Regarding photos sometimes being shown in the wrong order of views:
The page is rendered based on the view counters that are stored in the DB. The counters are compiled using stats which are saved in X by the website. The gathering of the counter statistics is done by a few scripts which run on the Y server.
So if I understand it correctly, photos are sorted/shown in the order of the internal DB view counters, which may not always be the same as the visible view counters? I assume that has to do with the 'certain amount of views needed for a visible increase' principle?
Kas, I think you are on the right track - Having a constant real time update for every bit of changing information isn't possible. Only some information is updated immediately. Other information (like view counts Brandon confirmed above) would be updated via jobs/scripts that run at defined intervals.
So ideally, job would run, the counters would update, the page would be rendered with that updated information, and all is well. but as we've seen with Airliners before, sometimes those jobs don't always finish in a defined time, may run slow due to other factors, perhaps another job is set to do a specific thing - (I don't know all the detailed ins and outs of Airliners - it's a really complex thing - so this is just general info). So it looks like the page is rendered while that job may still be running and gathering new information.All the complicated behind the scenes happenings with the way Airliners is built contributes to these sorts of issues, like where counters get stuck (which doesn't seem like it's happened as often as it used to, after our team made some behind the scenes changes).
This complicated structure also contributes to issues like user or forum permissions being a bit inconsistent or not working as they are set to be - like the team forum. What settings look like should grant someone permission to view may not, because of something somewhere else which may conflict. I'm not a developer, but I do get how complex it can be on a site like this, with pieces and parts built at different times by different people over time. It makes it really challenging to support and even more challenging to try to plan out a long term resolution when a site has grown to the scale that Airliners has, especially as platforms age over time and get more difficult to support or deprecated entirely.
In short, this means there likely isn't a short term solution for this.