Hundreds of AvGeeks descend on LAX for annual burger and plane-spotting ritual

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Normally, it’s rude to look away from someone in the middle of a conversation to look at the passing plane – or so most people tend to think.

But for a few hours around noon Saturday in a park next to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), getting distracted by passing jets in the middle of a conversation is basically the whole idea.

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Hundreds of AvGeeks descended on In-N-Out Burger and the adjacent park on the north side of the airport for the annual Cranky Dorkfest plane-spotting event. For more than two hours, conversations were punctuated by the roar of jet engines as planes seconds from touching down on airport runway 24R — and the subsequent clicks of hundreds of camera shutters.

The Cranky Dorkfest raffle is interrupted by a Japan Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. ETHAN KLAPPER/THE DOT GUY

“It’s a fun opportunity to be around such nerdy people,” Tonei Glavinic, an AvGeek originally from Alaska who now lives in Mexico City, told TPG on Saturday.

In the event’s free raffle, Glavinic, who flew frequently with Alaska Airlines while living in Alaska, won a framed piece of bulkhead carpet from one of the carrier’s planes – one of many giveaways. by airlines. Other items included scale model planes, free plane tickets and a seat on regional carrier Horizon Air’s latest Q400 flight.

The Alaska Airlines bulkhead carpet won by Tonei Glavinic. ETHAN KLAPPER/THE DOT GUY

The event was started about 10 years ago as an informal gathering by Brett Snyder, who writes the eponymous Cranky Flier blog on the airline industry. It has since grown, and in recent years has become an unofficial place for airline executives and other industry insiders, as well as casual AvGeeks and families. At Dorkfest 2019 Oscar Munoz, then CEO of United Airlines, was present.

“It was fun when the Oscar came around that year,” said Snyder, who wore a shirt with the logo of the recently defunct ultra-low-cost carrier aha! said TPG.

Brett Snyder calls out the raffle winners at Dorkfest. ETHAN KLAPPER/THE DOT GUY

For the first time, this year’s event featured a DJ with a sound system simultaneously blasting aviation-themed songs like Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away” and a stream from the traffic control tower. air from LAX. An air traffic controller even yelled at the event on the frequency and flashed his red light gun – a high-powered light used to signal planes in the event of a radio outage – during the muster.

In recent years, Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of LAX, has become a big supporter of the event, which is held on their property.

“This is a huge event for us – we’re here for the community,” LAWA CEO Justin Erbacci told TPG in a brief interview. “We want to support the community.”

Los Angeles World Airports CEO Justin Erbacci hands out LAX gifts to two AvGeeks in the UK. ETHAN KLAPPER/THE DOT GUY

“I’m an aviation geek myself,” Erbacci added. “I identify with the people here.”

More: These are the best places to spot planes

For those who consider themselves super AvGeeks, Dorkfest is held in conjunction with the Spot LAX event, a gathering hosted by NYC Aviation, a New York-based enthusiast website. Each year the group has a block of rooms nearby H Hotela property with a large observation deck that overlooks the final approach course of Runway 24R.

Aircraft spotters at Spot LAX. ETHAN KLAPPER/THE DOT GUY

“It’s an airport that’s just conducive to a gathering,” said Ben Granucci, one of the event’s organizers. “It’s easy to get here. There’s a good variety that you don’t see on the East Coast.”

For Isaac Alexander, who lives in the Seattle area and publishes the Hype Aviation aggregation site, people bring it back every year. For him, it’s an event he looks forward to months in advance.

“I feel empowered to be around people who share the same passion,” he said.

Isaac Alexander speaks to Airline Videos Live at Dorkfest. ETHAN KLAPPER/THE DOT GUY
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