Useful Tips and Tricks for rookies and pros
Here we want to share our tips & tricks with you which we collected over the past year and maybe some of them can be quite helpful sometimes. With the following rogramms you can find out about the wind, the exact position of the sun and much more. And we share our special tips with you, which can make a spottertrip better and hopefully successfuller, too.
We recommend to read some tripreports to the airport/country which can be found on the internet, so you know what to take care of and miscellaneous things. There a plenty of aviation forums where you find reports.
And our last tip is to look on our website if we offer a spotting guide for the airport you’re planning a trip to or you are going to visit. If not so, we are really sorry and would kindly ask you to write a guide after your visit.
- Never forget to carry an ID-Card or Passport with you, so you can prove who you are. Especially for airports in dangerous/critical countries where spotting isn’t really welcomed, because otherwise your spotting stay might be shorter than planned or you’ll have problems with the local police – that’s what we wan’t to prevent. But you can even be checked at german airports so always carry your ID! That’s why we often watch out for experiences before visiting a new airport and rather go spotting in groups and not alone. Usually we left a security note within a guide if you can get in trouble.
Furthermore its useful to have a aircraft magazine/book with you to show the people what you are doing. Keep in mind that 99% can´t imagine what we are doing there.
- Never cut holes into fences or destroy any airport property! The victims are the locals spotters who use the spots regularly. They have a problem with the security, not you.
- Always keep your environment clean and take the waist with you! Be respectful and don´t destroy mother nature.
- Usage of airband-scanners is not allowed to use in most countries. So its up to you if you accept the risk to pay a fine if you get checked by security. Otherwise at some airports its highly recommend to use a scanner if a runway change happens. Usually we mention this in our guide if one is necessary. If you don´t have an airband scanner you can have a look at liveatc.net. They offer air traffic live streams from many airports all around the globe but mainly from the USA.
FLIGHT TRACKING TOOLS
Flightradar24 is the #1 tracking tool with the best coverarge and even the best app.
But sometimes you see little Jets on it and wonder that you can’t see a registration, just the type – often Gulfstreams, Hawkers, Cessnas and similar. If so, we recommend to use Planefinder or ADS-B Exchange, because these programms can show you registrations for most of the Biz-Jets and latter even military that Flightradar24 can’t! But they don´t cover as much as FR24 do.
If you’re hunting a special (colored) aircraft and you don’t know where it has landed in the past days or it will be in the future, or you just want to see a route, which was flown by an airplane, you can use the Flightradar24 history. It works for most of the freighters, civil aircraft and for some bizjets, too. Just enter the registration here and you’ll find a list of the past flights and sometimes also the coming up trips. If you want to see the route, which was flown by the plane, you can start a playback. This tool shows you the exact route and apart from that the altitude, speed, actual and average flighttime, the exact time (UTC) and many more information which are updated evry minute. You cannot just search for a plane, rather for a flightnumer, too. Then you can see a list of all the planes, which flew the route. Of course you can start playbacks here, too!
The playback is also useful for airports with more runways so you can see which flights prefer which runway. Its useful if you are out for something special so you know where it has arrived in the past days.
You should also not forget to check the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) before you start to learn if a runway is inactive or going to be closed for maintenance for example.
FlightStats offers you the possibility to see regular operated flights (arrivals and departures) for almost every airport all over the world! The advantage is to see the arrivals and departures for the past 3 days, today and the following 3 days – very great tool! Sadly its no longer free of charge and you need a subscription plan to see the arrivals and departures. Apart from that, FlightStats offers you many other tools like an Flight Tracker, Delay Maps or similar things.
If you don’t know if a flight will be operated in future at the same days or even the same times you can use Flightmapper. This website is very useful for difficuilt and tricky situations like the change from Summerflightplan to Winterflightplan or the other way around, then you can look up, if the flight will be flown in the other flightplan, too.
Flightaware is a great website for operations in and out of the USA. You see all flights, even small props, bizzer and freighters that are not shown on FR24 or flightstats. Especially perfect if you visit a regional or municipal airport.
The most important thing if you are taking pictures during your planespotting session is the position of the sun. Simple rule, sun has to be behind you. If you look into the sun, then you make something wrong. In our guides whe have a “time” row for each spot where you can find the approximate hours where spotting is perfect from this location. If you wanna know the exact time and elevation of the sun, then we recommend these two tools:
SunCalc.net, is very easy to handle, but of course not that exact and it shows just a few information.
Sunearthtools is a powerful tool with the exact sun position, the angle and many more features. But it’s quite complicated and complex. Click on the images below to enlarge and read the description.
If you are at an airport and don’t know which runway will be in use? Then you can visit Windfinder and look it up. They offer a great tool, where you can see from which directions and how strong the wind is coming at the chossen point. From this data you should know which Usage is prefered, but sometimes (if a runway is closed for example) it might be different, so we recommend to inform you about possible constructions on/around the runway(s) before you visit the airport.
At windfinder you can use the “wind statictis” to learn which is the prefered monthly wind direction.
PHOTO WEBSITES AND DATABASES
There are tons of different websites/apps where you can share your pictures. Some using a screening process which means someone will have a look at your photo if it meets the websites standards before it will be displayed. In this section, we are going to present you the most common photo databases with there pros and cons.
- airliners.net – this was used to be the most popular and biggest photo website (3. Mio plus) for many many years but it was overtaken by Jetphotos. They have still a very huge aviation community/forum and a massive database with high quality photos. That´s why they are still the #1 in the aviation scene. Their screening process was used to be one of the strongest from all websites which use the same process but nowadays it is the same standard like all other.
- jetphotos.com – now the #1 aviation picture database with more than 4 Mio pictures and thousands of uploaders. The website belongs to Flightradar24 and once a picture got accepted after the screening process at JP it will be shown on the radar. That´s the main reason why JP is so popular these days.
- planespotters.net – they have a pretty huge production list with detailed infos for most aircraft types. Furthermore they have a growing picture database where all pictures are screened
- planepictures.net – with around 1.4 Mio pictures in the database it is one of the smaller photo databases with a screening process. This website has been around for a long time and continues to be popular with aircraft photographers
- airplane-pictures.net – if you are belonging to the creative photographer and bored of the same 90 degree side shots this is your place to be.
- netairspace.com – This page is slightly different than the above. All images are displayed immediately after uploading, but someone looks at them and if he thinks it will be appropriate
he mark your pictures as “eligible for the homepage” and it will pop up on their website. If not, the picture will not be deleted and you can use it anyway to share it wherever you want.
If you wanna avoid the websites mentioned above you can create an account on Flickr or Facebook and Instagram, which have a very fast growing aviation community too and you can easily share you pics. Planespotting.be is a photo database without a screening process. Same as for the two flight tracking websites flightaware.com or planefinder.net where you can easily upload your pictures too. They are show your picture to anyone who is using one of their tracking tools.
If you are intersted in beginning with planespotting and you have no idea how you should start, have a look at this video! Juan Artigas created it and answer all the questions that blow up.