Aviation enthusiasts Steven Martin (55) and Stephen Hampston (46) had come to Delhi on a sight-seeing tour only four days ago. On Monday, the two Britishers were grilled by various security agencies for pursuing their hobby of ‘plane spotting’.
Both Martin and Hampston, members of an aircraft-spotting club in United Kingdom managed to scare the housekeeping staff at Radission Hotel in south Delhi with their binoculars and other equipment. The staff called the police and told them that two men were taking pictures from their hotel room of the aircraft flying in and out of the IGI Airport, barely 500 metres away.
Delhi does not have an official spotters’ group. The first such group—the Aviation Photographers of India—came up in Bangalore in 2009. The country’s civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation does not allow unrestricted plane spotting in India. An enthusiast is given special permission only after a proper screening and verification.
There are two-kinds of spotters—ones who record the registration number of the planes, and the others who take pictures using high-resolution cameras and keep them for personal use.
“Airplane spotting is a world-wide activity of aviation and photography enthusiasts who take photographs of airplanes as a hobby. Airplane spotters encompass a wide variety of people from students to business and even aviation professionals,” said Devesh Agarwal, an aviation expert.
“Spotters provide a valuable pair of additional eyes for secondary monitoring of airport perimeters and areas. In Bangalore, the presence of spotters with their high power telephoto lenses, helped police close down nefarious illegal activities being conducted in a field very near the airport,” said Agarwal.