4 min read

Let’s start off with a really quick exercise in reality. If you’ve ever tweeted the hashtag #avgeek, I want to you to exit your World of Warcraft game, put on some pants, slowly climb those steep, dark stairs out of your mom’s basement and quickly make your way to the nearest video store and pick up a VHS copy of The Right Stuff. Now watch the movie in its entirety and report back to me how many pilots would not punch you in the nose if you called them an avgeek.

Right Stuff pilots

Who are you calling a geek?

OK, good. You’re back and I already know the results of your report. Zero. There are zero pilots from the movie The Right Stuff who would not punch you in the nose.

In all seriousness, we can discuss the definition of avgeek all day long. Sure, it just represents a fanatic desire for all things aviation. To “geek out” when you see your favorite airplane fly by. To take so many pictures planespotting that the TSA thinks you are of questionable repute and asks you to leave the premises. The Urban Dictionary puts it simply: “Someone who has a love for planes/aircraft.”

These are good things, and good for the future of aviation. We need inspiration for young aviators and a growing camaraderie and sense of community for budding pilots. The problem lies in the context. Geeks are not inspiring, test pilots are. Bold risk takers and game changers are what excite people. But “risk” has become taboo in aviation and we all huddle around in our cute little avgeek community that nobody on the outside thinks is cool. We are building a wall of just geek to everyone on the outside.

While taking undue risks in the cockpit is understandably frowned upon, there will still be risks nonetheless. While these risks must be managed, they have the opportunity to excite and challenge. Risk can be used as a very positive motivator because once overcome, it results in a great deal of personal satisfaction.

And outside the cockpit, sometimes the real risk these days is just driving through the barbed wire gates that surround the local airport. Sometimes it’s risky to save your money to go flying instead of buying a PS4. Prospective pilots need to know that risk is acceptable and encouraged or we’d never leave the ground. It takes courage to take a risk no matter how minute, but few would be willing to take the gamble if the reward is to be labeled a geek.

In the age of facespace and mybook, texting and twittling, a virtual demographic would seem to demand techie marketing. The difference is that aviation is reality, it’s hands on–and it’s an opportunity to put hipsters, millennials and Gen Y or X in touch with real life and escape the screen. Aviation is the untapped potential that the next generation hasn’t realized is accessible.


Is this the image we want to project?

The real issue is that we need young people to buy into aviation. It’s all well and good to get kids enthusiastic and keep their eyes to the skies, but until they invest in flight training, aircraft and aviation products, the pilot population will continue to dwindle. That recent high school/college grad with student debt looming is not going to spend their little bit of disposable income to be a flying geek.

How to market aviation to a new generation has been an ongoing debate and it’s a tough question to answer. Aviation doesn’t have brand loyalty, multi-million dollar marketing, or famous football commercials. Aviation isn’t a household name that every household can relate to, so we must use the tools to which we have access.

While social media tactics are what need to be used to reach today’s consumer, these tactics need to be used to their full potential and not squandered on cute little cliches. The biggest barrier with using tools like Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets is that they are crowd sourced. There isn’t one major corporation as a driving force changing the paradigm of aviation perception. So unless we all can get behind a change we can believe in, the status quo will remain.

Aviation is an elite community, but it doesn’t have to be exclusive and it surely shouldn’t portray a pocket-protector toting, four-eyed, suspender-wearing nerd with epaulets. Expecting #avgeek to trend with the likes of #justinbieber and #ipadgames is an exercise in futility and a disservice to the community. From now on I will commit to exchanging #avgeek with #avbadass until the trend changes, and so should you.

Chris Clarke
88 replies
  1. Brandon
    Brandon says:

    With respect, I get basic premise of your article, however as someone on the older end of the Millennial demographic, I’m not on board with the general examples you’re referencing. Like any group, be it Millennials, engineers, Baby Boomers or pilots, there are differences in opinion and expression within that group, and we shouldn’t begrudge anyone how they want to express their passion. I can only speak anecdotally, but most people I know are proud to call themselves geeks of whatever passion they’re involved in. I don’t have too many occasions where I use the term “Avgeek”, but I’m certainly not going to shy away from it.

    Insofar as to what can be done to attract more of my generation, well, you’re correct that Cessna and Piper don’t have the marketing cache of the likes of Harley-Davidson or Ducati. Moreover, I’m not certain what kind of marketing one can use other than simply inviting someone up to fly. Seems we’re so up in buzzwords and catchphrases that simply talking to someone my age or younger hasn’t really occurred to anyone.

    I agree with you that aviation is a great counterpoint to using technology, but I see no need for them to be mutually exclusive. Social media is a great tool for encouraging people to fly, and many younger (and older) pilots are using Facebook or YouTube to show their flying exploits. I would encourage you to look at some of the fantastic flying video channels on YouTube, like youtube.com/MrAviation101 to see this in action.

    Your overall point that we need more younger people in aviation is definitely correct. The running joke in the pilots association I belong to is that my presence drops the average age of the group. I’d love to see that trend continue.

    Blue skies.

    • Chris Clarke
      Chris Clarke says:

      I would hate begrudge anyone attempting to express their passion for aviation, I would only implore they focus how they express their passion. I believe social media is an important tool for reaching budding flier. Better yet, its a critical tool, thus we must be responsible how we use it.

      Although we were taught to never judge a book by its cover, we are still being judged by the avgeek cover we put on the aviation book.

