View Full Version : Plane Spotting - Nerdism with a Dash of Risk!

The Guvnor
22nd Nov 2001, 11:44
From today's Telegraph:

[quote]Nerdism with just a dash of risk
By Neil Tweedie
(Filed: 22/11/2001)

PLEASURE takes many forms but there is surely none so curious as that derived from the pursuit of the military aircraft serial number.

The arrest of 12 British plane spotters for espionage in Greece has cast a sudden and unwelcome light on one of the stranger pastimes of modern life.

Plane spotting is the glamorous (if such a word dare be used) cousin of train spotting. Nerdism with a dash of risk.

Train spotters may long for a cheese and tomato sandwich at the end of Platform five at Crewe but the truly dedicated international military plane spotter looks for something more.

The foreign airfield hidden behind barbed wire, a glimpse of a fighter in its hardened shelter or the crackle of radio traffic as the prey lands. A small core of plane spotters are prepared to risk arrest to get the tail number that identifies a particular aircraft .

There are some 500 dedicated plane spotters in Britain, prepared to spend precious holidays and about 800 a week in search of that elusive Mirage or Mig. Days can be long and uncomfortable as parties bump along in minivans from base to base.

The hobby can get people into trouble. Most countries do not take kindly to having their most sensitive military installations photographed. The collection of serial numbers to track the movement of units and their equipment can provide intelligence of real value to a potential enemy. Arrests are not uncommon but usually result in swift releases when the spotter's identity is established.

It did not work out like that in 1977 when five Britons were jailed for violating security at Greek airforce bases. Released on bail after six months, they were quietly informed that they should leave the country and not return.

Greece's historic intolerance of plane spotting, a by-product of its uneasy relationship with Turkey, has not deterred enthusiasts.

The editor of one aviation magazine explained: "Most plane spotters lead stable lives. Plane spotting is their fix. Some people get off on drugs and some on taking down tail numbers."

Charlie Foxtrot India
22nd Nov 2001, 15:49
Sounds like the Greeks had a case of "anoraknophobia"

23rd Nov 2001, 00:52
Never found any thing wrong with Plane spotters personally! Met a few when I was trying to smell JETA1 dreaming of flying.

Lets face it, They get out in the fresh air. Their Hobby is harmless- yet their treated like criminals (and spend most of their time looking through wire mesh!). They dont spend their time on the internet looking at child porn etc.... that what I call nerdish hobbies!

Leave em alone I say! There doing no one else harm!

:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

23rd Nov 2001, 01:14
I guess the Greek AF have never heard of Jane's, Flight or google.com !
I could probably put together an illustrated order of battle in half an hour.

[ 22 November 2001: Message edited by: PaperTiger ]

The Truth
23rd Nov 2001, 03:34
Greek Air Force order of Battle is available on several web sites and here is a photo of one of the "terribly secret" aircraft alleged to have been photographed.

Airpics.com (http://www1.airpics.com/showimg.php?imgid=5293)

What's the British Government doing? Sweet FA ... so that we don't upset any of our european friends along with whom our destiny lies!

Free them now! A fair number of "spotters" go on to careers in the aviation industry we should all be supporting them.

23rd Nov 2001, 17:57
Go to a foreign country and break their laws howsoever stupid and you deserve what you get. None of those people could have been unaware of the consequences of their actions.
No photos means no photos.
It's never been a secret that the Greeks have little tolerance for spotters.

They'll be home in a few weeks, having learnt nothing I suspect.

Celtic Emerald
23rd Nov 2001, 18:12
I belonged to an aviation club once & it was all they seemed to do. When I suggested maybe going to airshows, airmuseums, infact anything at all to do with aviation besides planespotting they initially reacted with total shock.

It seems to attract a certain breed, if that's what there into fair game to them but collecting the serial numbers of aircraft & photographing them is certainly not for me & I sometimes wonder do these people realise there is alot more to aviation & how much there missing out on with their narrow minded pursuit logging numbers etc. It definitely is more of a male pursuit than a females, maybe that's why I felt so out of water. I knew one fella who used to travel all the way to Hong Kong & spend all his holidays at the airport planespotting. I mean I like aircraft but honestly there is a limit :rolleyes:


Doctor Cruces
25th Nov 2001, 16:31
No harm in spotters at all.

However, spotters have to learn that one DOES NOT take cameras and notebooks and take piccies and tail numbers in dodgy places like Greece.Turkey where they areparanoid about each other spying and where their human rights record is, to say the least, a little below spotless.

At the very least, they should have checked with the Brit Embassy for any local restrictions.

Personally, I blame the tuor organiser who should have checked anyway.

