These days aircraft spotting is becoming increasingly popular among people who like to spend lots of time outdoors and make photos. This pastime allows to "collect" without cluttering your home and offers the chance to meet the like-minded enthusiasts. If you're interested in planes and aviation in general, and are good at noticing detail aircraft spotting may be a great hobby for you!
If you want to be an aircraft spotter you should do the following:
#1 Decide what aircraft you will "spot".
People often use the term "plane spotting" instead of "aircraft spotting" when they mean spotting just planes. The term “aircraft spotting” has a broader meaning as it refers to various flying craft, such as helicopters, gliders, balloons, etc. It’s up to you to decide which aircraft you will focus on.
First consider checking different aircraft spotting websites to get some background knowledge. Make sure you use both "plane spotting" and "aircraft spotting" terms when searching for information online. You may also look for airports, aircraft manufacturers, airline information, flight pathways, and more to learn as much as possible about the subject of your hobby.
#2 Understand what aircraft spotting means.
Most aircraft spotters tend to adhere to some standard rules. Trying to figure out the type of aircraft, they should also notice the country of origin, age, the plane's registration details and more. You may also note some interesting artwork or insignia features on aircraft as well as camouflage markings on military planes or helicopters. Consider paying attention to placement of wings – whether it is a monoplane, biplane, or triplane. Is it a modern or a vintage model? Does it have retractable wheels or a fixed undercarriage? Or is it a seaplane?
#3 Get some good gear.
Having good quality gear will make spotting aircraft easier. You will need good binoculars to see various details and a goof digital camera along with telescope lens, tripod, etc. to take pictures of the aircraft you have spotted.
To feel comfortable while spotting planes you need a fold-up chair, as well as some food and drinks!
You will need both commercial and military aircraft manuals. Consider checking your local library or purchase them on the cheap at online auction sites. Also you may bring along a waterproof notebook and all-weather pens for writing down the data you get.
#4 Invite a friend.
It may take you some time till you spot a plane or some other aircraft and it will be much more fun to do it with someone you know who shares your passion in aviation. When you bring a friend you can talk with each other and set up competitions like who will spot the registration first. The loser brings a meal or drink after the day's spotting.
#5 Prepare yourself for an aircraft spotting trip.
For beginners it would be a good idea to team up with some experienced aircraft spotters. If none of your friends shares your passion in planes consider looking online or ask around what the best places for aircraft spotting in your area are. As a rule, most airports and aviation associations can suggest good spotting places for enthusiasts.
Make sure you comply with the airport rules and never get too close to airports. Your safety should be your number one priority!
If you get to the popular spotting area you had better ask other spotters about the best place to sit. As a rule they are willing to help the novice spotters.
#6 Start spotting.
Well, once the preparation stage is over you may begin observing aircraft for those elements you are interested in. You can just observe everything at first so you could decide which elements interest you most. Of course, it would be great to have some advice or guidance from someone who is experienced in aircraft spotting.
#7 Record your experiences once back at home.
While observing the planes you will be taking notes and photos. When you come back home make sure you spend some time to record the data gathered and sort the photos. You may want to choose the best aircraft photos and note everything you noticed about the aircraft. Also you might want to point out the type of aircraft you've not spotted before and those you would like to spot in the future.
#8 Decide the degree of your involvement
Aircraft spotting brings with it many possibilities. You will have to decide the degree of your involvement in this hobby. Beginners may be interested in joining local clubs or associations as well as participating in different competitions. Consider creating your own website and uploading your photos of spots with commentary onto it. Or you may upload your photos of spots onto some aircraft spotting websites you will find in the Internet.
To stay informed about spotting activities you may sign up for spotting mail lists. Plus you may follow Twitter accounts of your local club or your favorite aircraft spotting website to keep up with spotting information.
Avid aircraft spotters may even travel abroad to spot more planes in other countries. Many aviation enthusiasts visit aviation museums in the country and abroad to learn more about their field of interest and have a chance to see vintage historic aircraft from different periods of aviation history.
#9 Join a club or association.
It’s always so exciting to be able to share your passion in some hobby with other like-minded enthusiasts. Consider joining the LAAS International that brings together aircraft enthusiasts from all parts of the world.
#10 Be useful.
If you happen to notice anything that can be of importance for airport officials, please report it. It is important to inform airport officials about any bird nesting or animal breeding activities near the airport or on it. Also make sure you alert airport officials of any strange activities, suspicious behavior or security breaches like broken fences, etc. you have noticed.