Bringing the Text to Life
Michael Wright doesn't look like a terrorist.
Nevertheless, security guards nabbed this white-haired British engineer at the Las Vegas airport last year when travelers noticed him atop the parking garage studying the runway with binoculars. Wright explained he was simply a "plane spotter" -- an aviation lover who delights in jotting down aircraft registration numbers much like ornithologists scan the skies for birds to document in their Peterson's Field Guides.
Plane spotting, like its even more eccentric predecessor "train spotting," endures as a hobby among eccentric Brits and a handful of devotees from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Japan and the United States. It works like this: Perched high upon hotel rooftops, observation towers and parking garages, plane spotters search through binoculars straining to read the individual registration numbers printed on the tails of assorted aircraft. Then they record the numbers, attempting to chronicle as many sightings as possible.