Doc C.

tony draper
25th Nov 2001, 16:47
Its Strange that it seems its adults who have hobbies now not kids.
One time every lad had a hobby, Birds egg collecting , stamp collecting, cigarette cards, train numbers,hell even the thug who was our school bully used to collect fossils,
Draper still has a few Trilobites and Ammonites from those days. ;)

Ali Barber
25th Nov 2001, 18:46
There's a well informed discussion on the "Spotters jailed in Greece!" thread in the Miltary Aircrew forum. The guy who runs Touchdown Tours doesn't seem to be the sharpest person ever to don an anorak and it also doesn't sound as if this is the first time he has been in trouble. Shmae he seems to have taken the rest of the punters down with him. It looks especially bad for the lone female in the party who has been locked up in somewhere that sounds like the set from Midnight Express!

B Sousa
25th Nov 2001, 20:16
So thats what its all about. I ran into a few Brits here in the states. They were running around Mojave California like there was no tomorrow. (Lots of old and special stuff there.) The states have a lot of airports that would be a real dream for these guys. Does anyone know if they have a website etc.?? I think theres a buck or two in here for someone who would arrange tours. Like Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson where all the old Militarys goe before scrapping....

[ 25 November 2001: Message edited by: B Sousa ]

25th Nov 2001, 22:04
B Sousa, People are way ahead of you. There are many tours arranged to places like Davis Monthan. In fact that's a place I'd like to go to myself. It must be quite fascinating.

B Sousa
26th Nov 2001, 01:14
Steepclimb, now you know why Im still working for a living

26th Nov 2001, 01:36
the thug who was our school bully used to collect fossils,
Draper still has a few Trilobites and Ammonites from those daysIs this an admission that you were the school bully, Draper? :D

tony draper
26th Nov 2001, 01:46
Just a subtle quip Mr Baz, Draper was never big enough to qualify as a school bully,but he was smart enough to befriend the large lads and join they're gang, so never had a moments trouble at school. ;)

26th Nov 2001, 01:58
Yeah, me 3! :p

In a vain attempt to remain on topic, I've never seen the sense in collecting the numbers of anything (though went train spotting with a friend years ago - dead boring :eek:

[ 25 November 2001: Message edited by: sanjosebaz ]

tony draper
26th Nov 2001, 02:05
Well plane spotting wasn't a option, Newcastle airport was just a little field then.
Did try train spotting but that wern't for Draper although he did get to Cab the
Sir Nigel Gresley, thats get to go on the foot plate, only stuck with train spotting for a couple of days and the rest of them were seething because of Drapers triumph.
Seriously,I have noticed that kids just don't seem have hobbies now, and as I said earlier, every kid had a hobby one time. ;)

26th Nov 2001, 02:59
NCL is not exactly big now (OK the buildings have enlarged somewhat, I suppose!). They do good coffee though - pretty convinced it hasn't been through any animal's digestive tract either (from another thread). :D

[ 25 November 2001: Message edited by: sanjosebaz ]

26th Nov 2001, 04:19
well i admit to going to the airport to look at the planes
but i never saw the point in writing down numbers :rolleyes:

26th Nov 2001, 04:21
My point entirely - I never have (probably never will) understand the need to collect numbers (trains, planes or otherwise). :confused:

tony draper
26th Nov 2001, 04:40
Draper collects Samuel Colts Single Action Products, got eight of em now, this being Lizzy Windsor green and pleasant land all thougherly deactivated.
And money of course. :(

26th Nov 2001, 05:18
Now I can understand collecting money! Never been any good at that though :(

26th Nov 2001, 13:53
Tony Draper commented that kids nowdays don't have hobbies, maybe. But the kids who had hobbies all those years ago still have them. They're the guys out by the fence or in prison with the notebooks and cameras.
They never really got over it. It's a grown up game now. Look at model aeroplanes. I stil imagine that I do it but only actually buy the occasional model magazine. The cost and detail involved in modern kits are spectacular. Definitely not suitable for children or me as it happens.

Growing up I never even knew what a spotter was. I confess I never even went to the airport as a kid. It was too far. Only once did I actually visit an airfield that was a six mile walk on a damp misty November day and all I and my friend saw was a helicopter taking off and a DeHavilland Dove parked. Still I enjoyed the walk. Funny enough even then as 12 year olds we were a little worried that the military would take exception to us hanging over their fence. Something those clowns in Greece have obviously lost.

Kermit 180
26th Nov 2001, 15:39
I'll admit to having once spotted aeroplanes to collect data for a school assignment. Not a hobby I would take up personally, but it is a hobby to some, is harmless and, I suppose, relatively cheap. You see them where I fly, usually on the weekend, radios tuned, binoculars and notebooks poised, watching every landing and takeoff. A shame the airport company doesnt use them to get their landing fee system sorted! :D

I wont tell you what I did to scare a bunch of them one day (I was bored) for fear of incriminating myself publicly. Lets just say they scattered real quick.

Kermie ;)