The Aviation Enthusiast’s Bucket List (or at least mine)
A Bucket List is defined as a set of feats you hope to accomplish before you die. For all of the AvGeeks out there (you know who you are), the majority of your list is probably aviation related. This is my list of what every true aviation enthusiast should do before they “Kick the Bucket”, some of which I have been lucky enough to accomplish already. 1) Burger, Fries, and a side of Jet Fuel There aren’t too many aviation fans that haven’t heard of the In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda Blvd near LAX. Not only is the food to die for, but you get to watch the best assortment of aircraft you will ever see at an airport, many of which are International heavies. The infamous fast food chain is located just off the approach ends of LAX’s Runway’s 24L and 24R. What makes this location so great is that you will see literally every kind of aircraft there is in a very short amount of time. You are sure to see 747’s, 767’s, a330’s, a340’s, and a380’s from European and Asian Airlines as well as Dash-8’s, a320’s, 737’s and many others from domestic carriers. Instead of serving as a major hub to a single airlines, LAX is a gateway to the entire world, and it’s variety of airlines makes it one of the most interesting spotting sites. I’d recommend going to In-N-Out around 2:00 PM when the majority of the International heavies from Europe arrive to 24R. And make sure you enjoy a “Double Double” and fries while you’re there. 2) Paris Air Show – Le Bourget Not only is the Paris Air Show the largest of it’s type in the world, it is also one of the most exciting events for aviation enthusiasts. Held every other year, the show is intended to serve as a way for airlines to view aircraft that they will potentially purchase. At least a few major orders from airlines are announced each show. The general public is allowed in to the show on its last few days, giving aviation enthusiasts the opportunity of a lifetime to get up close and personal with the most state of the art aircraft around. Last years visitors included both the Passenger and Freighter version of the Boeing 747-8, the Airbus a380, and the Boeing 787 and 777-300ER. That was in addition to the 150 or so other aircraft on display from manufacturers and airlines from around the world. The aircraft perform many demonstration flights during show, allowing for some of the best photo opportunities you will ever get. 3) Go Upside Down Some people may think it’s crazy and have no interest in doing it. However, for me, I want to know what the aerobatic performers and military fighter pilots experience on a daily basis. Luckily for the insane like me out there who do want to go upside down, there are a number of opportunities out there, some of which require no prior flight experience. Sky Thrills! of California offers introductory aerobatic flights in Pitts S-2C and Extra-300, allowing you to perform loops, hammerheads, spins, and inverted passes. There are many other similar companies out there all around the country and World. 4) Fly the Hudson River Corridor The Hudson River Corridor near New York City provides General Aviation pilots with the most exciting flight opportunity anywhere. The Corridor allows an exclusion to the congested Class B Airspace around the busy New York/ Newark area. The Corridor can be flown by aircraft operating between 1000’ and 1299’ MSL and under 140 Knots. It undoubtedly provides the best views of the New York Skyline you will ever get. Pilots are even allowed to circle the Statue of Liberty when operating below 1000’. A flight through the Corridor is the most challenging but rewarding route a pilot will ever fly. Even if you don’t have your pilots license or an aircraft, there are many airplane and helicopter tour companies that operate flights through the corridor on a daily basis. 5) Go to Space Just a few years ago, the idea of someone other than a NASA Astronaut going to space sounded crazy. The truth is that our generation will most likely have the opportunity to visit space as a “tourist”. Socrates said, "A man must rise above the Earth to the top of the atmosphere and beyond, for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives." I completely believe in this and want to experience what the world looks like from hundreds of miles away. Luckily, with companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and X-Prize, it should be possible before too awfully long. 6) Maho Beach, St. Maarten Maho Beach, on the Sunny French & Dutch Island in the Carribean, is one of the most iconic aviation locations in the world. Everyone has seen the images and videos of 747’s flying at what looks like just a couple feet above people’s heads and departing jets blowing anything and everything into the water as they power up. To really experience Maho, you have to go yourself. I was lucky enough to visit the beach while on a Cruise last year. Although it is actually painful at times, nothing beats the feeling of standing less than 100 feet behind an a340 at full throttle, and getting sand and debris blown in your face. The best part is watching the heavies come in literally right above your head, and for a split second believing they are actually going to hit you. Even if you aren’t into experiencing the potentially dangerous jetblast, you can still enjoy everything Maho has to offer. The Sunset Beach Bar, situated just South of the Beach, provides a great place to relax, get food or a drink, and watch the “Crazy” people from a close, but safe, distance. The bar has plenty of seating with great views of the beach, broadcasts ATC Transmissions live over speakers, and has its famous surfboard shaped Arrival/ Departure Board, ensuring that you will never miss a takeoff or landing. 7) Learn to Fly You can travel to every airport and airshow in the world, but nothing beats the feeling of being behind the controls of an aircraft yourself. Luckily I have supportive parents that made it possible for me to experience this at a young age, starting training at 14 and getting my license at 17. The feeling of flying an airplane yourself really is hard to explain but it is definitely a good one. Leaving the ground behind and seeing the world from above and being in complete control is the best thing I’ve ever experienced. Learning to fly was also the most challenging thing I’ve ever gone through, which made the end result that much more rewarding. In my opinion, flying a Cessna 172 is always more exciting than spotting an a380 or 747. What’s on your aviation bucket list? Share your goals here!