December 25, 2013

Getting to Know the NYCAviation Staff: A Q&A

More articles by »
Written by: Ben Granucci
Tags: , , ,

Here at NYCAviation, we’re all avgeeks no matter what our role is on the site. Whether we contribute by writing and editing, programming, graphic artistry, producing, or any of the myriad of other things that go into making this site what it is, aviation is in our blood. But what gave each of us this passion for airplanes that makes us want to share it with the world? We asked several NYCA staff members a list of questions and have compiled their responses.

What is your earliest aviation memory?

Mark Lawrence, Producer: When I was about 5, when we still lived in England before moving to South Africa. my Dad used to work for a transport company and Saturday mornings, I sometimes used to go to work with him.  But, after that, we used to go and sit close to the runway what was then known as Elmdon Airport, Birmingham, England (BHX/EGBB).  There we used to watch British Midland Vickers Viscounts, Boeing 727’s from Europe, Caravelles from France, etc.  Classic aircraft!

Darin Gilchrist, Lead Programmer: When I was very little, my uncle made me a scooter shaped like a WWI biplane, which had “The Red Darin” stenciled across it. Considering my love for Snoopy, it made all kinds of sense!

Gabe Andino, Contributing Editor: Flying to from ORD to SAN as an unaccompanied minor back in the mid-’80’s. I wasn’t an avgeek at the time but I remember the plane being a 767 and I kept the United Airlines button and wings the FA gave me.

Ben Granucci, Contributing Editor: When I was 3, the top of the mountain that we lived at the base of caught fire. I remember watching all of the helicopters circling the fire while they tried to put it out.

Marketing Strategist Stephen Weisbrot and Lead Programmer Darin Gilchrist work on upcoming additions to the NYCAviation website.

Marketing Strategist Stephen Weisbrot and Lead Programmer Darin Gilchrist work on upcoming additions to the NYCAviation website.

What was the saddest moment you have witnessed as an aviation enthusiast?

Phil Derner Jr., Founder: The flash of light outside my bedroom window when I was 11, which was USAir Flight 405 crashing across Flushing Bay, where 27 people died. The crashes and incidents that LGA had saddened and fascinated me, actually contributing to my desire to learn about aviation, shaping my career today.

Andrew Marino, Project Manager: The saddest moment had to be watching someone I knew crash in their airplane and perish. That image will stick me for the rest of my life.

Mark: A few years ago, I used to regularly listen to JFK on LiveATC.net while working – it was a nice distraction from the daily work goings on.  I happened to be listening when AA 587 went down over the Rockaways in Queens, NY. To hear the controllers trying to contact them was hard to listen to.

Darin: In 1996, TWA Flight 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island. As a member of Civil Air Patrol, we scrambled to assist the Coast Guard in rescue operations. I remember seeing piles of burnt recovered luggage, which will never leave me. Then in 1997, Civil Air Patrol was assisting at the Wings Over Long Island air show, where two racing planes collided in mid-air, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another.


Have you ever had an aviation moment that left you screaming at the TV?

Darin: When I heard that the Blue Angels were being shut down, I was infuriated. Not only because they’re a blast to see, but because they represent our military – skill, process, precision, power, and courage. The action of shutting that down is symbolic of a lack of stability of our military.

Mark: Every time some ill informed news anchor makes some ignorant comment about a type of aircraft that is wrong – I am always shouting at them.  Or the news media will name  a particular type of aircraft and show a picture of another – they always say they pride themselves on detail – LIARS!!!!

Phil: Every time the news shows stock footage from 15-20 years ago, though I do wish I could look outside and see a Delta 727 in the widget scheme still.


What aviation moment has left you the most awed or made the biggest impression on you?

Andrew: So many to choose from, thats a tough one. I’ll say watching the Space Shuttle Endeavor fly around LA and then land at LAX. I was perched up on Imperial Hill for the landing and had an amazing view. It was a very emotional event. I felt this great sense of pride that our Country had built such a great space program and these Shuttles but also sadness that this era was ending.

NYCA Co-founders Matt Molnar and Phil Derner Jr. at the launch of STS-135.

NYCA Co-founders Matt Molnar and Phil Derner Jr. at the launch of STS-135.

Gabe: Watching the Blue Angels perform while looking out the open cargo door of a KC-10 at NAS Cecil Field. It was like Avgeek balcony seating.

Phil: The launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-135. From miles away, you still feel the sound in your chest and just can’t fathom that the power of what you are seeing and feeling and knowing that this craft is headed to space. Incredible.

Ben: Being able to walk out the front door where I work and watch the Space Shuttle Enterprise aboard the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft fly up and down the Hudson River. It was the final push that got me into plane spotting.


How does aviation affect your everyday life?