      • Justin F
        Justin F says:

        Why are you worried about being judged? And by who? The high school jocks who think they are still the cool kids and live out their days as rent-a-cops at the mall making fun of successful pilots?

        I’m not exactly sure who you are referencing that is judging us?

        • Chris Clarke
          Chris Clarke says:

          I couldn’t give a flying fairchild who judges me personally, but I’d like to see the pilot population grow, not shrink. I’m worried how potential flyers and budding pilots see the overall image of aviation as a community.

          • Justin F
            Justin F says:

            No one cares about a hashtag. It is the most irrelevant thing to the aviation community you could have chose to write about. See my comment below.

  2. Paul Robichaux
    Paul Robichaux says:

    Put down the Geritol, Chris. “avgeek” is a convenient tag for labeling things of interest to a particular segment of the world social media network, nothing more and nothing less. You may not agree with the semantics of the tag; I get that, but to claim that this is somehow driving younger people away from interest in aviation is, I think, an unsupported claim. You know what drives young people away from aviation? Telling them that it will cost $100/hr or more to get their license when the best they can do is a $7.50/hr job at McDonald’s.

    • Chris Clarke
      Chris Clarke says:

      Thanks for the reply otherwise without it I’d have no reason to Google Geritol and find out what it actually does.

      Sure the economy isn’t great, but lets be honest, there are recent high school/college grads that have the money to spend on aviation but don’t. The auto industry is scrambling to market to the young, unmarried with money. I know some of them and I’d be embarrassed if they thought of me as an avgeek.

      • Brandon
        Brandon says:

        “I know some of them, and I’d be embarrassed if they thought of me as an avgeek.”

        I guess I’m just not understanding the angst here. We’re less than 1% of the U.S. population. That means that over 99% of the U.S. is not a pilot. That is an enormous pool of people to draw from. Conversely, that is also an enormous group of people who might not view aviation all that positively.

        Of course we should be concerned over how we’re perceived in general, but being overly worried about what some people might think of anyone calling themselves a geek seems misplaced.

      • trustaviation
        trustaviation says:

        Chris, the community who the automotive industry are marketing and appealing to usually refer to themselves as “Petrol Heads”, which is just another label to refer to a collective and is no different to the AvGeek handle.

        As far as I am aware none of them actually have heads made of petrol so the moniker is irrelevant to their passion for that particular industry – it is simply a
        a name. The old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” could easily be attributed to aviation in this discussion. Any name given to people passionate about aviation – or any other subject matter – will not damage it.

        I’m a 30 year veteran of the airline business. I’m a professional and yet I am content being called an AvGeek. By the way, it’s never crossed my mind that I should leave the industry because of the emergence of the term and it never will be a factor.

  3. Jim G
    Jim G says:

    When i was in highschool the fact I was a pilot made me the coolest kid in school. I was popular with the ladies and the guys. When I left for college (a prestigious midwest pilot farm) I discovered that in the unrealistac realm of academia at this college being a pilot was not cool at all, in fact you tried to downplay you were a student of the Aviation program.

    Now that I’m outside of school again, guess what, I’m cool amongst my peers and friends. I’m not a professional pilot, and my coworkers admire me, my bosses ask me questions about aviation.

    I don’t think the avgeek attitude hurts aviation at all. In fact, look at how popular nerdism is (Big Bang Theory for example) so the geek phenom if anything makes young pilots more engaged and anticipating achieving the club of fellow #avgeeks

    • Chris Clarke
      Chris Clarke says:

      While the Big Bang Theory is widely popular, no one wants to be those guys. We are laughing at them, not with them.

      • Jim G
        Jim G says:

        Your response here (attacking the show in the response but not addressing the actual response) tells me your entire article is ridiculous. You probably are in college, or recently left it, and are afraid of being labeled a geek after your experience at an aviation school.

        You seem to absolutely care how people judge you, you’ll grow up someday.

      • Patrick Irvin
        Patrick Irvin says:

        Big Bang Theory….lol I will join Chris in laughing at them and shaking my head at the lack of testosterone on display… that is if I actually wasted a second watching it.

  4. Justin F
    Justin F says:


    I think you are dead wrong on a couple of fronts. The term “geek” no longer refers to what you think it refers to. You actually perfectly sum up my point in your closing paragraph:

    “Aviation is an elite community, but it doesn’t have to be exclusive and it surely shouldn’t portray a pocket-protector toting, four-eyed, suspender-wearing nerd with epaulets.”

    You are using the term nerd and geek interchangeably when you are actually comparing two completely different things. You give a perfect spot on description of a nerd. If it was #avNerd, then I would be 100% on board and agree with you. There are FAR more people than you think that would consider themselves a “geek” of some type or another. A geek is someone who is incredibly passionate about something, especially when that thing has a technical aspect. The fact that you see it as a negative connotation is a very outdated and close minded opinion.

    The fact that you think #avgeek is scaring anyone away from the community is just silly. If anything it is bringing in and catching the attention of the people graduating from college with disposable income (engineers, tech guys) and I would be willing to bet that 95% would identify themselves as a geek, not a nerd, but a geek. Those are the people who will get a chuckle out of it and those are the people that are going to use it.

    In my honest opinion, the fact that a hashtag in ANY WAY would sway someone to or from aviation is not a practical concern.

