Sunday, August 14, 2005


Geeks and Flying

In a comment to my last post, Chris asked "I wonder why so many pilots are programmers." I have a few readers that fit that category, which is to be expected based upon the content I generate. In other aviation-related forums, I notice a lot of IT people, so there does seem to be some correlation between interest in computers and interest in flying.

One explanation is simple economics. Flying is an expensive hobby. Programmers make better-than-average money, so you see lots of programmers flying for the same reason you see lots of doctors, dentists, lawyers, and business-people flying.

But there is more to it than that. Aviation is a great area for technophiles to study. Aerodynamics, electronics, radio, radar, GPS, flight computers, satellite maps, composite materials, weather, air-traffic-control systems—there is a lot of science and gadgetry at play. For those with a drive to learn how stuff works, aviation provides a never-ending supply of stuff to study. For those who just like playing with knobs and buttons, there are plenty of those too.

Underlying it all is a fundamental trust in technology and our ability to master it. It doesn't scare or mystify us. Unlike a lot of airline passengers, we don't just cross our fingers and hope somebody sprinkled enough fairy dust on the wings to keep them levitating in the air. We study the machines, we learn how they work, we test their capabilities, and we have the confidence that if something goes wrong, we'll figure out how to handle it.

Finally, being a pilot makes a geek feel really cool.

I was making the same connection in my head between income and cost just before you quoted it in your post. :)
All your points are good ones, I think it does appeal to programmers natural inclination to be scientific. The cool factor also definatly has alot of truth to it also, for the same reason many programmers I know (myself included) tend to drive fairly expensive sportscars, I will be cool dammit! ;-).
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