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9 Essential Pieces of Equipment for Planespotters

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There are people who travel the world visiting airports and airfields just to watch airplanes take off and land. They’re called planespotters, and if you’re fascinated by aviation, this could be the perfect hobby for you too.

This article will cover the basics of what plane spotting is and why it’s important to aviation. It will also provide a few reasons why aviation enthusiasts should care about planespotting, including the implications the hobby could have on their understanding of aviation and air travel.

About Plane Spotting and Plane Spotters

Some prefer the term ‘aviation enthusiast‘ due to the stigma associated with the terms planespotter and planespotting. For them, it too closely resembles trainspotter and the nerdy associations that these hobbies attract

This is an unfair and inaccurate perspective. Aircraft spotting is a hobby that many individuals from all walks of life enjoy, both men and women, and it can be a way of introducing children and young adults into the fascinating world of aviation, air travel, and aircraft of all types, civil, commercial, and military aircraft.

So, if you’re attracted to this hobby you’ll need to gather a few essential pieces of kit to become an aircraft spotter. Here are nine items you’ll need to get started:

1. A Good Camera

As an airplane spotter you’re probably going to want to photograph the aircraft you see, and for this you’ll need a good camera. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need the most expensive DSLR on the market and it may be that your smartphone’s camera is up to the job if it’s one of the latest models.

However, you can’t beat a camera with a telephoto lens so eventually, you’ll want to buy the best you can afford. You can upgrade later as your hobby develops. It may be a while before you’re ready to purchase a DSLR camera with a telephoto lens with a price in four figures.

With practice you’ll be able to develop your photography skills to such a level that your photos will be accepted on sites like and, but be warned – they don’t accept any snaps that don’t meet their stringent standards.

Standing at the end of a runway at airports around the world while taking photos is, for many plane spotters, the main reason they took up aircraft spotting.

Plainspotters - Air Show Fence
A visit to an air show could become plane spotting habit.
Photo by Simon Infanger on Unsplash

2. A Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is a must-have for any planespotter. It allows you to see airplanes that are still far away on the approach path, and it can help you get a better view of the details on an aircraft’s fuselage. If you want to save money, you can buy a used spotting scope. Just make sure that it comes with a tripod.

With this piece of kit you’ll be able to distinguish between aircraft, airlines, and military aircraft at a greater distance.

Svbony SV28 20-60x60 Spotting Scope, Tripod, Phone Adapter, Bak-4 Prism MC Optics Angled Spotting Scope for Target Shooting, Birdwatching
  • HD SPOTTING SCOPE; Bak4 porro prism and multi-coated green film for bright clear and high-contrast images even in low light conditions; Advanced coating for improved light transmission
  • POWERFUL SPOTTING SCOPE; 20x-60x zoom magnification with 60mm objective brings you closer to nature; a wide field of view at 40-21m/ 1000m; 45°inclination eyepiece; Eye Relief 19.5mm ; Exit Pupil 3.25mm delivers a comfortable view
  • IP65 WATERPROOF SPOTTING SCOPE; sealed with O-ring prevent moisture dust and debris from getting inside the spotting scope for reliable performance in all environments; nitrogen filled makes the spotting scope can fog-proof
  • The spotting scope comes with digiscoping adapter that you can take and share wonderful moment to your family; compatible with iPhone X Phone 8/8plus Samsung Galaxy Hua Wei , ect.
  • Table Tripod; The SV28 spotting scope come with a table tripod for indoor use with basic stability; If you are an outdoor enthusiast, it is recommended to use a camera tripod

3. A Good Pair of Binoculars

Binoculars are another essential piece of equipment for planespotters. They’re not as powerful as a spotting scope, but they’re lighter and easier to carry around. Look for a pair with at least 10x magnification and don’t buy those that are too heavy.

You want something light but powerful enough to view the aircraft in the circuit, on approach, and after takeoff, for checking registrations and other details.

Binoculars for Adults Bird Watching usogood 12x50 High Power Binoculars for Stargazing, Traveling, Hunting and Hiking Binoculars with Tripod Phone Adaptor for Photography - BaK-4 Prisms, FMC Lens
  • 【Bird Watching Binoculars for Adults】With 12x magnification and 50mm lens, it provides a bright and clear view as far as 374 ft/1000 yards. The 2.5 meters closest observation distance is also suitable for birdwatching in the garden. Designed for observation in various activities like hiking, sports events, concerts and stargazing and special gift for family and friends.
  • 【Phone Adaptor and Tripod】The compact binocular comes with the phone adaptor and tripod, convenient for taking pictures, video recording and watching for a long time. The phone adaptor is compatible with most phone models, and the tripod thread interface is compatible with other standard photographic tripod bolts , i.e. 1/4"-20 BSW thread, meeting various needs.
  • 【Super Bright and Clear View】The stargazing binoculars adopt FMC fully multi-coated optics and phase coated 16.5MM BaK-4 prisms, provide superior 97.98% light transmission. The Exit-pupil Diameter is close to the pupil diameter of human to ensure the best observation effect. The adjustable Interpupillary Distance(55~75mm) is designed for all kinds of people.
  • 【Quick and Easy to Focus】Double threaded focus knobs-Center Focus Knob&Diopter Adjustment Ring increase the friction between your finger and the knob, allow you to focus more quickly and accurately while observing constantly moving objects. Twist-up eyecups help people who wear glasses focus better.
  • 【Waterproof and Durable Armor】The sturdy binoculars have wear-resistant rubber armor, with a unique non-slip design to achieve impact resistance, firm grip and waterproof under the harshest weather. Two-year warranty for no reasons, 7 days and 24 hrs technical support always for you.

