Are you familiar with birdwatching?
It’s an activity, somewhere between a hobby and studying, involving observing birds in their natural environment.
Swap birds for aeroplanes and you get plane spotting. 🙂

Plane spotters are passionate about aeroplanes and sometimes also photography. They lie in wait in strategic lookouts near airports to ‘collect’ the most planes possible.

In a nutshell, a plane spotter collects sightings of scheduled flights.

As with any activity for true enthusiasts, plane spotting has its own rules (some airports have dedicated safe areas for spotters) and its own ‘schools of thought’.

Tail number collecting is about spotting as many tail numbers as possible, which are unique registration codes of aircraft, similar to those of cars. Plane spotters enter the alphanumeric codes of any tails they spot in a database, collecting and keeping them as if they were coins or stamps. The harder it is to see a tail number, the higher its value. Just like what happens with coin and stamp collecting.

Another form of plane spotting is aviation photography, if the sighting is documented by a photo. Not just any photo, but a breath-taking shot of the aeroplane taking off or landing, possibly with a stunning sunset in the background…

N.B. Unfortunately, there are also illegal ways to do plane spotting, but we won’t talk about them here, as we don’t want to contribute to activities that are highly risky for people and airport traffic.