  5. Fred
    Fred says:

    This smacks of a made-up problem for the sole purpose of writing an article. If so, good for you. If not, get a better, more germane topic to write about: learning to fly is too expensive, too cumbersome; that’s the real problem not some adjective.

    • Chris Clarke
      Chris Clarke says:

      There are plenty of smart individuals with sufficient cash flow that are spending their money on boats and exotic cars because they don’t see the value of personal aviation. Now #avgeek might not be causing the problem, its not helping either.

      • Avgeekin'
        Avgeekin' says:

        “Now #avgeek might not be causing the problem, its not helping either.”

        Stats? Proof? This is Air “Facts”, after all.

        More than likely, this term, this COMMUNITY is helping the world of aviation. Have you attended Airline Reporter’s AvGeek Fest? Probably not, but if you had, you’d have seen that that event gave unprecedented access to aircraft, concepts, design–and there were lots of young folks there, none of which who said “Man, I sure do love aviation, but this idea of being a geek is turning me off to it!” Each one of those events has likely inspired many to pursue careers in aviation (and, of course, this does apply to non-“avgeek” programs too like Young Eagles, etc). It provides an environment where anyone who has a deep interest in aviation feels comfortable asking questions, learning more and truly expressing their interest–something they may not be able to do elsewhere.

  6. Kai Hansen
    Kai Hansen says:

    I am sure that @Alvin_BadAss will not be happy with the suggestion to use #avbadass. He seems to have no interest in aviation whatsoever.

    We are an upcoming new museum and are trying to infuse the passion of aviation to the next generations.

    Using #avgeek is a way for us to reach more twitters but I have to agree to a certain point with the article.

    It is used for a closed circle of people and do not reach all the bieber fans, so from now on I am going to include #justinbieber in all my tweets :-))

  7. Marc
    Marc says:

    When you laugh at the ‘nerds’ and try to distance yourself from being associated with them, you are part of the problem. In fact as much as you think you aren’t one. It is much more likely that you are. Please see Wil Wheaton on the subject of being a geek or nerd and if you don’t love what you do enough to be considered a geek about it, you might want to do something else.

  8. G.
    G. says:

    So the issue at hand is that calling aviation enthusiasts “Avgeeks” isn’t elitist enough and somehow hurting the community?

    To talk down to the fans of aircraft, their history, systems and models is very disrespectful, especially when many of them (us) are more knowledgeable and passionate than a large number of private and commercial pilots.

    Before earning my ticket, I would have absolutely not problem self identifying as an Avgeek, because it is nothing more than a group of people intensely interested in the environment we all love. If having a fan base is hurting aviation, where are the next group of aviators going to come from?

    Also, there’s a huge disconnect between the generalizations made with my generation and what the attitude currently is. Make no mistake, the average 20-something believes aviation is exactly what the article is try to sell as a good thing: A haughty group of older, elitist showoffs with a “better than you” mindset.

    We need to be doing the exact opposite: Instead of further isolating our community by quashing (apparently) threatening hashtags, we should be embracing it and getting flying out there for everyone.

  9. Glen Towler
    Glen Towler says:

    I love being called a #avgeek its good to be part of huge of people like minded people. Yes more young people need to train as pilots that is airline problem they need sponsor more young people. It has nothing to do with us calling are ourselves #avgeeks .

  10. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    “Aviation is an elite community, but it doesn’t have to be exclusive and it surely shouldn’t portray a pocket-protector toting, four-eyed, suspender-wearing nerd with epaulets.” When I hear the word “geek” I don’t think of any of those things. You should probably re-evaluate your stereotypes. I hate to break it to you but . . .

    Alan Shepard: Engineer
    Gus Grissom: Engineer
    John Glenn: Engineer
    Scott Carpenter: Engineer
    Wally Schirra: Engineer
    Gordon Cooper: Engineer
    Deke Slayton: Engineer

    They were all engineers, mostly aeronautical engineers. They probably all wore pocket protectors and knew how to use a slide rule. They were all geeks, they may have been badass 20/20 vision geeks, but geeks none-the-less.

  11. Iain
    Iain says:

    Complete non-story. I’ve worked in IT for 17 years and ‘geek’ is a badge worn with pride. I’m a lifelong aviation enthusiast – and proud to hold a pilot’s licence. The thought that it in some way demeans/devalues aviation is a complete non sequitur IMHO. #avkeek and proud!

    • Sam
      Sam says:

      Iain you said it as well as I could. ‘Geek’ is not a negative term anymore. Sorry Chris, you need to get yourself out if the 90’s and catch up with the times and get off your elitist horse. The photoshopped image of a geek, truthfull is insulting.

  12. Liem
    Liem says:

    “I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer, born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace and propelled by compressible flow.” – Neil Armstrong

  13. LT_DT
    LT_DT says:

    I agree with the other folks commenting that this is completely off-base. I have been an AvGeek since the age of three. I wanted nothing more than to be a pilot growing up. I drew airplanes all through middle and high school. In high school, I went on a week-long biology field trip to Wallops Island in Virginia and spent the week scanning the skies for NASA’s T-38s flying overhead.

    Flying professionally wasn’t an option for me coming out of high school because of my eyesight, so I ended up getting undergraduate and graduate degrees in aerospace engineering. Once I had some disposable income, I started taking flying lessons which went great until I had to decide between flying and buying a house. Flying did not win.

