The Life Of A Spotter

By: Category: Spotting

Cathay Pacific-777

Do you ever find yourself getting distracted by the sound of a jet passing overhead while talking to a friend or co-worker?  Do you ever find yourself driving 20 miles out of the way to where you’re going just so you can pass by an airport?  When a friend tells you that they are travelling somewhere, do you ask them what airline and what kind of planes they’re flying on, and what airport they’re connecting through? Do you ever find yourself trying to make out the registration number on an airplane in a movie you’re watching so you can figure out if you have seen it in real life?

If you can answer “yes” to more than one of the above questions and many more like them, then chances are you live the life of a plane spotter.  Plane spotters are a large, yet small and closely knit community worldwide that share a common interest, the love for aviation.

While a lot of plane spotters have some form of background that deals with aviation, plane spotters come from all walks of life.  Many of us can be found around our local airports on the weekends and in our free time, sometimes even before and after work.  It is not uncommon to see us waking up at the crack of dawn or staying out until after darkness to catch that rare freighter or special paint scheme.  Most of the time we can be found in parking lots in areas surround the approach path to the active runways leaning on our vehicles talking to one another and showing off the “catch” we just got, or standing on ladders [to get that optimal view] with our eye pressed to the viewfinder on our cameras.

After a successful day of spotting, many of us head home, excited to dump our memory cards onto our computers to see what our images look like.  Some travel a short distance to get home after spotting, while others end up driving for a few hours or even heading into the terminal of the airport they were just spotting at to catch a plane home to their hometown on the other side of the country.

When we’re not out spotting, we are often surfing the internet on our favorite spotting forums and websites, such as checking out what our peers have been up to and where they have been out spotting.  Also, we can be found searching for new and better locations to get that special catch from or helping “newbies” out with providing them information to point them in the right direction.   Many other conversations revolve around from wanting that elusive scheme, to dreaming of the day that you can get access to the ramp at your favorite airport to get an up close look at the birds you usually have to view from a distance, to planning a “spotters day” trip to a major airport in another city.


There are downsides to being a planespotter as well, and sometimes they can be a little discouraging.  Planespotters are not always seen in the eyes of the public or law enforcement as “normal” people and we [from time to time] get singled out as “suspicious”.  It is not uncommon for a group of spotters to get a visit from a local police officer because someone has called in a suspicious individual pointing his camera at a passing airplane or simply because the officer was passing by and wanted to make sure everything was kosher.  Most instances end in a friendly “have a nice day, and keep an eye out for anything suspicious”.

So next time you’re near the airport and you see a friendly bunch of guys with cameras, stop on by and say hello.  We’re a friendly group and are always willing to educate the public on who we are.


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