There’s something magical about sitting around a fire. Experts say that in a survival situation, after assessing basic medical needs, one of the first things to do is build a fire, regardless of the weather. Why? For the morale boost. That might explain why we still spend energy and money to build fires in our backyards and in our fireplaces when we could technically get by just fine without them. In the same way that we as humans like to gather around a fire, so a pilot or aviation enthusiast craves the heat and warmth of aviation, and you don’t have to be IN the airplane to basque in it. The use of the term AvGeek has surged as a title and a hashtag. In the past, hanging out at the airport and talking to other pilots was one of the best and only ways to stay close to aviation. But the kids these days are taking it up a notch. Let’s look at a few ways you can draw closer to the fire of aviation and earn your AvGeek wings.
Watch Airplanes In The Digital Age
I ascribe a big part of my love for aviation to the days of my childhood at the local airport, watching the planes take off and land. I still spend time there doing the same thing, and I can’t really tell you why I do or what I get out of it. It’s truly the aviation equivalent of the fire; a positive boost of the feels – a happy place. Getting out to the airport for such leisure time can be a challenge, but technology has been kind enough to solve that problem for us. A growing number of webcams can be found at various airports. My go-to digital airport is the Brighton City Airport (EGKA) in London. Positioned at the end of runway 2, the live feed features both audio and video. I find myself tuning in often, and it never seems to get old when the wheels of an airplane pop down into the screen on short final to land. I’ve become fond of that airport, like it’s my home base, although it’s “across the pond.” I’ve seen the guy who scares the birds away out on the runway activating his anti-bird device, and I’ve found myself mesmerized by the sheep on the hill in the distance as they flock around, doing whatever it is that sheep do on a grassy hill in England. Try having it up for a bit and see for yourself. Keep it up like a screen saver that you actually care to look at.
Take Air Traffic Control With You
Aviation radio is a language of its own, and you used to have to be in the airplane to hear it happening, or maybe invest in a handheld radio and head out to the airport. There’s nothing wrong with either of those, but again, technology has rescued us from those limitations with LiveATC. The app only costs you a dollar or so and gives you access to a whole bunch of airports around the world. It lets you listen to your favorite air traffic feeds wherever you are. I’ll occasionally turn it on in my car on trips. Nerdy? Oh yeah, but the sounds of the traffic pattern and approaches are an enjoyable way to stay alert. You can paint your own mental picture of where each airplane is, sharpening your situational awareness skills. If you use the app while watching planes at the airport, you basically have a very inexpensive handheld radio. I like to test those situational awareness skills by spotting the aircraft. From time to time, I'll have the feed turned up in my car and I'll forget that I have it on after a period of silence. It’s quite the jolt when that airplane breaks the silence by calling 10 miles out. It’s better than coffee.
Make Flight Simulator A Reality
Home flight simulators used to be a novelty. My first experience was with Chuck Yeager’s Flight Simulator from the early 90's. While entertaining, it was hardly useful. Nowadays, though, you can set up a flight simulator at home relatively inexpensively that can keep you immersed in aviation. Maybe you want to practice shooting the ILS approach at your local airport, or perhaps you just want to fire up a fighter jet and fly upside down as fast as you can. In either case, you can make the experience as delightfully simple or as technically complicated as you like. Flight simulators like X-Plane have an incredible level of realism, from the flight dynamics to the radio navigation. Because my home computer isn’t cutting edge, I happily run X-Plane 9 for all of my simulation needs, but the latest version is X-Plane 11, which does require a pretty fast computer, but the graphics are incredible. I use a CH Products Eclipse Yoke when I fly, which is a great all in one unit that can easily be tucked away after a session. You can upgrade your realism and practice your radio speak by connecting to a network like VATSIM, which allows you to connect to and talk with a network of virtual pilots and air traffic controllers as you fly. Some folks take the build of their home flight simulator concept to the max, which can be pretty awesome, but I’d rather route those kind of funds to flying the airplane.
You simply don’t have to be a pilot to enjoy aviation. You also don’t have to be a pilot to wear your own “AvGeek” title proudly. Some in aviation are a bit opposed to the term, but I for one make sure that the #AvGeek hashtag is on just about all of my posts. Flying at its core will always be the principles of lift and weight, thrust and drag. However, the technology component is becoming increasingly more integrated in even the simplest of trainers. As a pilot, you don’t have to be flying to love flight. Staying immersed in the world of aviation is easier now than it ever was, so plug in, charge up and get your AvGeek on. How do you #Avgeek?
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