    Fast-forward 20 years and I’m still as much of an AvGeek as ever. I work in aerospace R&D. I listen to live ATC during the work day and specifically follow peoples’ flights if I know the itineraries. I get to the airport early to airplane watch and pick travel itineraries and airlines as a function of the equipment on the given route. I watch airplane videos on YouTube, read airplane blogs, and play MS Flight Simulator when I can. I can plane-spot with the best of them and I yell at Amazing Racers on TV when they don’t know what airline has a hub in the city they’re trying to fly to. At this point in my life, as a mid-career engineer with a spouse who’s a physician, I could get back into flying. But, at $100/hr, in good weather only, with college to save for, it’s tough to justify. I’d rather have a sports car that I can wheel out of the garage at will or kayaks to take down to the river. I want nothing more than to take my kids flying, but the math just doesn’t work out. That is what’s keeping me, and by extension my kids, out of aviation. Not some silly social media tag.

    On the other hand, the AvGeek community gives me an outlet and a sense of belonging to a group of people who have the same passion that I do. It allows us to find each other either face-to-face, as with Dave Parker Brown’s AvGeek Fest, or virtually. It allows me to show my kids that there is a big group of people with the same interests that I have and that maybe I’m not that weird after all. If nothing else, it allows me to find “cool” airplane-related stuff and events that I can involve my kids in and spur their interest in aviation.

    Lastly, following years spent in the military and in the aerospace world, I have friends who are civilian and military pilots. None of them look down on AvGeeks. In fact, most of them appreciate that we’re just as passionate about aviation as they are, although circumstances may not have allowed us to follow the same career path. In fact, after having spent some time in the military flight test community (and encountered more than a handful of F-16 drivers with engineering PhDs) I seriously doubt that any of them, or the Right Stuff pilots, would punch me in the nose if I called them an AvGeek.

  14. Ian Kluft
    Ian Kluft says:

    I’ve been an aviation geek, or AvGeek, since long before the term was invented. I’ve also been a licensed pilot for 25 years. And I have since upgraded to flight instructor.

    While I haven’t read all the AirFacts articles, this is the first time I’ve been disappointed by one.

    I use the #avgeek hashtag on Twitter any time I want to alert my followers to anything interesting in aviation.

    The article takes such a narrow definition of avgeek that it departs from reality as it opens. AvGeeks are a much more diverse group than this opinion article portrays. An AvGeek is a role of an enthusiast. It is not exclusive of becoming a licensed pilot. I think the majority of pilots got there because of a personal interest in flight. Though some minorities learn for the utility of self-transportation or other reasons.

    I’d suggest that being an avgeek, whether one actually uses the term or not, is a requirement for anyone who wants to be a flight instructor! Otherwise how will they inspire their students through those inevitable learning plateus?

    AvGeeks are a ready-made pool of potential future pilots which the aviation community can inspire and recruit. Though in some cases, people who can’t get an FAA 3rd Class Medical have only the role of the AvGeek to exercise their enthusiasm. We’ve really got to give them a break.

    So don’t stress out so much on the choice of the hashtag name. It’s fine. It’s just how social media reacts when people find they have interests in common.

  15. Paulo M
    Paulo M says:

    One of the key insights I’ve gained from the primary social media account I use to engage with #AvGeeks – twitter – is the in depth knowledge these people carry proudly on their own #avgeek badges. Aviation is not willy-nilly simple, it is incredibly broad, and encompasses many, many fields of science, law, finance, politics, etc., from metallurgy right through human factors psychology. The avgeeks I know really do push on these to explain more simply aviation to a broader audience who cannot understand the depth of the subject matter as easily as the industry insiders. I think it kind of opens up people’s eyes to the possibilities of entering into a career in aerospace if they thought of giving up and being rejected for pilot or cabin crew training — the industry is so much broader than the pilots and beef & chicken!

  16. Duane
    Duane says:

    If anyone ever had the misconception that pilots aren’t opinionated, a post about whether “avgeek” is an appropriate term generating dozens of comments ought to setle the matter!

    Now, let’s argue about something that matters, say, high wing vs. low wing; tailwheels and whether they are a hopeless anachronism or a true measure of one’s pilot manhood; the efficacy and safety of straight-in entries vs. flying the full pattern at uncontrolled airports; etc. etc.


  17. Marty
    Marty says:

    I think the boys from The Right Stuff would be far more critical of your use of #avbadass to describe the kind of flying you do. I don’t see #avgeek doing damage… but I can see how #avbadass might be perceived in a negative way.

  18. JL Johnson
    JL Johnson says:

    Well written article, but I couldn’t disagree with you more. Geek has evolved significantly over the past decades, your definition is straight out of 1985. Indeed, geeks are the risk-takers, the visionaries and the leaders in their industries. Someone who loves their job, their industry and has a passion for what they do? Yep, that’s a geek.

  19. Max Flight
    Max Flight says:

    Um, if you haven’t noticed, geeks rule. And we have more than 6000 listeners of the Airplane Geeks podcast (enthusiasts and industry professionals) who are more than happy to be associated with the #AvGeek hashtag.

  20. Anthony
    Anthony says:

    Great comments, and the backlash is well deserved. Chris Clark, you’re handling yourself well among the wolves, and I hope they have persuaded you to consider the opposite position. I’d also suggest you leave the cheer leading to Jaime Beckett… easier for me to skip the hollow articles.

