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Aircraft spotting or plane spotting is the observation and logging of the registration numbers of aircraft: gliders, powered aircraft, balloons, airships, helicopters, and microlights.

When spotting aircraft, observers notice the key attributes of an aircraft. They may notice a distinctive noise from its engine or the number of vapour trails it is leaving. They will assess the size of the aircraft and the number, type and position of its engines. Another clue is the position of wings relative to the fuselage and the degree to which they are swept rearwards. Are the wings above the fuselage, below it, or fixed at midpoint? Perhaps it is a monoplane, biplane, or triplane. The position of the tailplane relative to the fin(s) and the shape of the fin are also clues to its type. If it is an antique or light aircraft it might have a tail wheel. Some aircraft types have a fixed undercarriage while others have retractable wheels.

Other features include the speed, cockpit placement, colour scheme or special equipment that changes the silhouette of the aircraft. Taken together these clues will enable the identification of an aircraft. If the observer is familiar with the airfield being used by the aircraft and its normal traffic patterns, he or she is more likely to leap quickly to a decision about the aircraft's identity - they may have seen the same type of aircraft from the same angle many times.

Due to technical development, more and more spotters are using equipment like radar decoders to track the movements of aircraft. The two most famous devices used are the AirNav Systems RadarBox and Kinetic Avionics SBS series. Both of them are reading and processing the radar data and show the movements on a computer screen. Most of the decoders also allow to export logs from a certain route or airport.[1]

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Additional Photos by Jean Philippe TUR (tenretin) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 170 W: 7 N: 326] (2408)
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