4. A Planespotting Guide

If you want to identify the different types of aircraft you see, you’re going to need a planespotting guide. These guides come in both print and digital formats, and they’re packed with information on different types of aircraft.

In time, you’ll be able to recognize aircraft without a guide but it can be tricky to distinguish between aircraft of the same basic model but different variants.

Airport Spotting Guides UK & Ireland
  • Matt Falcus (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 98 Pages - 09/30/2016 (Publication Date) - DestinWorld Publishing Ltd. (Publisher)

5. A Notebook

You’ll need a notebook to keep track of the planes you see. In your notebook, you can record the plane’s make and model, its tail number, and the date and location where you saw it. This is a great way to keep track of your planespotting adventures. You might instantly recognise a Spitfire but in the heat of the moment it would be a shame to miss its registration. Armed with htis information you can research its pedigree.

You can transpose this handwritten record to a digital copy later, when you’re back at home and reviewing your day’s activities. Your plane spotting record might include the aircraft spotted, the city and airport code letters, and any ancillary activities noted during the course of the day.

2 Pack Pocket Notebook Small Notebook , A6 Notebooks 100 GSM Thick Paper Executive Hard with Marker Ribbons Pen Holder Elastic Closure 9x14cm Small Notepad Black
  • [Thick Paper] 2 pack of hardcover notebooks, 100MSG thick paper that is suitable for most inks. 160 pages in total ,and the last 24 unnumbered pages can be easily torn off.
  • [Sturdy and Durable] The cover is made of pu leather and cardboard, sturdy and durable. The strap keeps the notebook closed, allowing the notebook to suit most working environments and promoting user experience.
  • [Convenient to use] Pocket size fits well in your pocket, ribbon bookmark gives you a simple way to find the information you want, pen holder to hold the pen in your notebook for easy access.
  • [Suitable for...]Our pocket notebooks are suitable for those who need to take notes at any time, such as business executives, students, scientists and others in different fields, so that important message can never be missed on most occasions.
  • [Satisfactory Customer Experience]We are committed to providing quality products and service. If there is any dissatisfaction with our products, please contact us and we will provide you with a satisfactory solution.

6. A Small Step Ladder

Buy yourself a small step ladder to give you some extra height when you’re waiting outside the airfield boundary. Just a few steps are enough as you don’t want a ladder that is too heavy to carry and unsteady on the ground because it’s too tall.

Being able to step up a little may mean the difference between a photo that has the perimeter fence in it or a clear view of the runway and the landing aircraft.

Home Vida 2 Step Ladder, Heavy Duty Steel, Portable Folding, with Anti-Slip Mat
  • Product Colour: White, Black
  • Product Size: H 81 x W 46 x D 56 Cm Approx.
  • Product Material: Iron & Plastic
  • Product Cleaning Instructions: Wipe With A Dry Cloth

7. An Airband Receiver

An airband receiver allows you to listen to the messages exchanged between aircraft and air traffic controllers. It’s perfectly legal to do so and you’ll see many planespotters wearing an earpiece while they listen in. By doing so you can anticipate which aircraft will appear next and you’ll be alerted to anything unusual or dramatic occurring in the air.

Uniden EZI-33 XLT Air band Radio Radio Scanner, Black
  • 180 Channels
  • 78-512MHz (with gaps)
  • 9 Pre-programmed service banks
  • Includes Owner's Manual

8. Protection From The Elements

Suitable clothing will depend on the season and the location of the airport or airfield. What began as a pleasant day on the drive to the airport can quickly become cold and uncomfortable if you’re standing at the edge of a windswept airfield for hours on end.

On the other hand, you may find the location for your plainspotting is exposed to hot sunshine, so you’ll need to remember to bring some suncream and perhaps something to create some shade. The umbrella you use on rainy days can become your parasol on the hottest days.