Andrew: Aviation effects my life in every way possible. I’m an airport manager so every work day is spent at an airport dealing with all things aviation. Then, on my weekends, you’ll find me spotting someplace. I never take for granted that I go to work every day in a place that I would happily spend all my free hours at even if I wasn’t being paid.

Darin: Living in NYC, it’s tough to find similarly-minded avgeeks. But being a part of NYCA has introduced me to some great people in the same location situation who I get to interact with daily. Plus it’s great to help support a website that’s providing a service to the aviation community.

Mark: I am always looking at the weather to see if I can spend my lunchtime at my local airport, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport shooting something new.  Oh, and yes, I work in the aerospace industry so writing program code that deals with manufacturing or repairs – I’m always right there.

Phil: It literally is my every day life. Whether I am working on NYCA or dispatching airplanes, it’s what I am.


Describe your ideal aviation moment. Where would you be and what would be doing?

Gabe: Right now my ideal moment involves Maho Beach (on St. Maartin). It is tops on my aviation bucket list.

Mark: I have made some great friends from blogs, websites, but, I would be in my element spending a few hours jumpseating with my friend “Cap’n Aux”, Eric Auxier in his Airbus.  We have spend a couple of great evenings talking and just enjoying a jumpseat ride with him would be fantastic!  If I can’t get a jumpseat ride, Maho Beach at Saint Maarten – spotting heaven.

NYCAviation Founder Phil Derner Jr. and Contributing Editor Ben Granucci out doing a little planespotting.

NYCAviation Founder Phil Derner Jr. and Contributing Editor Ben Granucci out doing a little planespotting.

Andrew: Thats a simple one for me. Sitting in the grass in one of the safety areas off a runway at JFK spotting all day long. JFK has always been and will always be my favorite place. I’ve often joked with friends that when I die I want them to spread my ashes over JFK.

Phil: Anytime I’ve gotten to jumpseat is a recurring pinnacle for me, but I hate that I can’t share that with other enthusiast friends. As with many great aviation memories, I’ve had to go through some of them alone, which really take away from the experience. Half of my love for aviation is that I want to share it with all the great people I’ve met through the hobby.

Ben: Having my camera in my hand on a clear-and-a-million day at either Bayswater Point State Park in NY or on the lawn at In-n-Out near LAX. Completely and totally relaxing for me.


Complete the following sentence: I came for the airplanes, I stayed for the ____________________.

Andrew: I stayed for the friends/smell of jet fuel/amazing and diverse aviation community.

Darin: I stayed for the people. But mostly the airplanes. 🙂

Mark: I stayed for the weekend – and – returned again.  Spotting in NY – not just the planes – such an incredible group of friends up there to share it with!!!

Phil: I stayed for the complimentary peanuts. But seriously, stayed for the friends. Aviation would be nothing to me without my friends.


Finally, when you’re not thinking about aviation, what are you thinking about?

Mark: Easy – my wife Debra and my son Octavious – they are my life and without a family – the rest of the world doesn’t go on!!

Gabe: My kids, sports, food (I’m a bit of a food nerd also), and craft beer.

Ben: Family and friends are foremost for me. Besides that, it is usually my fascination with lighting, both natural and artificial.

Darin: I’m thinking about how to find a place with a garage, so I can have a car again, so I can get back to flying!

Andrew: First I’m thinking “why am I not thinking about aviation?” Then my brain turns to travel, my beloved Clippers, Maryland basketball, Yankees and Giants, golf and most importantly family and friends.


Happy Holidays from NYCAviation!

Ben Granucci, Contributing Editor, is an aviation enthusiast and planespotter based in New York City. Growing up in Connecticut, he has had his eyes toward the sky for as long as he can remember. He can be reached on Twitter at @BLGranucci or through his blog at Landing-Lights.com

About the Author

Ben Granucci
Ben Granucci, Senior Editor, is an aviation enthusiast and plane spotter based in New York City. Growing up in Connecticut, he has had his eyes toward the sky for as long as he can remember. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.



An Important Message From NYCAviation Founder Phil Derner, Jr

NYCAviation Founder Phil Derner, Jr shares some important news about the future of the website.
by Phil Derner Jr.


7 Steps to Become a Pilot

"As strange as it seems, stepping into the thought process that you actually want to be a pilot, rather than having an abstract desire, is your first step."
by Erika Armstrong



Introducing the New NYCAviation Team!

For years, NYCAviation has continuously grown far beyond our city limits as we look to fuel your passion for aviation through entertaining and educating features and content. From our articles, to Twitter, to our message boards...
by Phil Derner Jr.


The Future of NYCAviation

Losing our Editor and friend, Matt Molnar, was a heavy blow for our organization and the aviation world. What's next for NYCAviation?
by Phil Derner Jr.

@NYCAviation reached 20,000 followers on Saturday, November 10, 2012.

What Our 20,000th Twitter Follower Means To Us

Here’s to welcoming the next 20,000 members of our aviation family.
by Phil Derner Jr.