Planespotting, A Peculiar, Yet Hugely Popular Hobby

Spotters are a separate breed. Many people would indeed wonder what makes it so attractive to write down airplane registrations. Well, it’s a hobby. Nothing more and nothing less. Or is it?

The term ‘spotter’ applies not only to planespotters. There are also spotters who take pictures and write down numbers of trains, buses and ships, for example.

Die-hard spotters will go a long way for their hobby, sometimes literally. They could easily travel a great distance just to ‘log’ a particular aircraft. A rare aircraft mostly, of which there are only a couple in the whole world (such as the Antonov An-225) or a plane from an exotic airline operating on the other side of the world that is on a delivery flight.

Pure spotters ‘log’ registrations. They have complete logbooks with airline fleets, in which they mark off a plane when they see it for the first time. They might take photographs as well, but seeing the actual aircraft and writing down its number is their main goal.

I have always been interested in aviation, and I started to photograph airplanes when I was about ten years old. In my case, I go more for a nice picture than for the registration. However, I do take a note of the registration whenever I can read it on the picture. It is quite interesting to do, as you end up ‘collecting’ various aircraft of an airline this way and might end up having photographs of all the planes in the fleet. And once that is achieved, you will want to catch any new plane that joins the fleet as well. Often airplanes change owners during their operational lives and you might get pictures of the same plane in the colours of various companies, with or without the same registration.

Another nice aspect is when an airline changes the livery, or the company colours, and you have pictures of the same airplane in two or more different colour schemes of the same airline. Some airlines paint their aircraft in special colours, to commemorate the company’s anniversary for example. Logojets are airplanes that are either painted in another company’s colours, such as a car rental company’s, and also planes painted in a special scheme of the airline alliance the company belongs to. Airlines that belong to the Star Alliance for example have one or more aircraft in their fleet flying around in special colours, which consist of a dark blue tail with the star logo, ‘Star Alliance’ written in large letters over the fuselage and the airline’s name in smaller letters in the front of the fuselage. Another trend is painting the aircraft in retro schemes, which means that the planes are painted in a previous livery of the airline. This makes for an interesting combination of a modern plane bearing old colours.

I think spotting is a great hobby and as an aviation enthusiast love to visit airports to take pictures. It is also a hobby that brings many people together. Spotters organise meetings to visit spotting locations together and share valuable information. Via the website mentioned below you can download the FREE ‘Spotter’s Guide to the World’s Top Ten Airports’.

Levent Bergkotte is a freelance writer specialising in aviation and travel, an aviation consultant and enthusiast. His site [] contains tons of information for planespotters, including airport spotting locations, aircraft pictures, aviation news and a forum. Via [] he offers consultancy services about aviation-related matters to the media.


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