    Branding is not a major problem to GA (though I’m not against rebranding it personal aviation) The major obstacles to new pilots in the modern world are cost, obsolete training regimen and testing criteria, and convenience/access. It’s just so much easier to drop a boat in the water or throw a leg over the motorcycle, physically and from a regulatory standpoint. As for obsolete training… look no further than the suggested weather texts. The AC’s and weather handbook from the 50s are all theory and no practical advice. They leave more questions than answers for a new PIC.

    Perhaps the bottom will fall out of the LSA market with the new rule changes and address the cost/convenience problems in a single swipe. Though they still won’t be able to take their friends/families out for a nice weekend with only 2 seats.

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      I’m not sure I agree that “Branding is not a major problem to GA.” There are certainly lots of problems, from cost to regulation, but branding is part of it.

      We need to make flying more affordable, for sure, but we are doing a terrible job of convincing all those people who CAN afford it to start flying. Whether avgeek matters or not, I don’t know, but branding does matter.

      • Anthony
        Anthony says:

        If branding and perception are one and the same, I see where you’re coming from.

        What I meant by the above statement was that abolishing avgeek would be less helpful than switching to GA to PA. But changing the name is not enough, no matter who is managing PR. GA will be perceived as a rich person’s game until it’s costs (or other living costs.. but that’s another discussion) come down.

        • Brandon
          Brandon says:

          Cost is certainly a more pressing concern than whatever we decide to call ourselves. I still see John’s point though that it isn’t so much the cost as it is the value per dollar spent.

          Others have pointed out that anything worth doing, then one will find a way to do it. How are we selling Personal Aviation (I like this re-brand idea!)?

          • John Zimmerman
            John Zimmerman says:

            I’ve like Personal Aviation for a long time – it is more descriptive for sure.

            As I’ve said before, even if PA/GA is a rich man’s game, we’re not even doing well there!

          • Anthony
            Anthony says:

            Great points John. Perhaps ICON is best positioned to take the ball and run with the PA idea. Being touted as a recreational machine and all (with utility when needed!)

      • Paul Lemley
        Paul Lemley says:

        After reading the majority of the comments, I’m going to go out on the same limb as Chris and agree with him. This unfortunately will make me a bit of a hypocrite though as I have utilized the hashtag #avgeek MANY times when marketing classicflightbag.com.

        I never truly saw the appeal in using it, I only saw it as a tool to build trust, loyalty, and to be found easier by a specific demographic.

        I agree with Chris and John that with ALL of GA’s faults, cost and access being the two obvious ones, brand and positioning has to be held in the same regard as utter failures.

        I’d like to make one point though that could get me in trouble with some regarding this brand and positioning problem.

        The AVERAGE (and I’d like to emphasize the word average even more with these parentheses) pilot has a very specific personality not usually described as visionary. I by no means want to suggest that pilots are not capable of being creative or are able to successfully market general aviation, but consider the type of person a pilot is. Calculating, typically above average with numbers, a practitioner with specific set of skills many just do not have.

        Now consider your non-pilot friends or family. Or even better, if you have a friend or family member that is a professional marketer. Do you truly believe that professional marketer would suggest to an entire industry as sexy and innovative as aviation, call themselves or even suggest to others that they are geeks or nerds?

        I’ll go back to the old saying, “perception is reality”. I for one don’t want people outside the aviation community to perceive us as geeks or nerds. How can we expect to successfully market general aviation if a pilot disregards the “sexy pilot” adjective so wonderfully bestowed upon us by many movies, tv shows, articles, etc…. and replace it with “avgeek”?

        Sure this article and debate sounds trivial, but as a community looking to grow and innovate, we have to start somewhere.

        I’ll be quitting the word avgeek for good now. Please call me out on it if you see it used on any future Classic Flight Bag posts, materials, or marketing.

        • Ian Hoyt
          Ian Hoyt says:

          I too agree with Paul. Formerly owning a high quality clothing line for aviators, I saw first hand how #AvGeek was both a blessing and a curse to helping the brand. There is nothing “high quality” about the tag, yet it was one of the best ways to find my potential market. A constant paradox.

          In an ideal world we would have more aviation “brand” advocates such as Paul and myself. Spreading our passion for the badass and quality lifestyle that most the world used to envision aviation as.

          It’s not a lost cause, far from it. But we are far from a solution as well. If we don’t embrace creatives and visionaries in this industry… we will continue on a path to fostering a clan and not a culture.

          Aviation is my home, and I too would be considered an #AvGeek in todays sense… but I cringe at the fact that I have to use this in todays world. Why not just call ourselves the awesome and respected people we hold ourselves to: #Aviators

          I closed the clothing business because people did not respect quality over cheap crap that you can just throw on. Everyday I hope that I will be able to open up my clothing line again to put a quality clothing brand to a quality lifestyle of what we all remember aviation as growing up.

          Until then…

          I’ll still love watching and flying airplanes. Once we learn to respect our craft instead of dumbing it down, we will start to hold ourselves to a higher perceived standard to the world.

          • Ian Kluft
            Ian Kluft says:

            In both of the above cases, I’ll offer the suggestion to use the #aviation tag for the broader aviation topic, especially if more specific hashtags aren’t established for your message. Use #avgeek when addressing enthusiasts who want more details. If you were just using the #avgeek tag to get more eyeballs on your ads, that’s not likely to earn new followers. People see through that. Fine-tune the hashtags so they’re relevant and you’ll be more likely to build trust and attract followers.

