With apologies to the folks at Boldmethod (who’ve virtually trademarked the “ten things” schtick) I don’t usually post lists. There’s nothing wrong with it, mind you. Boldmethod has managed to snare tens of thousands of subscribers virtually overnight that way, and every expert in online marketing will tell you it’s a proven method for building traffic. But I’m more of a long-form guy.
Even in their heyday, I never kept a blogroll per se. Sure, the idea of a manually curated list of high-quality sites is attractive… in theory. But in practice it always falls short. The longer the list gets, the harder it is to maintain — just ask any of the search firms which used to run them. There’s a good reason they don’t do it anymore. Even companies like Yahoo! didn’t have the resources to stave off the link rot. Even if the link remains alive, writers stop posting, quality declines, domains are hijacked by spammers, and let’s fact it, putting out quality content on a regular basis is hard enough without adding an internet directory to the pile.
Every blogroll I’ve seen ends up as a wasteland of marginal link exchanges, a needless cluttering up of web pages. Blogrolls fell out of favor several years ago, and I say good riddance.
On the other hand, just as even a broken clock is right twice a day (unless it’s digital, I suppose), there’s a time and place for everything, an exception to every rule. Promoting one’s own reading list is a worthy activity. So here’s my offering of ten inspiring aviation-centric blogs.
Rather than an endless stream of airline pilots, this collection covers the gamut from maintenance to military aviation to flight training and back again. It includes airport operations, aviation history, and a pilot spouse who writes about the impact aviation has on her family.
My criteria for inclusion:
- I subscribe to their blog
- The site is updated regularly
- Consistent writing quality
- Their posts induce writing, commenting, or sharing
- They represent the best of their industry segment
While some of the authors are professional writers, most of them are not. Their efforts are driven by a passion for the subject matter rather than financial compensation, something I find inspirational.
Let’s get started!
Jennifer is not a pilot, controller, dispatcher, instructor, or mechanic. She doesn’t design, build, or really even work with airplanes or pilots. She’s an accountant who sees things from an office inside the terminal. That’s not a perspective most of us would consider particularly compelling, but Jennifer always surprises with posts like The Definitive Guide to Airport Vehicles (I’d Like to Drive). She gets the number one spot on the list because one of her posts galvanized me to create this list in the first place.
Airscape is one of the web’s hidden gems. Originally conceived as an iPad-based aviation magazine (there have been three or four issues so far), you might wonder what sets it apart from the scads of other flying-related publications out there. As editor David Foxx put it, “the driving idea is to help people find and connect with other parts of aviation… to show you things you hadn’t even thought about being interested in.” Every blog post has proven to be lovingly executed, educational, and entertaining. I thought I knew a lot about airplanes and aviation history, but Airscape always proves me wrong. His Triple Tale post, the account of a long-lost Lockheed Constellation, propted me to write Every Airplane Has a Story.
3. Tally One
Wouldn’t it be great if an active duty F-22 pilot would take the time write about aviation? Well you’re in luck. He doesn’t post as often as most of the folks on this list, but that’s because Rob’s over in the sandbox keeping the world safe for democracy, so we’ll let it slide. I would have put him at number one on the list, but he wavered a bit when I tried to extract a promise to let me solo the Raptor. Rob has the distinction of being the only guest author I’ve ever had on this site. Suggested post: A Day in the Life of a Fighter Pilot
Managing aircraft maintenance intelligently isn’t just vital for flight safety, it’s critical to ensuring GA continues to exist at all. Mike Busch’s writing is the cure for overly invasive, needlessly expensive, frustratingly time consuming maintenance events. You’ll find his stuff all over the web. He’s been on a crusade to educate pilots and reduce the cost of general aviation airplane ownership. In that regard he’s doing more to keep GA afloat than anyone I can think of. He also writes for the AOPA Opinion Leaders blog. Recommended post: The Roots of Reliability Centered Maintenance
A good pilot never stops learning — that’s why I’m not ashamed to say that I read a blog aimed at student pilots. When you come right down to it, we’re all students, from the 30,000 hour veteran to the kid who really is just starting out. The posts are comprised of practical advice to pilots of all stripes and experience levels. Recommended reading: Flying With Someone You Don’t Like.
Chris Manno is a 737 captain for American Airlines with an affinity for Jerry’s Wood-Fired Dogs. He’s also a college professor. I don’t know how he swings both of those gigs at the same time, but then I don’t understand how he can be so talented as a writer and cartoonist either. There’s no shortage of airline pilot blogs out there, and most of them are frankly awful. Manno could make sanitation engineering into a compelling read, so give any one of his posts a try and El Capitan will do the rest. My favorite: Count the Beads, Fly the Prayers
Ken Hoke flies the 757 and 767 for a major cargo carrier. I’ve long enjoyed his humorous, almost impish writing style. One day he’ll be explaining a jet’s hydraulic system in layman’s terms, the next he’ll be lampooning the tin-foil-hat types who believe contrails are actually “chemtrails” sprayed by government operatives to control the populace. His Twitter feed is a perennial favorite of mine, too. Recommended: Aircraft Pressurization Beginner’s Guide (be sure to read the part about the tobacco stains on the outflow value — gross!)
We all know a professional pilot’s life can be difficult. But what about his or her family? This blog, penned by an airline pilot’s wife, takes you behind the scenes at home. Some of the posts are heart-breaking. Even the title makes me sad. Fear not, there’s plenty of humor and happiness to offset the difficulties. Recommended: Survival Tips for Pilot Wives
Air Facts started out in 1938 as a physical magazine. That ended in the 1970s, but several years ago Richard Collins revived the publication as a web site “by pilots, for pilots”. It’s a journal of personal aviation, something very near and dear to my heart. Many of the posts are by GA pilots who have submitted their material to Air Facts, so the writing quality varies widely. But there are quite a few gems in the collection, and there’s a constant flow of new material. Start with this Logbooks post, where Collins details the incredible teething pains of his famous P-210.
10. AVweb Insider
AVweb editor Paul Bertorelli typically posts twice a week on the Insider blog, opining on the latest happenings in the world of general aviation. I don’t always agree with his analysis, but there’s no denying the blog is accurately titled. Bertorelli seems to be in the thick of the action, an old-school reporter who always gets an inside word or tidbit from whoever’s making the news on a given day.
Well, that’s my top ten. The Web is a big place and I can’t claim to know everything that’s out there. You’ve undoubtedly got your own favorite list of aviation reads, so I’d encourage you to share via the comment section below. Good writers deserve all the encouragement and publicity we can give them!