Denver's old Stapleton Airport seen in 1991 - Photo: Andrew Thomas | FlickrCC

Denver’s old Stapleton Airport seen in 1991 – Photo: Andrew Thomas | FlickrCC

I’m an unabashedly proud airline brat. My father was an airline pilot for all of my childhood and continued into some of my adulthood. Even though he was the employee, my parents raised me and my siblings to feel pride in our membership in the airline family. I have found that my experiences are similar to many others who also had a parents flying commercial planes.

Here are a few reasons why I loved growing up in an airline family, even if I spent half of my childhood prior to turning twelve sitting in concourses of Denver’s old Stapleton International Airport.

My dad and me on one of our adventures - Photo: Steve

My dad and me on one of our adventures, in Amsterdam – Photo: Steve Petersen

1. The excitement of the airport

Most people feel dread when heading to the airport for many reasons. Lines. Stripping down for security. Lines. Delays. Crowded corridors. Expensive food and stores. Did I say lines?

However, growing up as an airline pilot’s son helped make the airport exciting. Which planes — the vast majority of which I could identify — would I see? Where would flights go? Would my parents take us down to the crew lounge or airport employee cafeteria where the other travelers couldn’t go?

That is geeky, but I even talked my dad once into spending a day to fly to Denver’s then brand-spanking-new airport just to explore it. You know I’m an AvGeek when I once took a date to watch planes takeoff and land at a park near a major airport’s runway (sadly that relationship didn’t work out — but I don’t blame the planes).

Artist Impression of Future Airport

Artist Impression of Future Airport – Image: Lockheed-California Company

I have always been a fan of all things esoteric, the unique, and perhaps even the underdog. Engineering oddities fascinated me from a young age; if it was different or somewhat outlandish, I was hooked. For that reason, it’s probably no surprise to many people that the aircraft I adore more than all others (yes, even more than Concorde) is the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar.

The L-1011 Prototype after completing her first flight - November 16, 1970

The L-1011 prototype after completing her first flight on November 16, 1970 – Photo: Lockheed-California Company

However, I can take things a step further, because for me, this is more than an aircraft; it represents the engineering prowess of hundreds of engineers – one of whom I happened to know very well. A man who was lucky enough to spend a lifetime in aviation working for some of the most storied aeronautical firms in history, such as Avro Canada (later Hawker Siddeley), Convair, De Havilland Canada, and Lockheed. Prior to his death in 2013, this engineer described the L-1011 as his “magnum opus”, his greatest achievement as an engineer and the work that he was most proud of.

American and Delta have called it quits. Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter

American and Delta have called it quits – Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter

Some parts of the airline industry are very “cloak-and-dagger,” but once in a while something rears its ugly head and seems like it could be a bad thing, if only you knew what the heck was going on.  Such is the case now, as two of the largest airlines in the world, who also happen to be bitter rivals, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, abruptly ended their interline agreement on September 15.

Why would direct competitors have such a partnership in place, and what does it mean for the flying public?


It makes sense to store unused aircraft in an enclosed space safe from the elements — after all, you would never park a multi-million-dollar car at the curb, where rain, wind, and hot, dry sunshine can cause untold damage. Many pilots (professional and recreational) never question the imperative to taxi a tired plane into the hangar. However, hangars are much more than large, open spaces to roost wings. Since the beginning of human flight, hangars have served a number of essential needs to keep aircraft and air professionals safe and happy.

The History of Hangars

Before humans even invented airplanes, we had at least one airplane hangar. In 1902, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina — the quiet coastal town where Orville and Wilbur experimented with human flight — the Wright brothers built what we might today consider a hangar, though then it looked to be little more than an outdoor timber shed. For more than a year, the brothers built and housed their flying machine prototypes here, when they weren’t testing them on the beach.

Initial aircraft were almost always replaced rather than repaired; Clyde Cessna crashed his wings 12 times before he finally could make a successful landing. Still, even destroyed planes needed a place to recover.
As pilots and aircraft became more refined, hangars became important places for minor repairs and long-term storage. Eventually, when commercial airports began to open around the world in the 1920s and 30s, hangars were essential buildings for plane production and maintenance. Just as we no longer fly in the same aircraft, we require hangars that are more advanced than the buildings of nearly a century ago.