            I’ve used the #avgeek tag for anything from planespotting pictures to uncommon details about aircraft. There’s even an annual event (which sells out in minutes when tickets go on sale) called Aviation Geek Fest for a rare VIP tour of the Boeing factories in Everett and Renton WA. http://www.airlinereporter.com/2014/02/aviation-geek-fest-tickets-sale-wednesday-details-event/

            However, I do not use the #avgeek tag when that isn’t the audience. When the topic is just for pilots, I’ll use the #aviation tag. We don’t have as well-established a hashtag but #pilots or #piloting seem to categorize the tweets well enough.

          • Brandon
            Brandon says:

            Ian (and Paul),

            Those are very good points, and ones I see companies like Icon attempting to work with. Even when Cessna first started marketing the Skycatcher, Jack Pelton narrated a video with well-dressed and attractive young folks in nice cars looking out the window at the cool new plane. His tagline was something along the lines of “Skycatcher: That’s what it is, and that’s what it does”. (The many issues pertaining to the C162 are an entirely different can of worms I simply don’t wish to get into right now.)

            I’ll still disagree with the premise that the term “avgeek” denotes a helmet-and-goggles wearing Steve Urkel in the sense that I believe the industry can support both, and then some. For the same reason some people can love cars as sexy status symbols, while others love them as reliable forms of transportation, so too can you love the latest, greatest airplanes with the whiz-bang goodies, while others can appreciate the older, cheaper used aircraft as fun and descent transport vehicles.

            Long story short: there’s room for all.

  21. Steve
    Steve says:

    “The Urban Dictionary puts it simply: “Someone who has a love for planes/aircraft.””

    Being so concerned about perception and apparently preferring the use of “avbadass”, you should probably clarify which definition you’re referring to in every future tweet, as:

    dictionary.com: a mean-tempered troublemaker.
    Merriam-Webster: ready to cause or get into trouble : mean
    Oxford: a tough, uncompromising, or intimidating person
    Urban Dictionary (same source you used): “Ultra-cool motherf…”

    Sounds super, particularly in the context of recruiting future pilots.

  22. Brad Koehn
    Brad Koehn says:

    Many of the people who can afford aviation can only do so because of our geek careers. A hashtag is keeping people out of aviation? Get real. Aviation social media is what convinced me to finish my ticket, sir. Go show me proof that the hashtag is keeping people from pursuing aviation.

  23. David
    David says:

    I think you’re confusing geek with nerd.

    A heap of pilots use #avgeek with their tweets and Instagram images. I often to and my pics get found by people interested or involved in aviation from around the world, from 14-year-old air-cadets in the UK, trainee airline pilots in Brazil and young female PPLs in Canada.
    It’s a buzzword that reflects a sense of pride in aviation and allows us to share it with others.

    In the lead up to an air show here in Melbourne, even the Royal Australian Air Force was using #avgeek with its social media.

    If anything #avgeek kinda makes aviation cool to the layman and could even inspire someone to get involved.

    There are a lot of things keeping aviation enthusiasts from actually getting into the cockpit – I say that as someone who finally started learning to fly at 45 – #avgeek isn’t one of them.

  24. Greg
    Greg says:

    Hunh. Interesting. You think I’d care if the guys who flew the X planes thought I was cool or not.

    I think it would be more interesting to sit down and talk to the engineers who, you know, INVENTED those airplanes.

    You know, those ‘geeks’.

  25. PAFNation
    PAFNation says:

    The issue I see is these self proclaimed AvGeeks are able to identify precisely which series of commercial aircraft is pictured, but their understanding and interest doesn’t go much further beyond superficial admiration of a supposed glamorous airline pilot lifestyle. Instead they need to develop an interest in stuff that actually matters, and learn that flying small aircraft can be just as much fun (or more IMO)Instead of going flying with their money, they just blow their cash on add ons for Microsoft flight sim and fake airline pilot epaulettes.

    Greg sounds like a tool, it’s one thing to design an aircraft, bringing it to physical fruition is another, it’s another thing entirely to really appreciate it and have the balls to step in one.

    • G.
      G. says:

      Huh. I’m currently enrolled in an aviation program filled with guys and gals that can tell you the difference between an Embraer 200, 700 and 900, spend hours on Microsoft Flight Sim, and lust after the 787. All of them are also incredible pilots who are passionate about what they do and have a huge desire to learn even more.

      We also all use the #avgeek hashtag on our countless GoPro spin videos and Instagram posts.

      I’m glad it’s offending the guys who fly only to impress their golf club buddies.