ACEIken Golf Umbrella Windproof Large 62 Inch, Double Canopy Vented, Automatic Open, Extra Large Oversized, Waterproof Sun Protection Ultra Rain & Wind Resistant Umbrellas, Black
  • 62-INCH LARGE UMBRELLA: With a 62 inch oversize canopy, sleek all black design, comfortable EVA grip, sturdy frame, it can protect you from strong wind, heavy downpour or under the sun.It's big enough for two persons when opened.
  • AUTOMATIC OPEN: Automatic Open functionality ensures that there will be no delay to your comfort. Simply press the button on the handle to open in less than a second with single hand.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT & HIGH QUALITY MATERIALS: We use high quality fiberglass for the tips and ribs, which is strong and flexible whilst not being so heavy that you hand fatigues.The canopy uses ultra water resistant 210T pongee micro-weave fabric. This silk derived material is lightweight, quick drying.
  • DOUBLE CANOPY CONSTRUCTION: The double-canopy design and hardened steel frame will ensure that your umbrella is virtually windproof. The durable construction creates a vent during where wind can pass through, making the umbrella much easier to handle in harsh conditions.
  • LIFETIME REPLACEMENT GUARANTEE: You are protected from the rain, strong breeze, sleet and snow using our umbrella. The Umbrella(s) That You Purchase will be Automatically Enrolled in our lifetime replacement guarantee program. If anything at all goes wrong with your umbrella, we will send you a replacement absolutely free, no return required.Please feel free to contact us, we are always here to help.

9. A Portable Seat

Take a break from your spotting or sit while you spot. At some point you’ll want to sit and rest while you enjoy that packed lunch you brought with you, and that flask of tea or coffee.

These portable and collapsable chairs are useful in all kinds of locations; airshows, fishing, picnics, and camping.

Trekology Chair Ultra Lightweight Camping Chairs for Adults, Folding Camping Chair Outdoor, Camp Chair Fold Up Garden Chairs Picnic Chair Foldable Chair, Portable Chair Compact Fishing Chairs Folding
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  • You Really Can Have It All! Super Durable and Sturdy Gear for Outdoors! The Yizi Go portable chair was Built to Last: Designed and Engineered with the same High strength aluminum alloys used by Aircraft manufacturers. The frame provides sturdy support with a weight capacity of up to 135kg. Engineering Grade 600D polyester seat fabric with double reinforced V stitch is durable, flexible and Machine Washable for ease of care.
  • Set Up in Seconds. Single piece (tent style) lightweight aluminum pole system with hand guide connection. The shock corded main frame allows you to guide the connected poles directly into the frame. The unique design of this fold up chair enables you to just pop it open, attach the seat fabric and You’re ready to go! Allowing you to immediately sit and enjoy a camp fire, outdoor festival, sporting event, etc. Pair with Sand Cover to increase foot area so it will not sink in sand or soft ground.
  • Out of Sight - There When You Need It - The durable 600D storage bag attaches to the seats mainframe with the included Pack Tight straps - Creating additional small item storage beneath the seat. Designed with “daisy chain style” multiple tie downs and end handles. The chairs versatile design allows you to not only attach the bag to the chair, but also your backpack, motorcycle, etc. When you’re done with Yizi Go collapsible camping chair stores back inside the included storage bag.
Planespotters - Military Aircraft
One day, you could be taking pictures like this.
Photo by david hili on Unsplash

Do’s and Don’ts of Plane Spotting

All planespotters are ambassadors for the hobby so it’s important that everyone who takes part aircraft spotting adheres to some commone sense ground rules.

  1. Don’t park illegally. Respect the neighourhood whether it’s urban or rural.
  2. Don’t trespass. Respect the airport security and don’t tread where you’re not permitted.
  3. Don’t litter. Take your rubbish home with you.
  1. Do answer questions if you’re approached by curious onlookers.
  2. Do make yourself aware of local bylaws and regulations.
  3. When plane spotting abroad, be aware that what may be legal at home could be illegal in another country.

Plane Spotting Locations

There are thousands of plane spotting locations around the globe, ranging from those that are easy to reach, even by public transport, to others that are much more challenging.

For example, you will often see people plane spotting at London Heathrow from a patch of grass in Myrtle Avenue.

Look up the airport of your choice and review the information online. Some airports provide viewing areas specifically for plane spotting, and these can be comfortable areas with nearby parking and refreshments.

Why should we care about plainspotters?

There are many reasons why aircraft spotting enthusiasts should care about planespotting.

First, this pastime could have implications on their understanding of aviation and air travel. For example, through planespotting, enthusiasts can learn about different types of aircraft and their capabilities.

Second, the hobby can also be a way for enthusiasts to connect with other people who share their passion for aviation and watching airplanes take off and land. This is particularly important given the fact that the global planespotting community is huge.

Finally, planespotting can also be a way for enthusiasts to support the aviation industry and its continued growth.

In conclusion, there are many reasons why aviation enthusiasts should care about planespotting. The hobby can have implications for their understanding of aviation and air travel, it can be a way for them to connect with others who share their passion, and it can also be a way for them to support the aviation industry.

If you’re interested in planes and aviation and you want to try spotting aircraft, it’s important to get started with the right tools. This list includes all of the essentials that you’ll need to start spotting planes like a pro. With these nine items, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running (or flying).

Last update on 2022-06-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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