Armed with binoculars, high-frequency radios and expensive cameras, plane spotters can also serve as the third eye of security
With a camera in one hand and a flight plan in the other, plane spotters in India are an emerging group of trigger-happy aviation enthusiasts who fight all odds to get a perfect look at the huge metal bird, either reposing on land or flying up in the sky.
Everyone who gets to know about this extraordinary genus of experts have one question in their mind. What drives them? This is neither a business that brings in money nor can it catapult them to stardom. Then again, what drives them? Nothing but pure passion!
There are mainly two type of plane spotters in the world. One of them records the registration number of every airplane in an attempt to log as many as possible. The second type of plane spotters has taken it to the next level by photographing as many aircraft as they can. Aviation photography has thus become a new genre by itself.
The Indian Scenario
Countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Japan and Ireland encourage plane spotting. In fact, a few airports reserve space for photographers to click the perfect shot.In India, this is not always the case. Many of the best photographs are taken at the risk of the photographer, owing to heavy security in place at the international airports in the country.
However, things are changing. Recently, Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) has set up an elevated point outside the wall for photographers to take pictures from, after they obtain security clearance and the required permission.
Also, there are several registered plane spotter communities in India and they form a strong country-wide network. Besides helping each other with the work, they also conduct awareness drives and exhibitions to gain recognition from the public and the law enforcement agencies.
Rules are rules, Obey them
As per rule 13 under part 2 of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, no one is allowed to take pictures at airports or in an aircraft. Though there is no written rule that prohibits photography outside the airports, walking too close to the fence with a camera or binocular in hand is enough to trigger panic among the locals and attract unwanted attention from the security personnel.
But plane spotters are smart enough to work their way through this muddle. “One needs to have close contacts with the local people, local plane spotters and the airport authorities to get close enough the airplanes for the perfect shot,” says Sriram Hariharan, a member of the Victor Tango Aviation plane spotting community.
While in India, a plane spotter should make sure that he/she carries the identity proof and a copy of Rule 13. If approached by airport police or any form of law enforcement, it is always important to comply with their instructions.
“We click high resolution pictures and share them with the airport and the airlines. Armed with binoculars, high-frequency radios and expensive cameras, plane spotters can also serve as the third eye to detect unusual activity in and around the aerodrome,” he added.
Plane Spotters’ Paradise
A frequent traveller, Sriram’s favourite plane spotting location is Heathrow Airport, London. According to him, Myrtle Avenue in West London is an ideal vantage point to watch planes flying in and out of nearby Heathrow Airport.
The Visitors Park at Munich Airport, Bayfront Park in San Francisco, Maho Beach in St. Maarten are some of the best places for plane spotting. India too needs to recognize the budding community of aviation enthusiasts who can act as a bridge between the airport and the local citizens.