  26. Nanjul
    Nanjul says:

    To be honest it is sort of a relief for me to say that this is one of the most Dim-witted articles from an “Aviation Professional” I have ever read.
    Now, I say “relief” because I’d rather read nonsense on less serious articles such as this than on more critical issues on, say aviation safety for instance. I also used “Aviation professional” in quote as I did not have the patience or interest in verifying the writer’s credentials.
    Nevertheless it is quite amusing to me that an “aviation professional” in this day an age would even consider it possible that a simple social media hashtag could affect the future of aviation negatively. In fact, so much so that it was necessary to write an article slamming the #AVGEEK hashtag and warning of its effects.
    What Mr writer does not realize is that firstly, there isn’t really anything wrong with being called a GEEK. Geeks have always been in the front line of mankind’s progress in science and technology. Our Info-tech society today is largely the result of hard work put in by many “uninspiring” (quote writer) geeks. Whether they were popular with the mainstream world or not apparently had little to do with their achievements over the years and we all benefit greatly from their contribution (Yes the aviation industry in particular). The writer’s negative view of the term ‘geek’ comes off as discriminatory in my opinion. As if the writer would bully a ‘geek’ if given the chance.
    Next is the writer’s assertion that the #avgeek discourages young potential pilots from making the sacrifices necessary for embracing a career in aviation. Well to that I say whoever gets discouraged from flying simply because he is called a geek had better give up right away. because i hate to think of what will happen when he is required recover a light 4 seater from a stall in order to obtain his Private pilots license. We the #Avgeeks have a much stronger love for aviation. We know that the rewards largely outweigh whatever fun terms or hashtags we play around on social media with. In fact we embrace this hashtag because it reminds us of rare privilege we have of being able to enjoy the gift of flight in a way that normal people simply don’t. No one would enjoy a successful, fulfilling career in aviation without this privilege no matter how dedicated he/she was.
    Lastly, our writer fails to realize that real world #avgeeks come in all shapes and sizes. Including both the pocket-protector toting, four-eyed, suspender-wearing nerd with epaulets he talked about and tall, dark, symmetrically Jaw-lined, top gun style individuals. As well as the female counterparts of both categories. We all recognize each other as belonging to the same clique and are willingly drawn together by our shared love and admiration for human flight.
    There, I’ll end my rant now :)

  27. Dick Collins
    Dick Collins says:

    Hey, I love all this. I am an old guy and when it was suggested that I edit this story, I took a pass, saying that while I sort of agreed, I didn’t really understand what he was saying. Apparently a lot of you at least thought you understood and had those keyboards locked and loaded for some really interesting comments. Do mind your manners, though.

    • Brandon
      Brandon says:

      I’ll have to give credit where it’s due, though. If nothing else, this article has resulted in a very interesting debate, which was one I didn’t expect. Clearly, the term “geek” has become less stigmatized and more of a so-called badge of honor. A couple commenters did bring up valid counter-points about why #avgeek would not work for them, and that’s fine.

      My assertion is that there is room for the #avgeek and the #avbadass.

    • Anthony
      Anthony says:

      Nice to see you weigh in on this Mr. Collins. I hope we don’t see too many of these ‘trolling’ type articles in the future. I come to airfactsjournal for the meatier, data driven articles… Exactly as those you’ve provided over the years. I look forward to your upcoming works! They never disappoint.

      I’ll be disappointed to see this in the top 10 most popular list, because it is such a non issue.

  28. FRA Aviation
    FRA Aviation says:

    The hashtag #avgeek is for me, a YouTuber, an important measure to promote my content. It is used very often on Twitter by persons of any age. The description ‘avgeek’ has developed from ‘aviation geek’ to another, less geeky meaning. I don’t think that using the hashtag is damaging aviation and I’ll continue to use it.

  29. Steven R. Loomis
    Steven R. Loomis says:

    I don’t have anything to take personally here- I’m not a pilot, and certainly have not used the #AvGeek hashtag myself. But I am the father of a two year old who says “Apn! Apn!” every time something with an engine flies overhead.

    Whether this is a joke, trolling, or meant as written, I would say that this opinion, and not the hashtag, is unhelpful to the perception of aviation to someone such as myself. I would also add that what you have written seems quite different from the attitude of the many pilots whom I have as friends, or had come across in other contexts. I’m talking about the one who rearranged his schedule so that we could split a trip together (my first and only two general aviation flights – as of yet), the one who came out (in unsolicited response to a tweet) to give myself and two-year-old an airport tour, or just the flight school person who was glad to let us look at the maps and pictures.

    As an amateur radio operator (ham) I am somewhat familiar with questions of image and future. But coming back to #AvGeek- this hashtag, and the people behind it, have been responsible for really making the possibilities you mention accessible in some important ways that I probably wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise.

    Thanks for listening.

  30. Capt Jeff
    Capt Jeff says:

    My name is Captain Jeff. USAF pilot, major US legacy airline pilot for 25+ years. Host of the Airline Pilot Guy podcast. I am an AvGeek, and proud of it. Not embarrassed in the least bit. #avgeek

  31. Jerry Smith
    Jerry Smith says:

    A very neat article, & it got everyone’s attention, & got them to thinking. When you do that, that’s when bot good & bad ideas come forth.

    I’m no aviator, but I give Chris Clarke a A +, plus a OK for getting everyone’s attention, & getting them to think about this issue.

    • Owen
      Owen says:

      Hi Gerry, You hit the nail on the head there. This article has sparked more debate (from both sides) than most of the other writings on AFJ. Whether I agree with the writer or not, some good debate was sparked and some interesting thoughts were presented.. To me, this made it worth reading.

      @Chris, you get my “2 thumbs up” for being proactive, provocative and mixing in a good dose of tongue-in-cheek. I was not disappointed to see the wide range of responses, from fragile egos to supportive professionals. It was entertaining, and after all, that’s what Air Facts Journal is all about. Well done !!

