I've Flown On 99 Planes, But A Beech Ain't One

It all began on a November day in Houston, Texas, where I was born just down the street from the Astrodome. As the son of a private pilot & airline employee, and grandson of a WWII B-17 Navigator, aviation was in my blood.

I took my first flight at six weeks old, on a Boeing 737-200 from Houston to Lubbock, Texas - though the first flights I really remember were in my Dad's Cessna 172. I was just a toddler at that point, but I was his "copilot" as we buzzed over the desert scrub between El Paso, Texas and the mountains of Ruidoso, New Mexico.


In kindergarten, my Dad and I flew to Washington DC on board a Continental Airlines DC-10, which had not been in service for very long. It was my first wide body "Jumbo Jet" and I was awestruck at the size of the plane. Sadly, neither Continental nor the DC-10 (passenger version) are still flying today.

Growing up in Houston played a big role in my passion for aviation. We attended air shows at Ellington Field, where Astronauts trained in their T-38s. Historic warbirds reenacted aerial dogfights with synchronized smoke bombs. I was mesmerized by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels.


The Blue Angels performing at NAS/JRB Ft Worth

At the dawn of the Shuttle program in the early '80s, I saw Space Shuttle Columbia fly overhead on the back of the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on her way back from landing at Edwards Air Force Base. I was in second grade when the Shuttle Challenger exploded. The memorial procession passed just a few blocks from my home. In high school, I had a friend whose dad spent time in orbit on board the International Space Station.


I watched Space Shuttle Atlantis launch in 2009 with a NASA Tweet-up.

As an adult, I've used social media and blogging as a tool for sharing my love of planes, and to learn even more about them. I've been lucky to have some truly incredible experiences involving planes & space craft, and I look forward to sharing some of those stories with you. I have worked for Southwest Airlines for the past 12 years, where I've had many roles including customer service, technology testing & implementation, and federal training compliance reporting.


Keeping track of my flights flown is probably the nerdiest thing I do. I use a website called flightmemory.com. According to its records, I've flown just over 500 segments since 2001, spent over 33 days in the air, circling the globe nearly 12 times.


My domestic route map since 2001

I don't know everything about planes. I could probably identify most commercial aircraft types, but I'm generally clueless when it comes to private planes. My aim here with Flight Club is to share the "avgeek" passion - everything that's interesting about aviation. This will include historic, present, and future aircraft technology, in-flight experience, airline news, and even just photography. Planes can be beautiful, and I'd dare say, even sexy. If you have a great photo that you'd like to share on Flight Club, send it my way to paul@jalopnik.com


Arguably the sexiest plane ever (in my opinion) - the P51 Mustang

Leonardo DaVinci said,

"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."


This has certainly been the case throughout my life. Sitting by a plane window, watching the world go by below me, is my happy place.


Thanks for reading, and welcome to Flight Club. Please remember the first rule of Flight Club - tell everyone you know about Flight Club!

Top photo - Riding in my Dad's Cessna 172, around age 2

All other images were taken by the author, Paul Thompson

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