A Decade Ago – 2006 in Review: My Spotting Beginnings

A Decade Ago: 2006 in Review

Perhaps the thing I like the most about running this blog is that besides sharing my stories with you, I get to remember and “relive” my previous aviation experiences while writing the posts. Early next year, I will be writing about the happenings in 2016, but given that I have not documented my early years of spotting, I decided to also start a “a decade ago” annual post series.

There is probably no better year to start this series in than 2016 – a decade after I started taking spotting and being an “avgeek” more seriously in 2006.

My interest in aviation was growing just as I was growing, arguably starting with my first flight in 1992 when I was one year old. However, it was on April 24, 2006, my 15th birthday, that I got my first “spotting camera” – the 6 megapixel Panasonic FZ-7 with 12x optical zoom.

With the camera, I was ready to venture into the “wilderness” of world’s airfields and airports!

My Spotting Beginnings at Vienna Airport

While I have been to airports countless times before, April 28, 2016, was the day I went to the airport for the sole purpose of watching and photographing the traffic. At that time, I was living in Nitra, a small city in western Slovakia, and the two nearest airports to my house were Bratislava (about 45 minutes away) and Vienna (about 100 minutes away).

The airport of choice was, of course, Vienna which offered much more interesting traffic. I spent several hours at the airport’s parking lot with my father watching aircraft take-off and land in rainy weather. While a lot of the traffic was similar to what it is nowadays, Austrian Airlines still relied on a fleet of A330s and A340s for large part of its long haul network.

First Ever Photo

Ladies and gentlemen, my first ever spotting photo – uncropped and unedited, only resized.
Austrian A340

In 2006, A330s and A340s were the backbone of Austrian’s widebody fleet.
Eva Air Cargo MD-11

Eva Air Cargo MD-11 – one of my favorite regular visitors at VIE.

I visited the airport once again about two weeks later. To my surprise, besides the usual traffic, there were quite a few unusual aircraft – Polish Air Force Tu-154 and Aerolineas Argentinas 747-200 among others. Later, after returning home and doing some research, I found out that the traffic was related to EULAC 2006 – European Union, Latin America and Caribbean Business Summit – that was being held in Vienna.

Aerolineas Argentinas 747-200

Aerolineas Argentinas 747-200, and cars, and poles, and fence. I really did not care about quality of photos back then, did I?
Polish Air Force Tu-154

One of the EULAC 2006 visitors. Unfortunately, this aircraft was lost in a tragic accident in 2010 killing all 96 passengers onboard including the President of Poland Lech Kaczynski.

I also found out that besides the aircraft I saw, also Brazilian Air Force 707 visited the airport in relation to the summit – I wish I saw that one!

Seeing the Tokyo Heavies for the First Time

A couple of months after the start of my spotting “career,” it was time to head for what was then an annual family visit to Japan. Except, this time it was different – this time, I had my FZ-7.

After getting off an Air France A330 at Narita, I was amazed. Back then, it was still a 74Heaven – there were Jumbos everywhere. As my grandparents were waiting for us, I did not get to hang out at the airport for too long…

Air France A330

Air France A330 resting at Narita after my flight from Paris.
Northwest Cargo 747

With its numerous color schemes and classic 747s, Northwest Cargo was always a pleasure to see.

…however, later during my stay I visited Narita once again for a day full of photography. Not knowing any other points around the airport back then, I sticked to the Terminal 1 observation deck. Besides all the other 747, the one that caught my eye the most was the 747SP of Iran Air – an aircraft that would play an important role in my hobby almost ten years later.

Japan Airlines 747

Japan Airlines used to be the world’s largest 747 operator. In 2006, its 747 were ubiquitous at Narita.
Iran Air 747SP

The time I saw the Iranian Baby Jumbo for the first time. Later on, it inspired me to go to Iran for the first time, and the rest is history.
Northwest Airlines

In 2006, Northwest Airlines Jumbos were the main type of the airline operating out of Narita. They could be seen in both the old and the new colors.

Before heading back from Japan to Slovakia to start a new school year, I also had a chance to visit Haneda airport for a couple of hours. What an excitement it was when the Pokemon 747 taxied by!

Japan Airlines 747

Japan Airlines also used the 747s extensively on domestic routes out of Haneda airport.
Pokemon 747

The Pokemon Jumbo – one of the main reasons of my visit to Haneda.
ANA A321

While ANA recently received its “first” A321, this is one of the original seven that it operated until 2006/2007/2008.

A Daytrip to Zurich: My First Flight Alone & My First Spotting Trip

While nowadays, flying for the sake of flying or to spend time around an airport is nothing extraordinary for me, until my first “spotting trip” it was unthinkable.

