Having been an AvGeek since the age of six and an aviation journalist for 22 years, I have a fine sense of what every AvGeek should do before they die. Below is my list, with the caveat that not everyone will be able to do these things. But can’t we dream?
1. Go inside a working FAA control tower. Back in November 2008, I was out at Washington Dulles International Airport for the opening of its fourth runway. As part of that visit, I got to go into the control tower with then-acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell. The views were amazing!
2. Attend one of the three major air shows. I’ve covered Singapore, Farnborough and Paris. They are busy, spread out and just amazing, from the fantastic air shows (I got to see the last Air France Concorde land at the 2003 Paris Air Show), to the crush of press conferences to visits to company chalets (I still dream about the meals I had at the Airbus press chalets).
3. Fly in a World War II aircraft. I attended a Honeywell media event where we were flown in a Boeing B29 Superfortress, where I got to sit in the bombardier seat. Awesome!!
4. Do a behind-the-scenes airport tour. I’ve gotten to do several, including Hartsfield-Jackson, Los Angeles International, Washington National, Washington, Dulles, McCarran International, Phoenix Sky Harbor and Salt Lake City, to name a few. Seeing the inner workings of a baggage system and hanging out on the ramp are experiences not to be missed.
5. Sit in the jump seat on a commercial flight. Before 9/11, I got to do this several times, including: a Virgin Atlantic 747 taking off from London Heathrow; a Crossair Avro RJ landing at London City Airport; and a Continental Express Embraer ERJ-145 landing at Washington National Airport.
6. Visit great air/aviation museums. Of course I’ve been to both Air & Space Museums in D.C. (I even got a sneak peek of the Udvar-Hazy Center on the day the Enola Gay arrived), the Swedish Air Force Museum, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Pima Air & Space Museum, the Palm Springs Air Museum of Flying, and the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
7. Do a ferry flight. Ferry flights are when airlines take delivery of new aircraft and fly them back home. I’ve done several flights from San Jose dos Campos, Brazil, to the U.S. (with stops in Belem and spots in the Caribbean including Martinique) to deliver ERJ-145s and a flight from Linkoping, Sweden, to Minneapolis-St. Paul via Iceland, Greenland (cold!) and Gander to deliver a Saab 340 turboprop to Mesaba Airlines.
8. Attend the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This, kids, is the world’s largest air show. During the week of the show, Wittman Regional Airport becomes home to the world’s busiest air traffic control tower, handling more than 10,000 aircraft. See aircraft ranging from the Boeing 787 to a spectacular display of warbirds. Check out exhibits, air shows and vendors, and meet up with a who’s who in aviation. Remind me to tell you of my encounter with Capt. Sullenberger another time…
9. Take a general aviation discovery flight. Back in the day, one of the reporters on my staff was a pilot, and she took me up in a Piper Cherokee to see the fall foliage over Virginia, and even let me fly. If you have Living Social or Groupon in your area, they always have discovery flight deals. If not, go to your local airport and ask the flight school to do a discovery flight.
10. Fly in a hot air balloon. When I first became an aviation journalist, I attended the fall meeting of the Regional Airline Association, in Palm Springs. Bombardier hosted a media day, and a highlight was a hot air balloon trip over the valley of the sun.