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PIREP Airport Bums

bumWe’ve all seen them. The guy standing in the sun with his face pushed up against the chain link fence of an airport, watching planes take off and land. Or the guy at your flight school, the one standing there looking out at the ramp maybe with a cup of coffee in his hand. Or maybe the guy in the FBO lobby, with the nice plush sofas and living room like décor, sitting in the same place he was last week you were in. Did he move? Did he sleep there? Is he even breathing? Who are these people who hang out at these airports? They’re aircraft owners, pilots, students, retirees, even pilot wannabes just hanging out participating in the addiction we call aviation. They’ll talk to anyone about airplanes, flying, weather or anything else for that matter.UrbanDictionary.com has four definitions of an airport bum. This one seems to sound the best: “Someone who spends a lot of time at the airport. Airport bums often hang around maintenance shops and flight schools, watching pilots take off and land. They often drink a lot of coffee and read the magazines in the lobby. They may or may not know how to fly. Many fine fliers started out as airport bums”. That’s a fairly accurate description of the airport bums I’ve known. I can tell you from firsthand experience, they tend to drink a lot of coffee.

Being called an airport bum is not the worst thing you can be called. We/they are generally harmless individuals who like spending their weekends in the airport. I think most of us in the aviation community were airport bums at one point. Maybe we still are. The craving is the same for all, to be at the airport, whether flying or not. Why the airport? Maybe there’s the possibility of seeing a new airplane, or maybe some hot military jet will happen to fly over the airport that day. Perhaps there is the hope of being invited for a flight.

The next time you see someone staring through the fence, aviation scanner in their hand, looking out over the airfield, talk to them. Invite them into your local flight school. Maybe even let them see an airplane up close. Let them know what general aviation is all about. That airport bum just might make one good pilot one day. Just don’t forget your AOA badge before you bring them on the ramp.

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