'Plane-spotters' – who are they and what do they do? Essentially, they are hobbyists who track the movement of aircraft. Bustling Changi Airport, serving more than 100 airlines from across the globe and has over 7000 flights taking off and landing at the airport each week, offer great plane-spotting opportunities for these hobbyists.
We caught up with three of Changi Airport's passionate plane-spotters, Jivesh Chander, Kwek Chin Lin and David Chua, who let us in on their expert plane-spotting tips and tricks, as well as some of their most unforgettable moments when out chasing tailfins.
A hobby taking flight
A Singapore Airlines cargo plane takes off from Changi Airport (Credit: Jivesh Chander)
A common thread that runs through the three plane enthusiasts’ stories is that their passion for airplanes started at a young age. Jivesh recalls that his was ignited when his father, who is also impassioned by aviation, brought him to Changi Airport to plane-spot as a young boy.
“I remember the first aircraft I saw take off was an Air China Boeing 767,” Jivesh recollects. “I was jumping for joy and I told my dad that I didn't want to leave the airport.”
David, on the other hand, whose zeal for aviation sprouted in primary school, says it was the “freedom of flight and fascination of airplanes” that captured his attention. His love for planes spanned model making, flight simulator games and eventually, aviation photography, which takes up much of his time today.
Plane spotting 101
Jivesh’s all-time favorite classic jet, the Kalitta Air B747-200F, decelerating at Changi on a wet afternoon (Credit: Jivesh Chander)
When it comes to discovering the clearest spots for viewing and photographing planes, Chin Lin, Jivesh and David have it down to an art, and each have their own preferred spots to view their favourite planes. Changi Airport's Terminal 1 Viewing Gallery is favoured by all three, but when it comes to unobstructed views of planes taking off and arriving at Changi, Chin Lin explains that you may need to stake out at other locations.
“Changi Beach is a good spot when landings are from the north, and Changi Business Park when landings are from the south,” he says.
When David travels, he checks in early as in his opinion, the transit areas at Terminal 2 and 3 offer some of the best views of the runway. He also favours Changi Beach and East Coast Park for spotting commercial aircraft, as well as Punggol Waterway Park for glimpses of Republic of Singapore Air Force planes that fly in and out of Paya Lebar Air Base.
Thrill of the chase
The sleek Airbus A350-900 (XWB) displayed at the Singapore Air Show 2012 (Credit: Jivesh Chander)
Swissair’s A330-300 (forefront) and the Swiss Airforce demonstration team Patrouille Suisse at the AIR14 Airshow in Payerne, Switzerland (Credit: David Chua)
When it comes to the thrill of the chase, each of the three enthusiasts has his own favourite plane to hunt down. Chin Lin favours the Boeing 747; David is enamoured with the Airbus A350-900 and the A380; while Jivesh has the Boeing 777-300ER at the top of his list because of its wing flexibility and its powerful GE90 engine.
But apart from tracking down their preferred planes, the hours they've dedicated to plane-spotting have provided them with more than a few unforgettable moments.
One of Jivesh's favourite plane-spotting memories was when Changi Airport invited him for a behind-the-scenes look at the airport. He describes the experience as “a once in a lifetime opportunity”, where he got a front-row seat to view the action on the runways.
“I remember when the R2D2-themed plane first came to Singapore,” David says. “I monitored the flight on Flightradar24 and I woke up early in the morning to go to East Coast Park just for those few seconds of excitement. That's how passionate plane-spotters are.”
I monitored the flight on Flightradar24 and I woke up early in the morning to go to East Coast Park just for those few seconds of excitement. That's how passionate plane-spotters are
Although the three aviation enthusiasts have viewed and photographed hundreds of planes between them, their excitement for their hobby still burns strong.
Are there any more planes they wish to see on the horizon? Jivesh is keeping his fingers crossed for the United States Air Force's Boeing E48 while David is holding out for the Russian Air Force's Sukhoi PAK FA and yet another Star Wars-themed jet – the C-3PO plane by ANA. We hope their dream turns to reality soon!
Main Image Credit: David Chua