An airport and airline study and plane spotting in sub-zero temperatures

Having heard about the fantastic spotting opportunities in Europe I was very excited to be invited to Germany by Lufthansa and Fraport.

The folks at both Fraport and Lufthansa had plans for us that kept us on our toes. To help us fight off the sub zero temperatures they kept us walking and walking and walking and walking. We could just about drag ourselves in to our hotel rooms each night.

Apart from learning a lot, which I will be sharing with you over the next few weeks, it gave my an opportunity to indulge in my favourite hobby — plane spotting.

Thanks to fantastic security — which insisted on fully sealed buses on the ramp, I could only get great views of flights taxiing and taking off around us, but very few pictures.

On Thursday though, after completing the invited trip, I was leaving for London. I had a few managed to find a helpful lady at the Deutsch Bahn (railways) and figured out the great spotting location adjacent to runways 25L and 25R was accessible from the Zeppelinheim railway station. A 6 Euro day pass saw me zooming from Frankfurt airport to Stadion station and then connecting to the Zeppelinheim train. A total trip of 30 minutes.

Exit the station left and walk on the unpaved road through the forest for about a kilometre and you cross the Autobahn over-bridge and Frankfurt airport is right ahead.

Trembling less with excitement and more with cold (it was -3 deg C) I went ahead and spotted for an hour. Unfortunately I had to return in time to catch my flight.

Landed in London on Thursday evening, and made contact with a wonderful person M. Azizul Islam. A veteran spotter based in London, he is prolific and popular. See his pictures here.

Early Saturday morning I made my way to the Hatton Cross tube station and linked up with Aziz. In the bitter cold of -3 Deg C (hey, I am from India), we walked across to the snow covered field which is the favourite of most spotters.

Soon enough the metronome of arriving flights kept us busy clicking away. I soon learnt to accept the pain in my fingertips since zooming and shooting with gloves was not an option. Aziz complained that he had started off the morning with ten toes, but could not now tell how many were left since he could not feel them any longer.

But the warmth of indulging in our favourite passion kept us going.

Soon after the Emirates A380 came, we went to Terminal 5 to try and get departure shots. Just as we were pulling up to the terminal the Qantas A380 took off. Aziz exclaimed and lowered the window while I scrambled to dig my camera out of my bag in the confining embrace of the seat-belt. Managed to get just one picture.

After that we waited and waited and waited and waited for the Singapore Airline’s A380 to leave, but it was badly delayed. After much wait, we managed to capture the third A380 of the day.

We kept ourselves busy till 3 in the afternoon, and managed to get a few departure shots from runway 27L as the sun started setting at 15:30.

Short day but we pulled in about 550 pictures of about 100 aircraft.

It was bone chilling cold, but the purity of the winter air ensured “that something special” in the winter sunlight.

A very special and heartfelt thanks to Aziz. A man whose heart is bigger than his size and mine.

I will take some time to process the pictures but I assure you good pictures soon. I am reluctantly forced to watermark my pictures thanks to a leading newspaper of Bangalore which used my pictures without my permission and instead of just giving me credit decided to challenge my copyright.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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