Plane Spotting FAQ
What is plane spotting?
As Wikipedia defines it, "Aircraft spotting or Plane spotting is the enjoyment, observation and photography of aircraft: gliders, powered aircraft, large balloons, airships, helicopters, and microlights."
It means, plane spotting is just a hobby, just like collecting baseball cards, stamps, bird spotting, building models or scrapbooks. When visiting airports (for travel or just stopping by), you might encounter enthusiasts with photo cameras, binoculars and notepads observing the aircraft traffic - yes, that's us!
So you take pictures?
There are different types of spotters - after all it's a hobby and everyone is free to create his/her own rules as to what they follow. However, generally there are two main types, the ones that just "spot" the aircraft and jot down what they have seen and the ones that take photographs.
What are you writing down?
Generally, people note the aircraft type, the date of the sighting and the registration. The aircraft registration is similar to car plates and it helps the spotter tracking what they have seen/photographed and what they haven't.
Isn't what you are doing illegal?
No, it isn't. In the United States and most of the countries spotting and photography are not illegal. In any case, spotters are always advised to abide by the local laws and regulations.
Aren't spotters a security threat?
Definitely not. As a matter of fact, the hobby itself traces its roots back to WWII when some countries and in particular Britain, encouraged citizens to become "plane spotters" in an "observation corps" or similar public body for reasons of public security. Generally spotters are familiar with their hometown airports and in several countries or localities, spotters collaborate with law enforcement in identifying and communicating suspicious activity.
I'm interested in planes too, what do I do to become a spotter?
Well, nowadays, in many cities or localities there are spotting groups that can help you finding out the places where you can go, help you identifying the camera, lens etc. you need. There are quite a few web-sites that would help you in that direction as well.