset. Passing over a variety of metropolitan areas, all one can really see is the extensive range of lights – most of which are houses – present on the ground. As cliche as it sounds, each light has its own story. One may be the home of a young family, with parents trying to get their kids ready for school tomorrow. Another may be the home of a retired couple relaxing in their living room, watching the evening news. Yet another might be a studio apartment, with a single urban dweller hanging out on Facebook. I often find myself wondering what the story is behind each of those lights – and though I’ll never know, it is interesting to imagine.

Another in-flight observation that I find fascinating happens mostly during descent. Following takeoff, an aircraft gains altitude and speed at extremely high rates, so it’s difficult to observe much in depth. Leading up to landing, however, the aircraft is – generally speaking – much “lower and slower,” giving passengers an excellent view of cars driving up and down roads and highways. Much like the houses, each car has its own story. A row of cars may feature someone heading home from work, another person venturing to the grocery store, and yet another person heading out to meet a friend. There’s absolutely no way to know the true story behind all of these cars, and perhaps that’s what makes it intriguing.

The Unparalleled Complexities
  1. Think about how many steps/logistics/etc. go into a single flight. (I don’t have an actual number, since it is variable, but just imagine.)
  2. Know that approximately 100,000 commercial flights take off and land every day around the world.
  3. With those two pieces of knowledge, think about how every flight – each with its own set of steps, requirements, etc. – has to fit into the massive global puzzle comprised of approximately 100,000 flights per day.
  4. Realize how safe commercial aviation is, despite the sheer amount of logistics that every flight crew (on their own flight) and every controller (in keeping airports and air spaces efficient and safe) must deal with. Pretty impressive.
The Factor of the Unknown

Even though I’ve gained a significant amount of aviation knowledge over the years, there is still a significant amount of information I don’t know or experiences I haven’t had. This, ultimately, is what keeps me interested.

Starting the Blog: A Little Bit About Myself

While Speedbird Spotter has existed since January of this year, I’ve neglected to write any posts on the blog. And though I’ve alluded to my childhood growing up in Southern Maine, my various trips, and a variety of other things about me, I have yet to give a personal introduction. That — combined with my desire to kick off at least semi-regular blogging — inspired me to write this post.

Who Am I?

First of all, I’ll start off with a little bit about myself. I’m a 24-year-old marketing professional who lives in Greater Boston. Having grown up in Southern Maine, I’ve always been a New Englander, but really didn’t come to enjoy Boston until I began attending school at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. In June of 2014, just two weeks after graduation, I moved to Somerville, MA, which is where I currently live, however I’ll be moving next door to Cambridge in a month’s time. Regardless, my serendipitous discovery that I lived under the various departure patterns from Logan’s Runway 33L re-ignited my interest in aviation. Although I’ll definitely miss being able to lay in bed and see British Airways 747s fly over my house, I’ll always be appreciative that I was fortunate enough to live in such a place — the realization of a childhood dream.

Furthermore, I’ve detailed some more information about me, particularly in terms of aviation. While this isn’t a completely comprehensive list, hopefully it will shed a bit of background into who I am, and where my interests lie.

Commercial Aircraft I’ve Flown On

Although I really hadn’t flown on that many types prior to age 22, my repertoire of planes traveled on has significantly increased since that point. I probably have a few more types that belong on here,

Narrow Bodies

Embraer:

  1. ERJ-145 (American Eagle)
  2. E-170 (American Airlines)
  3. E-190 (jetBlue, U.S. Airways)

Airbus:

  1. A319-100 (American Airlines, easyJet, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, U.S. Airways)
  2. A320-200 (American Airlines, easyJet, jetBlue, United Airlines, U.S. Airways)
  3. A321-200 (American Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Delta Air Lines)

Boeing:

