Plane Spotting is a popular hobby that’s been around for years and yet a lot of people haven’t heard about it. Plane spotters love to watch airplanes. You’ll find them hanging out near airports or under busy flight paths of arriving and departing aircraft. Some spotters can glimpse at an aircraft in flight and not only identify its make and model, but the specific series and year. These guys and gals take notes, take pictures and have taken to the internet to share their knowledge with other spotters.
While taking pictures is a big part of spotting, there can be a lot more to it. Some spotters concentrate on spotting and logging certain makes or models of aircraft. Others keep a sharp eye for different paint schemes, logos or nationalities. There are all sorts of variations on the obsession.
While taxiing at different airports around the world, I’ve been noticing more and more spotters and photographers lined up near airport perimeter fences and observation areas. When I see them, I always give a friendly wave and a smile. As we drove to the Tokyo/Narita airport terminal this morning we saw a group of about 20 spotters along the road. It dawned on me that between airplane spotters, photographers and airport surveillance cameras, I’ve likely had quite a few of my take offs and landings recorded. No pressure – all in a day’s work!
Interested in Airplane Spotting? It’s easy to get started. While many spotters use expensive equipment, you only need your eyes, ears and a love of aviation; binoculars and a camera are a bonus. Find a spot near a busy airport where it’s safe to park and have a picnic lunch. Be careful you aren’t trespassing; if you use the parking lot of a business, be courteous and get permission. There are a lot of resources available on the internet to help. Here are a few good ones to get you started:
- A Normal Person’s Guide to Plane Spotting
- Flightline Aviation Media’s Plane Spotting Guide
- USA Today: Guide to great plane-spotting sites
Since it was a clear morning in Narita (and our aircraft was late arriving from Anchorage), I took the opportunity to do a little spotting and shooting. As I grabbed my Canon SX230, I couldn’t help but notice Air France’s Paris-bound A380-800 super-jumbo pushing back from the gate. I can’t decide if the world’s largest passenger jet is beautiful, beautifully ugly, or just ugly. One thing’s for sure – it’s huge and awesome. A few of my better shots are below.
Pictures from Tokyo/Narita (RJAA):