IRVING -- Star Trek has "Trekkies." Harry Potter has "Potterheads." Justin Bieber has "Beliebers." But air travel? Yep, that has a fan club, too: "Aviation Geeks," or "AvGeeks" for short. And more than a dozen of them got a dream day at DFW Airport on Friday.
In advance of National Aviation Day (annually on August 19, commemorating Orville Wright's birthday and thus the birth of air travel), American Airlines held its third annual Aviation Day tour of its entire operation at DFW. The assembled AvGeeks got to see everything from the virtual control room, which just opened last October, to the maintenance hangar--for free!
"It's pretty legit for me being that I'm able to see the ins and outs of how airports really work," said Brian Millage, who works for the Too Fly Foundation, a non-profit that helps students from low-income families obtain passports and travel funds so they can explore the world. "Travel is not just a fun thing, it's a lot of logistics."
That's an understatement with American Airlines alone employing around 18,000 people at DFW and averaging 800 departures each day! But one of the things that stands out most to people who've taken the tour is something you wouldn't expect from frequent flyers.
"Everyone's always surprised to see how big the aircraft are," said American Airlines spokesperson Ashley Anthony. "As we're driving around the ramp area you're hearing some people like, 'Oh, my Gosh!' You never know how big an aircraft is until you're this close to one."
In addition to gaining knowledge about the airline industry, did you know the inflatable slides for emergency exits cost between $90,000 and $120,000?! Participants gained an appreciation for the number of different jobs and team effort it takes to get them to their destinations.
"I'm going to be patient the next time I'm at the airport," laughed Millage. "Not only is it the pilot's responsibility to get us off the ground, [there's] a lot of engineers and a lot of work put into it ... to be sure that I'm safe and get where I'm going, and that I have a good flight and a good time. So this is extraordinary. Happy to be a part of it."
American Airlines partners with AirlineGeeks.com to host the event each August, with registration typically opening in June on their social media accounts and being first-come, first-served. So if you're a proud AvGeek, don't let the opportunity fly away next year!