Pilot, Avgeek, Airplanista: A Guide to Aviators, for the Non-Flying Public

10:17 PM


By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

You're in the checkout line at the local Piggly Wiggly when you reach for your credit card and accidentally pull out your FAA-issued Pilot's License. When you tell the checker that, ha ha, you probably can't use your PILOT'S LICENSE to pay for groceries, she says, "Oh, you're a pilot, wow, you mean, like, for the airlines?

"No, I am just a private pilot," you answer, without trying to say it like, "hell yeah, I'm a PILOT, a serious trained aviator that gets to fly AIRPLANES!" Because if you answer in the way your inner #Avgeek wants to answer, you'd be dancing on that belt, you know, the one that moves the Huggies slowly closer to the scanner. Security would get involved, and the Officer would not be amused when you explain that your uncontrollable exhilaration stems from sharing some skills - and maybe a tidbit of DNA - with Orville and Wilbur Wright.

So in an attempt at education the non-flying public, here is a cheat sheet that people can download and save for future reference as I attempt to describe a few key sub-cultures of the aviation family: 


#AVGEEK - These aviators are the technologically-advanced pilot types, usually found on Twitter, always with more than one mobile device on their person, with a stronger-than-usual craving for bacon. #Avgeeks spend late nights on their computer coding and developing websites that serve as pilot communities and forums, and have a tendency to regularly record podcasts. They fly all sorts of airplanes, experimentals, Cessnas, Pipers, and even a few airliners. Often has a job in the aviation industry, or derives at least 50% of their take-home pay from a job at or very near an airport. Would never, ever, EVER think of attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and not camping in Camp Bacon. 

AVERAGE JOE/JANE PRIVATE PILOT - Knows their way around the airport coffee shop, has never met a $100 hamburger they didn't devour. Owns and flies an older 172, or something from the Cherokee family. Does not work in aviation, but they purposely took a corporate job working in a cubicle because it has a window on the side of the building where they can watch the inbound air traffic to the local airport. Changes their own airplane oil, and can find their way around the show grounds at Oshkosh with a bandana tied over their eyes. 

EAA MEMBER - Knows 1,001 ways to rivet various materials together, and can spot the differences between an RV-6A and RV-9A from 500 paces. Owns a portable grill for pancake breakfasts and has a Leinenkugel's sign in his or her hangar. Has flown over 750 Young Eagles, and their airplane was shipped to their house in a crate. Has plans to restore a Fieseler Storch, and dreams of owning a Lancair Evolution. 

PROFESSIONAL AIRLINE PILOT - Can run a checklist while ordering fuel, managing a passenger manifest and drinking coffee from a tiny paper cup, all at the same time. They can pack a roller suitcase in 15 minutes for two-weeks worth of RONs, and every uniform shirt will look perfectly pressed when they step aboard the Triple Seven to haul a load of humans over the pole to Grandma's house. The elite of this group can write two novels, raise a family, install a putting green in her backyard on a day off, and earn a Ph.d, just because she has 15 minutes of layover before her next flight to Amsterdam. Might live in Seattle. 

JET OWNER/PILOT - A rare breed, found at airports with long and very smooth runways. Rents only luxury cars, and drinks wine that has been aged longer than most #Avgeeks have been alive. Seems to always get a golf cart at Oshkosh because they know people who know people. Has a net worth equal to many small countries. Owns a company, often uses his or her jet to fly cancer patients, and because of their philanthropic ways, are some of the most important aviators because their generous donations to the major aviation associations keeps the aviation family alive to push forward. It's not true they will only eat burgers made from $10 bills, they much prefer Kobe beef. 

STUDENT PILOT - A younger demographic, these aviators have wide eyes, big dreams, and unstoppable motivation. They still remember most of what they were taught in ground school. Works two jobs to pay for flight lessons, and has never met a Cessna 150 they didn't love. Went to Oshkosh for the first time this year, and used the word "awesome" in 493 tweets during show week. Will own an airplane some day, but at the present time is just trying to scrape up enough coin for a sweet Bose A20 headset. 

AIRPLANISTA - Writes more than he exercises, and knows the HondaJet will have insane quality of workmanship because his Honda lawnmower is virtually indestructible. Stares at the sky any time an airplane - ANY airplane - flies overhead. Corrects tech support people who say "Apple David Nancy" by telling them it's "Alpha Delta November." Drives a seasoned Toyota truck that runs perfectly so he can afford to fly a seasoned Cherokee 235 that runs perfectly. Has never met a pound of bacon he didn't like, and his current challenge is to cram enough camping equipment into a suitcase and haul it from Oregon to Oshkosh next summer to camp with the #Avgeeks in Camp Bacon.


There it is, everything you need to know to tell the aviators apart out at the airport. And if you are at the mall or a sporting event, you do not even need this guide, just look for the people who are smiling. That's because those pilots have just returned from flying. Makes no difference what they were flying - a Piper J3 Cub or a Phenom 300, Pilatus PC-24 on floats or a 1929 Boeing 40C - doesn't matter.

It's flying. It's airplanes. And it rocks.

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