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Planespotting 101

Lets go Plane Spotting at YYZ!

So, you've decided you would like to try your hand at plane spotting at Toronto Pearson International. Come on, let's head to the airport and see what this is all about. As you drive to YYZ (Toronto Pearson) have a look in the sky to see which way the planes are coming and going. At least 95% of the time the aircraft will be landing from the east or the west as these are the prevailing winds at the airport. If they are landing from the east you want to head for the Wendy's Restaurant on Airport Road. If they are landing from the west try the Wendy's on Dixie Road. You don't have to use their parking lot but if you do it would be nice to buy something from them. I have never seen them harass anyone for not making a purchase but it would be a nice thought. If you are at the Airport Road location you will be amongst many others who have come out to watch. just a few of the many plane spotters in front of Wendy's on Airport Road The Emirates A380 arrives Monday, Wednesday and Friday around 3:00pm but give yourself some time to be safe. You can check arrivals at Toronto Pearson or at FlightAware. Enjoy.

What's next?

If you have a pair of binoculars, bring them, they will add to the fun. A camera? Oh yes, with today's digital cameras there is no film cost so just go crazy. Now that you have tried this for the first time or maybe for a few times you want to expand your horizons. You can find a list of the places I go to watch airplanes here. Go over the list and you will see that it's set up so that there are places that take advantage of morning or afternoon light, places that allow you to photograph landings and departures on all 10 of the runways.

What do I need?

Okay, you have your binoculars and your camera, now how about a scanner. With an inexpensive hand held aviation scanner you can listen to the Air Traffic Controllers give the Pilots directions as they arrive and depart from Canada's busiest airport. For a taste of what you will hear on the scanner click here. There is an app for the iPhone and iPad that lets you point the camera at an aircraft and see the flight number, aircraft registration, speed, altitude and how far away it is! There is a great little computer program called PlaneFinder that lets you track all of the flights that have a transponder. All of the "heavy" flights and many of the regionalís show up on it. I loaded it onto a netbook and take it with me to the airport. I not only see whatís inbound but I can also see planes flying overhead on their way to John F Kennedy or Chicago and can snap some great contrail photos like this Korean A380 at 41,000 feet on the way to Kennedy. So, let's see, a good camera, binoculars if you have them (a camera with zoom makes this unnecessary), and a scanner. A hat, some suntan lotion, a folding lawn chair maybe gloves and a coat if this becomes an obsession, and youíre good to go. Good luck and happy Plane Spotting.

The people

You start off on your own and then you strike up a conversation with someone. They introduce you to someone else. You discuss planes, cameras, work and life in general and before you know it you have a group of friends at the airport who all share your passion. Over the past year I have formed friendship with at least fifty fellow flight enthusiasts. This hobby is open to all, kids, seniors, men, women, all races and religions, all sharing one mutual bond, the romance of flight.


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