Because my life is dull, I watch videos of air traffic control communications. Recently, I noticed controllers diverting planes to waypoint "HPSTR," pronounced "hipster." Did some wiseass rename a Portland-area aviation waypoint as an inside joke? —Norm
As someone easily seduced by the many exotic forms of stultifying boredom that the internet has to offer (real-time railway journeys, girls in cat ears crinkling cellophane, Watching Paint Dry: The Game), I have mixed feelings about the news that air traffic control videos are a thing. But I suppose it's too late to worry about that now.
I waded into this subject confident that your "HPSTR" destination would prove to be merely an interesting coincidence, like the unfortunate fact that the airport code for Sioux City, Iowa, happens to be SUX. Shows what I know.
Waypoints, also known as "navigation fixes," are designated sets of coordinates that mark a particular route from one airport to the next. Originally expressed in terms of distance and heading from navigational beacons, they're defined these days by GPS coordinates.
Each waypoint has a unique, five-letter code, from AAALL to ZZYZX. Your HPSTR is one of these names. They're supposed to be pronounceable, and they make it easier for pilots and air traffic controllers to reference specific points in the sky.
The problem is that there are a lot of these things—over a thousand in Oregon alone. That's a lot of unique names that Federal Aviation Administration employees have to come up with.
This means the bar for acceptable names is pretty low—if it's pronounceable and not obscene, it's probably in. The result is a lot of rather fanciful (some might say goofy) waypoint names.
For example, in addition to HPSTR, waypoints over Oregon allude to sports (DUKKS, BEAVS, BLAZR, TMBRS), nature (HERBS, FLOWR, FRFLY) and cultural touchstones (BREWW, BYKES, OMSSI, KEIKO).
If you think those are bad, you should see the route in New Hampshire that runs through—I kid you not—the waypoints ITAWT, ITAWA, PUDYE, TTATT and IDEED. Kill me.