  32. Jon Sanders
    Jon Sanders says:

    My opinion is that if there are people that are turned off by the term avgeek, they don’t belong in aviation anyway. If they’re that concerned with one “word” that defines a wide range of pilots that have almost as wide a specific area of interest in aviation, they aren’t mature enough, in my opinion, to become pilots. At least not responsible ones. The individuals who are concerned with image to the point of shying away from something just because of one term used to describe it don’t belong here anyway.

  33. Ian
    Ian says:

    Judged by whom?
    I’m an aviation person and I really don’t give a ‘$&*+ ‘about what people think of me.
    What a stupid article.

  34. Bob Sznurkowski
    Bob Sznurkowski says:

    Howdy fellows,

    What we are all missing is the fact that Aviation took a direct hit on Sept11.
    Gone is the look of awe in a kids eye ’cause the birds are way too high up on departure to really appreciate, and tall walls around the airport, with fences and no parking allowed and being shooed away by the local police when all you want to do is watch the airplanes. And forget about taking pictures around some spots of the airport, a security risk.

    I was lucky. I SAW those magnificent creatures of the air with their throaty, majestically rumbling recips, with props that would be still coming in with an engine out.
    You rather felt aviation in your gut, being magically bathed in extending landing light being activated just as the bird flew overhead.

    I mowed the lawns, worked the odd jobs, and was lucky and got legal at 16 years of age, then at 17 I was able to join the club and so on.

    9 /11 punched us right in the gut, along with the fuel crisis.
    Gone is the magic of “flying to see grandma”. Now its a ‘pat down’ and increased total yearly rad exposure.

    Cynical? No, sorrowful. I would wish that every kid that has the dream of flight be able to see the full moon in a Tropical sky,point to his house from above and fly through silvery wisps of clouds and try to touch a cloud with his hand.
    Aviation was always expensive, but the desire, the burning passion in the heart of a kid to fly in a diamond filled night sky always overcame that hurdle. Some went all the way and made it a life’s passion and calling.
    Some of us just got a taste and now just look up every time we hear an aircraft. Unable to let go of the magic.
    What we have to overcome is the hurdle placed by fear and politics, and that is a mighty challenge to us birdmen.
    Exposure to general aviation, where a kid can get a start has become severely restricted. You were able to go to the tarmac and walk around and touch the planes. Now you’ve got the Homeland Security vehicle.
    Pilots who once used to share their time and airplane are not as common as they were. Technology has replaced the real taste with a simulated game.

    We need to start shouting about ourselves again. Not having Aviation blasted by shock entertainment TV shows about aircraft accidents. There are Earhart’s and Lindbergs, still out there, in a kids soul. We need to try to shake the starving money tree and let more funds shake out for education.
    More importantly, we can’t let magic whither away.

    We pilots ALWAYS were a breed apart, we must regain and re-instill this magical tradition in our future aviators so that they too will….

    High Flight
    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air.
    Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
    I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
    And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

    Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee


  35. Tony Lee
    Tony Lee says:

    A very dry, sarcastic ending. It’s a well written story, but I came here reading assuming someone genuinely had a massive problem with the word geek because of “pee-pee” problems. You almost had me, you. You did attract some very well-rounded folks so for that I applaud your efforts. Very well done. Crowd sourced knowledge right here and that’s incredible.

    With this, I feel you’ve actually created some strong foundations to keep the idea alive. I hope some day I might be able to join the ranks of being a commercial pilot, but I suppose from the view of someone like myself, if I cast the money factor aside, it doesn’t look like theres a truly right direction to go. Sure, that leaves experience and training open to personal discretion as far as how you want to go about accomplishing your tasks, but I feel it doesn’t present itself as an organized list of tasks. Not that it isn’t possible, but that it’s inordinate. I figure that’s what maintains it’s exclusivity is that it’s really only for the ‘in-network’ crowd and the desperately determined.

    You see, first step that I understand is to get a personal pilots license. Next is to get flight hours. After that, find jet training and get instrument certifications and such. Get more flight hours. Get another certification and training or two. More flight hours. And voila, you now have the absolute basic requirements to begin working on acquiring a commercial pilots license. Get more hours again and then you can begin job hunting.

    I know that I don’t have the full picture here. Nor do I probably have accuracy in my favor, but it does feel like an overwhelmingly disorganized process. To be fair, I wouldn’t actually know as I don’t have the experience trying. I guess it’s that sort of upper-class order that you just need the formal education, but it’s really more of a combo under-grad plus grad program and loads of experience. Makes me wonder how much of life someone like a 27 y/o pilot had to spend on aviation in order to achieve such a remarkable accomplishment. I wouldn’t actually know. I sort of figured what you do is join one of those pilot training programs like the Pan-am school in Florida. Never thought more than twice because I figured a training school directly into commercial training was too good to be true.

    I would love to know what any of you think about this particular sect of the subject on becoming a commercial pilot. Maybe it’s just a mentor guidance thing. I wouldn’t know, but I’ve tried to know. Makes me feel like a 90 y/o when I can’t research the internet for instructions on where to begin.

  36. Stef
    Stef says:

    With all due respect (to who is clearly my elder), its very difficult to maintain a strong/reputable argument about tech/pop culture while referring to social media like… “In the age of facespace and mybook, texting and twittling…”. Whats interesting is, i found this article while looking to see if ‘avgeek’ was the proper vernacular to use in a professional aviation setting. But after reading this rather crotchety article, im going to proceed to use the term, trusting the person reading it will be more technologically informed/friendly

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