  1. 717-200 (Delta Air Lines)
  2. 737-200 (U.S. Airways)
  3. 737-300 (Southwest Airlines)
  4. 737-700 (Southwest Airlines, United Airlines)
  5. 737-800 (American Airlines, United Airlines)
  6. 737-900 (Delta Air Lines, United Airlines)
  7. 757-200 (American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines)
  8. 757-300 (United Airlines)

McDonnell-Douglas:

  1. MD-82 (American Airlines)
  2. MD-83 (American Airlines)
Wide Bodies

Airbus:

  1. A330-200 (American Airlines)
  2. A330-300 (Air China, China Eastern Airlines)
  3. A380-800 (British Airways, China Southern Airlines)

Boeing:

  1. 767-300 (Delta Air Lines)
  2. 787-800 (Hainan Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle)
  3. 787-900 (Hainan Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle)
  4. 777-200 (British Airways, United Airlines)
  5. 747-400 (British Airways)

Note: Though we took a few trips when I was a little kid, I wouldn’t have known a Dash-8 from a Dreamliner (the latter didn’t exist then, but you get my point). Due to that, I’m sure that this list should be more extensive, however I don’t want to post something I’m not 100% sure is accurate.

10 Favorite Aircraft

While I’m definitely a fan of Boeing, I have to say that I enjoy flying on Airbus aircraft as well. However, the Boeing 747-400 is undoubtedly my favorite, and always will be.

  1. Boeing 747
  2. Boeing 787
  3. Airbus A330
  4. Airbus A380
  5. Boeing 777
  6. Boeing 767
  7. Airbus A320
  8. Boeing 737
  9. Boeing 757
  10. Airbus A319

Note: While most of the following aircraft have certain series that exist within the model (-100, -200, etc.), my feelings remain consistent throughout the fleet as a whole.

Firsts

While I can’t say I remember my first flight much, I have been able to remember a number of other interesting experiences. In particular, my first wide body and 747 flights were particularly memorable.

Flight:

  • January 1996
  • Portland, ME (KPWM) – Pensacola, FL (KPNS)
  • About: No idea what the exact routing was, although I do remember us going through Newark and Jacksonville, so I’d have to guess we flew on Continental. (To be fair, I was 3 at the time.)

Wide body Flight:

  • November 10, 2004
  • Boston, MA (KBOS) – London, England (EGLL)
  • British Airways 238
  • Boeing 777-200 (registration: unknown)
  • About: My dad and I took a trip to England which, in addition to being my first time on a wide-body, was also my first time leaving the United States. A good time indeed.

Boeing 747 Flight:

  • November 25, 2014
  • Boston, MA (KBOS) – London, England (EGLL)
  • British Airways 212
  • Boeing 747-400 (registration: G-BYGD)
  • About: I had long had a two-part dream: 1. to fly transatlantic from an airport in the state which I resided. 2. to fly on a 747. All told, this is my favorite trip that I’ve taken to date.

Domestic Wide-body Flight:

  • February 27, 2016
  • Boston, MA (KBOS) – Charlotte, NC (KCLT)
  • American Airlines 1967
  • Airbus A330-200 (reg: N290AY)
  • About: While it wasn’t long in duration, it was quite an experience to be able to look out the window for a short domestic flight and see the wing of the A330. Pretty cool!

10 Destinations for the Future

Ultimately, everyone has different criteria for what makes a destination unique. Though some of these are on here more due to interest in the airport rather than the destination itself, I am sure I’d enjoy the locales as well.

  1. San Francisco, CA (KSFO)*
  2. Denver, CO (KDEN)
  3. Honolulu, HI (PHNL)
  4. Munich, Germany (EDDM)
  5. Barcelona, Spain (LEBL)
  6. Beijing, China (ZBAA)*
  7. Toronto, Ontario (CYYZ)
  8. Dublin, Ireland (EIDW)
  9. Johannesburg, South Africa (FAOR)
  10. Tel Aviv, Israel (LLBG)

* Itinerary booked.

That should be enough for me to get started. In conclusion, I’d like to say thank you for stopping by, and be sure to check back — I intend to blog on a somewhat regular basis!