As children, most of us were fascinated by the swooshing planes and helicopters. I remember that a common aim in “My Aim In Life” essays in elementary school was to be a pilot. As we grew up, life took us to different interests and professions; but some could never let go of their obsession with aircrafts, and they grew up to be plane spotters, if not pilots.
Aircraft Spotting is not just a hobby; it can be defined as an art of observing, photographing and listing of the planes that the spotters see. In the past, people would go as close to runways as possible to spot planes, which weren't aplenty those days, and would note down what planes they saw. Soon, it caught on and people started photographing the planes. Thanks to DSLRs, this hobby has now fused with art to take on a different form. Aircraft spotting is a hobby shared by many around the globe, and the internet has made it easier for spotters to share their knowledge and experiences with others. In fact, this art has been beguiling a lot of followers in Bangladesh as of late; the Facebook page “Plane Spotters Bangladesh” with over 3.5k fans is an evidence of that.
Saqib Rahman, a Bangladeshi spotter, informed that during spotting sessions, spotters can identify aircrafts by their build, outlook and noise. This includes observing and identifying minute details that differentiate the aircrafts. “A high flying aircraft can be identified by the vapor trails from its engine,” Saqib added. Moreover, a spotter should be prepared with all the necessary gears during a session, as well as the arrival and departure schedules of flights. Apps such as Flightradar24 and Radar Spotter can be handy during preparation. Understandably, if a spotter regularly observes the aircrafts to the finest of details, they can identify planes from miles away.
So, what ticks a spotter in the first place? For some, it's the will to fly; for some, it's the admiration of one of mankind's greatest creations; and for some, it's the love of aviation photography. Akib Rubaiyat, a Toronto-based Bangladeshi plane spotter, told us, “After coming to Toronto, I saw the prospects of aviation photography and decided to give it a shot, and here I am today; in less than 6 months I got almost 50 shots at the top rated aviation websites.” He aspires to be one of the best aviation photographers from Bangladesh in the years to come.
However, it is not an easy hobby to entertain. When I asked another spotter, Kashif Kawnain, about the activities required to satiate this passion for aircraft spotting, he gave me a list using technical terms of things he does. Simply put, this hobby requires a lot of patience and hours at a stretch under the scorching sun in hopes of spotting desirable planes or aircrafts. “Sometimes I even wait for 4 or 5 hours straight,” Kashif elaborated. “The locations are difficult to spot in, and the hobby, if you want to go pro, is a very expensive one.” If you wish to be a professional spotter who is interested in photographing aircrafts, good quality cameras are required. Many spotters also like to travel a lot in order to capture the most interesting aviation occurrences.
It is also true that aircraft spotters can often spot inconsistencies in the planes, and they therefore are often contacted by investigators in case of aviation mishaps. In fact, the government agencies in parts of USA and UK have come into agreements with aviation spotters, where the latter are to inform the authorities shall they see or hear anything suspicious during spotting. In some places in USA, the government provides training and funding to spotters.
The movement of planes and other aircrafts over our heads is such a regular phenomenon that we don't bother to give them a second glance. In fact, we get annoyed by the engine noise of the airplanes at seemingly random times. But it takes a connoisseur to understand and appreciate the noise and the build behind the flying aircraft, and to perceive it as an object of beauty.