On the morning of August 13, 2016, I boarded a Swiss Avro RJ100 in the now gone Zurich Shopper special colored aircraft, and headed to Zurich. Besides taking me on my first spotting trip, it was also the first flight I took on my own.

Most of the day before heading back on an evening flight to Vienna was spent on the excellent observation decks that Zurich airport offers. Besides that, I have also taken the airport tour to be able to see aircraft up close not only from the bus, but also from a fenced off area at a runway intersection. It was incredible seeing the aircraft take off with all the condensations being formed in the rainy weather.

Thai A340-600

Thai Airways A340-600 taking off in the rainy weather with some amazing weather effects.
Runway Intersection

The runway intersection stop on the Zurich airport tour let us experience a number of take-offs from up close.
Singapore Airlines 747

My visit to the runway intersection coincided with the splashy departure of Singapore Airlines Star Alliance Jumbo.
UTair Tu-154

Back then, while not frequently, Tupolev Tu-154s could be seen at airports around Europe regularly.
Emirates A340-500

My favorite Airbus aircraft type – the A340-500. Before seeing it in Zurich in person, I had only seen it on pictures.

Czech International Air Fest 2006: My First Airshow

Even though I am not a big fan of military aviation, I still enjoy the occasional airshow. The first airshow I ever went to was CIAF (Czech International Air Fest) in Brno, about 2 and a half hours by car from my home. Not having seen a display team perform before, I was very impressed by the show put on by Frecce Tricolori!

Static Display

Part of the static display at CIAF 2006. Not being a big military aviation fan, I can hardly name half of the aircraft types in the picture.
Frecce Tricolori

Seeing a display team for the first time in my life, I was stunned by all the stunts performed by Frecce Tricolori including a “standard” formation fly past.

More Spotting at “Home:” JAL 747 at BTS and More

Besides the trips to Zurich and Brno, I also had a chance to visit both Vienna and Bratislava airports, as well as a small airfield in Nitra a couple of times during the second half of the year.

At Bratislava at that time, the now-defunct SkyEurope was dominant with its growing fleet of 737s. However, the sight that is engraved in my mind the most is the sight of a Japan Airlines 747-400 sitting on the Bratislava apron. It was a summer charter flight to Tokyo, and I was indeed very happy to see a direct flight between “my” two countries – Slovakia and Japan.

JAL 747 at BTS

One of my favorite moments around airports – seeing the Japan Airlines 747 at Bratislava airport in Slovakia. The other favorite moment was seeing the Slovak Government Tu-154 in Tokyo in 2012.
Air Slovakia 737

Air Slovakia operated an interesting network of flights from Slovakia to India and the United Kingdom with a fleet of Boeing 737-200s and 757-200s.
Moldova Yak

When I went for some spotting to Vienna, I had no idea that I would come back with a photo of a Moldavian Yak-40.
Nitra Airfield

While Bratislava and Vienna were the closest international airports to my house, Nitra airfield offered some enjoyment in the form of light aircraft.

While the regular traffic at Bratislava airport could not be compared to Vienna, from time to time an interesting aircraft made it worth a visit.

Looking Back at My Early Days

The quality of photos or amount of flying from 2006 cannot be compared to what followed in the next years. I didn’t care about fences in photos, about weather, about anything – except for the aircraft itself. Looking back at some of the photos, I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe.

However, with 2006 being my first year of “being a spotter,” it was an unforgettable year, and all the photos have an important place in my collection.

It was a year of enjoying every single aircraft – no thoughts like “oh, it’s just another ANA 777.” It was a year of learning photography and aviation. It was a year of surprises.

Perhaps the surprises are what I miss in spotting the most nowadays. With most of the aircraft that I care about appearing on Flight Radar, and with information spreading publicly and fast, there are not so many surprising moments while photographing around airports nowadays.

Not that it is bad – it certainly helps with catching rare aircraft and being at the airport at the right time.

All I am saying is that I miss the occasional “wow, I didn’t expect to see an Aerolineas Argentinas 747-200 at Vienna” moment.

When did you start with spotting (and flying for the sake of flying) and what led you to it?

What do you miss about the hobby compared to ten years ago?

1 thought on “A Decade Ago – 2006 in Review: My Spotting Beginnings”

  1. Well I started spotting just a year before, and yeah, I do miss the “not knowing” part sometimes. In 2005, all I had in the beginning was my bike, my point-and-shoot and my legs to get me to the airport… and then planes would come an go.

    Then I discovered Planes.cz and the real hunt was on! Then FR24, then the air band scanner, and this year twitter.. It sure has come a long way since the WW2 military aircraft spotters..

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Get Your FREE "Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank" Guide

No, I am not going to tell you how to fly in first class and sip Dom Perignon for free…

But, I am going to introduce you to a couple of ways you can experiment with to try a business class flight without having to spend thousands of dollars.

How Can I Help You?