Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 757-200F
Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 757-200F
Photo courtesy: Sean D'Silva

A few days ago British Airways permanently retired its fleet of Boeing 747, what as kids we would say ‘jumbo jet’. Like the Concorde, they could be heading to the history books.

Plane spotting, like Train spotting, is a serious recreational activity the world over, informs 40 year old Sean D’Silva. “It is the art of observing and noting various aircraft whether at airports or while taking off and landing, jotting down details such as the type of airplane, its make, size, country of origin, registration details which helps discern delivery dates”.

Aviation photography is almost an unheard concept in India. Capturing the thrill of spotting the mechanical wings on their camera is a joy. According to D’Silva, an ex airline employee, you can never know enough about any airplane. “There are so many facts, trivia and technical specifications surrounding the huge spectrum of military and civil jets that one needs to constantly keep himself abreast of the latest information available. If you are seriously passionate about it, the learning never stops. Plane spotting comprises not only of airplanes but also the wide spectrum encompassing helicopters, business jets, fighters, gliders, balloons.”

Rapper Drake's private Boeing 767 bizjet
Rapper Drake's private Boeing 767 bizjet
Photo courtesy: Sean D'Silva

On that note he stresses the beautiful designs many aircraft showcase. Not many are aware that many operators feature interesting artwork on their airframes, for example on the commercial front, each Air India Express Boeing 737NG aircraft features a different tail design to reflect facets of Indian culture and history.

It’s no wonder then that he co authored a book ‘Mumbai Airports Through Time’ with fellow plane spotter the late Jimmy Wadia, that serves as a testament to the rich variety of aircraft that have visited this part of the world, from early piston airliners to today’s modern airliners on Mumbai’s main international airport and the smaller aerodrome in Juhu.

D’Silva’s photographs have been featured in several international aviation publications including books, magazines, journals and aviation photography websites. He was one of the winners of the Volga Dnepr 20th anniversary special aviation photography competition held in 2010.

Plane spotting while still to take off in India, is a widespread and legal hobby overseas with associations in Holland, the US, and the UK such as the LAAS International. These are dedicated volunteer groups of aviation enthusiasts who Observe, Record, and Report any suspicious activity to authorities while plane spotting. Thus plane spotters assist the airport security to a large extent.

Former Pan Am and Delta Airlines flight purser Venant Alexio has been a member of Canada’s YYZ Airport Watch Group for around 6 years now and thoroughly enjoys the hobby of being able to shoot close-up photos of planes. “Being a member of the group comes with its perks, such tarmac tours when there is an aviation event like the recent rare visit of the majestic six engine, Antonov AN-225 Mriya or a new airlines first flight to Toronto, such as Air Italy. We also keep an eye out for any suspicious activity, debris on runways, breaches in fencing around the perimeter of the airport and watch out for wildlife. We are like a 'second set of eyes' keeping a watch of the airport and work in tandem with the Airport Police and Airport Authorities. And I do it all for the love of aviation."

Antonov AN-225 Mriya
Antonov AN-225 Mriya
Photo courtesy: Venant Alexio

Venant also adds that this hobby could be a life saver for passengers and also help the airport officials by alerting them of bird breeding activities near the airport or on it which can be a hazard for aircraft as well as report strange out of the ordinary activities, or security breaches such as broken fences.

“The authorities of some countries mistake this hobby as reconnaissance by foreign spies or terrorists, which I feel is ridiculous especially since there are ways and means to discern bonafide spotters from potential mischief mongers."

Adds D’Silva, “In India, the authorities do not really know what a plane spotter can do to help authorities. This is a harmless hobby. It’s a refreshing recreational activity as well as educative for those that have an eye for detail."

Plane spotters like D’Silva can only hope that their hobby is recognized and that they can shoot images of airplanes without restraint.

Other unusual hobbies

Tree shaping: A cool hobby wherein you train living plants or woody plants to grow in a specific way by using a stick or making it grow into artistic shapes or useful structures. Alternatively huge tree barks can be carved into shapes, from gods to inanimate things.

Soap carving: This sweet smelling hobby is best to bring out the creative side of kids as well as adults. Your bar of soap could be put to use by carving designs from flowers to tourist attractions. People are known to sell their creations or used as decorative items at home.

Sea glass collecting: Sea glass or beach glass come from different type of sea water and are physically and chemically weathered glass. The weathering processes produce naturally frosted glass. Many use sea glass on the bottom of a see through vase.

Dog grooming: As the name suggests, it’s grooming your pet a dog or cat, in the most eccentric way you can. Though its time consuming, there are many competitions held, which can make you a rich pet owner.

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