A Day in the Life of ‘Planespotter H’

Planespotting isn’t a hobby, it is an art. Most travellers see us with our cameras, notepads or binoculars, milling around the airfield, patiently waiting for that special shot of an aircraft with a different colour scheme or new engines.  Most passengers or pilots do not realise they are being photographed. Some look. Some even wave at us. However, most do not understand the art of planespotting! Most ask how we know the aircraft off by heart. There are noticeable differences in the aircraft such as the nose shape or the landing gear, however, the best way to find out about an aircraft’s history is by the registration which must be clearly visible on every aircraft.

Each spotter has their hub where they know all the spots to grab the best shots. Mine is Heathrow Airport in London, the main hub for the UK. London is special as it has a number of regional airports around the city including Gatwick Airport, Stansted, Luton and City Airport with variety of aircraft at each airport. Some of the airlines on show include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Air New Zealand, and American Airlines. The list goes on!

A Normal Day Planespotting at Heathrow Airport

planespotter-h-qatarMy day starts checking out flightradar24 for any special liveries close to my hub, Heathrow Airport. FlightRadar24 is an app available on a phone, tablet or laptop that enables you to track aircraft in the sky. The amount of traffic varies but there is a nice mix of short haul and long-haul aircraft. There is something for everyone. I check the weather forecast for the airport of choice for the day. A sunny day with a few clouds with a mild temperature counts as perfect spotting weather for me. I pack my camera with an extra battery and memory card! There is nothing worse than your camera running out of battery during the day! Some planespotters have a range of kit including a number of interchangeable lenses for the camera depending on the aircraft flying in, radios, and notepads.

The direction the aircraft are landing/taking off in usually decides the spot around the airport I visit. One of the most famous spots at Heathrow Airport is Myrtle Avenue which is perfect for 27L arrivals for when aircraft are arriving from over the City of London.

Usually, on a warm sunny day, planespotting can be a fun family activity especially for budding aviators of the future! They seem to take a keen interest in the heavies aircraft like the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747, more commonly known as the Jumbo Jet.

A transmission comes on for Heathrow Tower that the Airbus A350, the newest commercial airliner is on finals to land. The field fills up with planespotters and an eerily silence accompanies it until the aircraft comes into view. The continual chorus of shutter buttons rings around Myrtle Avenue as the aircraft zooms past us and AvGeeks, geeks in aviation, compare our shots/videos (above).

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 G-VRED taking off from Heathrow at sunset January 2014. Virgin Atlantic is starting to get rid of some of their older aircraft in their fleet to make room for new aircraft such as the Boeing 787-9 which is more fuel efficient and quieter for residents. This shot was taken outside Terminal 5 which is home to IAG which is comprised of British Airways and Iberia.

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 G-VRED taking off from Heathrow at sunset January 2014. Virgin Atlantic is starting to get rid of some of their older aircraft in their fleet to make room for new aircraft such as the Boeing 787-9 which is more fuel efficient and quieter for residents. This shot was taken outside Terminal 5 which is home to IAG which is comprised of British Airways and Iberia.

planespotter-h-singapore

Singapore Airlines A380-800 departing for Changi airport in Singapore. The Airbus A380 is the biggest passenger aircraft in service with its instantly recognisable double-deck with a number of airlines coming up with innovative products on the aircraft such as apartments and on-board showers. Due to its size, the Airbus A380 has its own category: ‘Super’. The A380 is so big, that small jet planes have to keep their distance on landing and take-off to avoid wake turbulence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A British Airways Boeing 747-400 and American Airlines Boeing 777-200ER taxiing past each other. A number of airlines are part of airline alliances in which routes are shared to offer a greater range of destinations for passengers. Airlines usually paint some of their fleet in the alliance colourscheme to promote that alliance. Some other airlines in Oneworld are Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Qatar, LAN and Iberia. The other two main alliances are Star Alliance and Skyteam.

A British Airways Boeing 747-400 and American Airlines Boeing 777-200ER taxiing past each other. A number of airlines are part of airline alliances in which routes are shared to offer a greater range of destinations for passengers. Airlines usually paint some of their fleet in the alliance colourscheme to promote that alliance. Some other airlines in Oneworld are Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Qatar, LAN and Iberia. The other two main alliances are Star Alliance and Skyteam.

British Airways G-YMMJ lining up on Runway 27R at Heathrow. For British Airways Boeing 777-200s, they have two engine manufacturers Rolls Royce and General Electric. It is noted that an engine start-up from a General Electric engine on a Boeing 777 is one of the most recognisable sounds to Avgeeks.

British Airways G-YMMJ lining up on Runway 27R at Heathrow. For British Airways Boeing 777-200s, they have two engine manufacturers Rolls Royce and General Electric. It is noted that an engine start-up from a General Electric engine on a Boeing 777 is one of the most recognisable sounds to Avgeeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It starts to cloud over so I decide to visit one of the airport’s terminals to grab a bite to eat and preview some of my shots.

-By Henry Heming, aka “Planespotter H”

Main image: American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER landing on 27R at Heathrow.  American Airlines send to Heathrow their Boeing 777s, 767s and Airbus A330s. They recently went through a merger with US Airways. Catching a US Airways colour scheme on an aircraft is extremely rare. The Boeing 777-300ERs features the GE90-115B engines. These are the world’s largest and most powerful jet engines in the world.

Henry Heming