Aviation forums: a survivor’s guide

Sukhoi Su-34

Those wishing to get into arguments with sexually frustrated people they’ve never met, can enjoy the many pleasures of online aviation forums. Here you can enjoy the thrill of illiterate nationalism, faked insider knowledge and the tiresome raw data-sharing of people who, to put it kindly, could be described as ‘left-brain dominant’.

It’s good to share your interests. Though when you talk to people merely because of a shared interest you are opening the floodgates to some pretty interesting specimens.*

Here are some of the archetypes to watch out for in the sweaty corners of the internet infected with aviation forums. Award yourself 5 points for each one you encounter:

The gent

Articulate, big-hearted and avuncular, this is the best kind of animal you can encounter on an aviation forum; he simply wants to chat and to share his interests. This lonely voice of maturity can be found trying to quell the petty disputes of adolescences and lonely drunk men in over-heated hotel rooms.

The real pilot/navigator/groundcrew

The real pilot is often informal, relaxed and uninterested in pissing contests (in this context anyway!). He’ll frequently refer to the group he was in (No. 54 Sqn in the 1970s, Qantas in the 1980s etc). The use of jargon feels right and the emphasis is often on aerodynamics and the unreliability of systems rather the ‘catalogue talk’ of those educated by the PR departments of Lockheed Martin and Sukhoi etc.


Rather like the BFG collecting dreams in jars, the DC hoards data. Aircraft registrations, serial numbers, crash dates. To say it’s pointless would be unfair (which hobby isn’t?), but it does seem rather abstract. Variations on this theme, include the ‘Horribly bitter data-collator’ the ‘Gentle librarian data-collator’ and the ‘Christ-he’s-so-boring-I-want-to-pull-my-eyes-out-one-by-one data-collator’. 


The liar

Mad nonsense from guys who allegedly flew ‘Foxbat’s from Irish aircraft carriers in the 1950s. Well, at least they are showing some creativity.

The bully expert

Gosh this guy knows his onions, but he also could do with growing some fucking humility. Watch him beat down feckless individuals who have the cheek not to have been born with ten copies of Jane’s nailed to their heads. Having said that, this guy will give you the odd scoop and some interesting and often well-expressed views.

The ranting nationalist

This is the worst. To this character, the particular aeroplane type he loves symbolises his nation and their superiority as well as his own sense of self-worth. If the aircraft type he loves is criticised he will descend into either an ill-informed one-sided defence of his aircraft or else racism disguised as opinions about planes (sometimes this is just bare-faced racism).

The researcher

‘Can anyone help me… I’m writing a book on the sex-lives of Fairey Gannet pilots in the mid-1960s?’.

Get a lock-on Hush-Kit on Twitter..go on! 

*Apologies for this mixed metaphor!


  1. pickledwings

    Thanks for the morning laugh!
    As a Canadian, I can tell you these two words together will get you more ranting nationalists than you can imagine: Avro Arrow.
    Sadly, due to years of that sort of passionate nationalism about it, there’s more myth than reality of that aircraft out there to be consumed.

    • Robert E Warner

      “more myth than reality” Who ever said that a good story had to be accurate?
      For a story to survive, it needs to be ENTERTAINING. The best stories acquire superlatives and exaggerations and alliterations along the way. It also helps if they make vague references to older myths.

  2. shortfinals

    “Foxbat’s from Irish aircraft carriers in the 1950s” No, no – surely it was ‘F-104G ZLLs ( la Luftwaffe) from Irish SUBMARINES in the 1960s!’ A lovely read, many thanks for brightening my day. Oh, and I do try to be a gent (see http://shortfinals.wordpress.com) and I also try not to line-shoot too much (“Did I tell you about the time I was supernumerary on G-OAF…?”)

    Oh, and as to data collectors – when we held the PFA Rally at Wroughton, I saw a very nice, partially finished home-built, which had been trailered in with its wings either side of the fuselage and parked up. The registration was NOT easily visible, and a pair of spotters were contorting themselves into knots trying to peer between wing and fuselage. As soon as they had the reg., they dashed off. They were not interested in the aircraft per se. Another group of the same persuasion were escorted away after trying to pry open a set of closed, very heavy, steel hangar doors (there were no aircraft inside that hangar, actually).

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Joel Monka

    A subset of the Ranting Nationalist is the Ranting Germanist. These are usually not even German, but insist that every technology more advanced than the fire-harden stick was a German invention.

    • JFB

      Oh man, those guys! They are even worse on Naval forums….the Bismarck people. Ugh, I don’t even think you could convince them Germany lost the war. Nutters!

    • Bruce

      Another subset of The Ranting Nationalist is (to coin a term) “The Sharkey”. Rather than getting involved in trans-national bigotry, they save all of their venom for inter-service bigotry, almost invariably airforce vs naval air.

      For those not familiar with the namesake, google the spittle-flecked rantings of ex Cdr. Sharkey Ward, a man who will “prove” to you that aircraft can be operated from a carrier for 3.9% the cost of equivalent ops from a land base, whilst achieving 527.3% better results, despite having to devote 87.6% of their resources to fighting off repeated bombing raids from the treasonous RAF.

      Rather like Ian Paisley vs. Gerry Adams or George W. vs. Osama B.L. each side provides the other with all the excuses they could possibly need to go one step more extreme.

    • Bruce

      An extreme subset of the Ranting Germanist is the Nazi UFO expert. They provide an interesting link between aviation forums & conspiracy theory ones. These are people who have really “done their research”. If you disagree with anything they say, you’re either one of the brianwashed masses or a paid shill of the multi-dimensional space reptiles who control the US government and the British Royal Family.

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  8. neilfergylee

    Could be worse. Try railway forums: the Flying Scotsman’s footplate would have needed to be the size of USS Nimitz to accommodate everybody’s granddad who drove her.

  9. Tim

    Also the ‘why didn’t you do a search you’re wasting my valuable time’ dickheads. A: Because a) I couldn’t be arsed; b) I don’t actually live on this forum like some of you; and c) see a).

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