Airliners.net is an aviation website that includes an extensive photo database of aircraft and airports, as well as a forum catering to aviation enthusiasts. Created by Johan Lundgren, Jr., the site originated in 1996 as Pictures of Modern Airliners. It was acquired by Demand Media in 2007 and underwent a major redesign in 2016.
Type of site
|Aircraft photo database, aviation forum|
|Created by||Johan Lundgren, Jr.|
|Alexa rank||11,292 as of April 2019|
|Launched||May 23, 1997|
Johan Lundgren, Jr., an IT student/aviation enthusiast attending Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, created the site Pictures of Modern Airliners in 1996. Lundgren had been working on the site during his military service. It initially hosted only his own aircraft photos before a new section was created for other photographers to upload their photos.
In 1997, Lundgren transitioned to a new site entitled Airliners.net and established a web server in his dormitory room. Three more servers were added, and eventually all servers were relocated to the computer rooms at the university. Lundgren started investing all of his time into the site, although he received help from a growing number of volunteers.
On 27 July 2007, Lundgren announced that the site would be acquired by Demand Media. It was sold to the company for US$8.2 million. Reasons behind the decision included the difficulty of managing the rapidly growing site, which was by that point supported by 25 servers.
As you probably know, Airliners.net keeps growing year after year with more photos, more forum posts, more visitors, more users and more photographers. This is fantastic. I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined this success when I started the site ten years ago.
And what comes with success?? Managing it. And I know you have felt some of the growing pains. There are infrastructure issues – like trying to stay on top of the hardware needs of this site but complexities and the site’s growth have caused outages. What started in my dorm room on one computer is now supported by 25 – and that’s not including all the network gear.
And there are administrative issues. Growing the site, supporting the community and keeping things running takes a big toll on me – All Crew groups have long lists of bugs I need to fix and administrative features I need to add.— Johan Lundgren, Jr., "Big News On The Future Of Airliners.net"
A revamped site was launched on 14 June 2016.
The site offers free membership, using online advertising instead as a source of revenue. Before the June 2016 redesign, Airliners.net provided three levels of membership: the Photographer Account, Premium Membership and First Class Membership. The latter two required payment while a Photographer Account could be created for free.
The site has two main features: the photo database and the forum. The database contains over 2.7 million photos with over 8.6 billion total views as of June 2016. All photos undergo screening prior to being admitted to the database, which can be searched by various factors including aircraft type, the airport at which the photo was taken and the aircraft registration. The forum is divided into ten subforums: Civil Aviation; Travel, Polls & Preferences; Technical/Operations; Aviation Hobby; Aviation Photography; Photography Feedback; Trip Reports; Military Aviation & Space Flight; Non-Aviation; and Site Related. Airliners.net also offers a complimentary newsletter service and a database of information on aircraft types developed with the help of Aerospace Publications.
Hate speech and intoleranceEdit
Since the site's acquisition in 2016, registration for a user account has been free. Consequently, posts criticizing historically marginalized groups, such as women, people of color, the elderly, the disabled, obese people, and the mentally ill, have become increasingly common on airliners.net.
For example, on obesity, in late January 2019, a series of posts attacked the right of disabled and obese passengers to fly on commercial airliners. One poster stated, "Let’s cut out the PC nonsense, shall we? The passenger was fat, plain and simple! Yes, most people who are fat or obese are responsible for their bulk. Claiming a disability because of being fat or obese is such nonsense and is merely a crutch to gain special treatment." Another added, "Being fat is not a disability, it is a choice. It can be remedied whenever the person who is fat takes the initiative to stop being fat." In reality, mounting scientific evidence indicates that genetics and environmental factors, such as the human biome, play a significant role in obesity.
On the disabled, in the same thread, another poster stated, "In conclusion, if you can't take care of yourself 100% (Walk, talk, use the bathroom, and behave), then you shouldn't be allowed to board." In reality, in the United States, the Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel..
Similarly, in May 2019, airliners.net posters discussed allegations that United Airlines had improperly denied boarding to a disabled man whose mobility device used a lithium-ion battery, thus forcing the disabled man to crawl on the floor. Media reports about the incident stated that the disabled man had followed United's own procedures for transporting such batteries for use in mobility devices. Nonetheless, several ableist posters blamed the disabled man for United's error, on the grounds that "we have lost a lot of personal accountability in our modern society."
On mental illness, in another thread from early February 2019, posters were discussing the alleged suicide of a TSA agent at the airport in Orlando, Florida. One poster, in an article since deleted, implied that the mentally ill ought to be encouraged to commit suicide. The moderators left this post up for several hours, prompting another poster to ask, "why have some of the more hateful posts been allowed to linger for hours on end?" Even when the moderators finally deleted the offensive post in question, they concurrently deleted other comments that defended the rights of the mentally ill and reproached the offensive poster, on the questionable grounds that "[s]everal users made a number of posts in extremely poor taste" (emphasis added).
On religious intolerance, in a thread from late January 2019 concerning allegations that American Airlines illegally deplaned a Jewish family, one poster mocked these allegations by stating, "It's always 'because I'm black/muslim/jew/gay/free-spirited asexual demiboy/fat'. Its great to live in a world that's seemingly full of people who don't do anything wrong but it seems we are simply intolerant." On homophobic epithets, one poster, commenting on an Icelandic aircraft with the registry "TF-GAY," quipped, "Better if it were leased in the U.K. as G-POOF!"
On racial intolerance, in late February 2019, an airliners.net thread was posted concerning the merits of naming an Orange County airport after actor John Wayne, who, in a 1971 interview, stated that "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility" and that "slavery [is] a fact of life." One poster, writing under username HWC1977, stated that Wayne's critics were "crybabies" and that "If people could take their PC glasses off for a minute, they might see for the period of time it was said in, there might have been some logic" to Wayne's comments. Another poster, writing of Wayne's critics, stated, "The whinny [sic] minority are given too much of a stage.".
On sexism, after Delta Airlines featured a mother-daughter captain and first officer team in promotional material, one poster, writing under username Varsity1, complained, "People...have no idea how socially engineered flight decks are these days. White males need 6x the experience of a minority to get hired." In reality, only 5.12% of commercial airline pilots in the USA are women. Another source states that 4.1% of airline transport pilots are women, 2.7% are African-American, 2.5% are Asian, and 5% are Hispanic.
Similarly, in a June 2019 thread concerning Air New Zealand making cultural accommodations for Maori employees to wear tattoos, one poster, writing under the username aviationaware, stated, "[a]nyone who seriously believes there is a wage gap in the double digits has lost their marbles." In reality, many studies have pointed to pay gender-based pay disparities.
Several longtime posters believe that the existing moderators have paid insufficient attention to this problem of intolerant posts. In particular, the moderators' practice of deleting posts that criticize intolerance has proven contentious. Posters critical of this practice believe that the moderators are guilty of "both-sidesism," thus drawing moral equivalancy between the intolerant posters and those who call them out. (Particularly troubling is one moderator whose signature reads, "You only have the first amendment with the second," implying that he believes hate speech should be weaponized.) These posters contend that the moderators ought to make airliners.net a more welcoming place for aviation fans from all backgrounds, without regard to race, gender, LGBTQ+ status, religion, national origin, age, weight, or similar characteristics.
Some of these posters also question whether Verticalscope Inc., its advertisers, and its shareholders would want to be associated with a forum with insufficient editorial control over hate speech.
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