Saturday, 25 April 2009

New dimensions to plane spotting

Having grown up not to far from London's Heathrow Airport, and having lived the past 12 years under the flight path to Okęcie Airport's Runway 33, the sight and sound of aircraft overhead is not strange to me. Some people are troubled by the noise of jet engines, not me. (Plus, proximity to the Okęcie flightpath means that Jeziorki is unlikely to succumb to large-scale residential development.)

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340 en route to London from Shanghai

I blog the more unusual and aesthetically pleasing aircraft movements in and out of Okęcie. Generally, air traffic above our heads consists of, as Eddie says, 'vanilla planes', ie the run-of-the-mill Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s that make up the bulk of commercial aviation world wide. ATR42s and '72s and BAe/Avro RJs are common too. The occasional military flight into Okęcie is worth watching out for (a pair of F-16s, a Hercules, a C-17 Globemaster, old Soviet-era transports).

When skies are clear over Warsaw (as they've been for most of this month), you can look further up - to 38,000ft, where planes that very rarely make an appearance on Okęcie's runways can be seen.

The Internet is wonderful for giving access to all kinds of interesting information. Lately, I've discovered a page with real-time air traffic radars for Warsaw and surrounding area and north western Poland. Most (not all) air traffic is shown - living on the flightpath, I'm aware of movements in and out that are not displayed on the Warsaw radar (mostly 'vanilla planes' of little interest to spotters). Each plane has it airline, flight number, registration number, airspeed and heading shown. From my window I can see, for example, a vapour trail at well over 30,000ft heading south. From the radar map, I learn that this is a Boeing 777, N701DN, Delta Airlines Flight DAL8, en route from Houston, Texas, to Dubai.

Ural airlines Tupolev Tu-154M RA-85833 en route to Ekaterinburg

Emirates' Boeing 777 en route to London Heathrow from Dubai

But is this of interest to anyone? Seeing a Boeing 777 or Airbus A330 in Warsaw (a rare treat for spotters) leaves most people cold. One twin-engined jetliner looks just like any other, surely?

But to die-hard spotters, it's the detail. There's a lot of fascinating metal in the air. Take that Tupolev Tu204 of Russian charter airline Red Wings. I've never seen one close up, but as I write, there's one at 36,000ft on a heading of 247 degrees, north-west of Warsaw...

Boeing 747F cargo flight (operator unknown)

I've mentioned the website before, set up by some guys in south-east Poland where intercontinental air routes intersect. They have ultra-powerful lenses and capture some stunning images of aircraft in flight at cruising altitudes.

The 80-400mm Nikkor even at full stretch cannot do justice to planes at cruising altitude, but even so, it gets you part way there. A 600m f4 Nikkor has just made it onto my wanted list...

This time last year:
First barn swallow of 2008 flies in
Feeding the swans


student SGH said...

train spotters are stigmatised as "anoraks" - maybe that explains why people look at me as at potential terrorist (plotting to derail or blow up a train?) when I stick around tracks... ;)

Michael Dembinski said...

Don't worry about it in Poland (the land of the free). In the UK, you'd now have lots of explaining to do to the transport police.

Thirty years ago, I was stopped by milicja in Olsztyn station for photographing steam engines there. And in the late 1970s, there'd have been no problem taking photos of any UK transport installation.

How times have changed!

student SGH said...

in Poland it's only limited to scowling at me, there's a kind transport police in Poland - "służba ochrony kolei", but they wouldn't pick on me capturing the trains. But I wanted to point that indeed people are still slightly intolerant and treat somebody with unusual interests as weird, where as it passion like any other - collecting stamps or postcards and surely doesn't bear evidence of narrow mind.

From my early childhood (early 90's) I remember the boards with crossed out picture of camera and caption "zakaz fotografowania" used to hang on each and every entry gate to the industrial site - the remnant of the communist times I can't remember ;-)

Times may change, on the Warsaw underground stations one may be rebuked by the strange voice from the loudspeakers for taking photos, I've heard it already few times, the only photos I've taken there (of the new screen) was taken by my mobile, rather furtively - I kept the handset like if I wrote a message, just not to stir suspitions...

Michael Dembinski said...

A 'zakaz fotografowania' board sits proudly in my collection of old PRL-era signs!

Anonymous said...

One word - anorak!!

(but an interesting one)