Aircraft spotting is a fairly harmless hobby that evolved on Earth
during the 20th Century. It comprises the making of visual contact
with flying machines that might range from hovercraft, airships,
balloons, autogyros, helicopters, gliders, drones, microlights
and manned spacecraft. The 'spotting' element involves the initial
identification of the aircraft and its progressive classification.
Depending on the range at which the aircraft is seen, and perhaps
heard, spotters are likely to know its manufacturer, its generic
type, its precise type, its operator, its owner, its registration,
its construction number, its squadron, its base, its delivery
date, previous registration and so forth. Those who ridicule spotters,
and there are many, allege that they probably know the colour
of the pilot's eyes; this is highly improbable.
distinctive aspect of the hobby is that it can be practised almost
anywhere. Thus from a small cafe in Rickmansworth, you could watch
a light helicopter heading for Denham, a large jumbo jet climbing
away from Heathrow or a quiet and luxurious VIP aircraft bringing
the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom back to Northolt.
of colourful magazines available at newsagents on the subject
of aviation indicates the extent to which it is seen as a topic
of mainstream interest. Only a minority of their readers are likely
to be dedicated spotters. Some non-profit magazines are available
by mail only to meet the more specialised requirements of spotters,
such as production lists, changes of registration marks when aircraft
are exported, etc. The BBC occasionally televises highlights of
air displays held in Great Britain and a few television documentaries
show life 'behind the scenes' at British airports, predominantly
Heathrow, Liverpool and Luton. The flexibility of the helicopter
was demonstrated well in a British prize TV show called Treasure
Hunt1. Ballooning and space exploration receive remarkably little
coverage by TV stations.
will relish the variety of sightings that this hobby opens up
and the chance that it provides to spend time outdoors. Some,
however, will focus quite precisely on planes of a particular
type or from a particular era. Some, for instance, disregard privately
owned planes, others disregard all civilian aircraft, and others
disregard all military planes. Some work in the aviation business
or hope to do so.