My grandparents lived in St Albans, half an hour drive away from LTN
. He was pretty high up at Royal Mail and he set up Datapost and the moving of mail by air during the night. A lot of this happened at LTN
so he had a personal interest in the airport apart from being geographically close to it. He personally knew Phillip Meeson from Channel Express among others well and he knew the various capacities of the various aircraft. He had drawn up his own notes how to identify all the different types of aircraft.
After being made redundant pretty young, but as you can imagine not needing to work again, he was always around when my mum took my sister and I over to see them every Wednesday in the school holidays. My sister got taken shopping or to the farm or something, whereas I would eagerly await time with my granddad - he would take me to LTN
to watch the planes and explain what they all were and where they were going - it was fascinating!
Back then - talking late 80's / early 90's there was little in the way of scheduled traffic like there is today and while you would generally see a BY
737 or 757, the only real scheduled traffic was a JE
Shorts 360 and some new airline from Ireland - FR
with a Romanian ROMBAC 1-11. There were always bizjets thee, even then, though nothing like today.
He also used to take me to Hatfield and we would occasionally see BAe test new 125's or 146's. I also seem to remember Dash 7's, I think he said BAe had a maintenence contract for them, I assume they were the Brymon ones, I dont really remember.
For xmas 1990 he bought me my first aviation book, Observers series "Airliners" by William Green & Gordon Swanborough with a photo & specs and silhouette drawings of all the major types. I was hooked, I wanted to see all these aircraft. For my birthday the next summer my aunt bought me "The Hamlyn Guide to Commercial Aircraft & Airline Markings" by Christy Campbell. This again had all the major aircraft types, but also history, photos & fleet lists of all the worlds major airlines. I could not put them down and I copied the pictures and colored them in with my crayons. I still have them - just wasted an hour or some on nostalgia...
I used to go to WH
Smith in my home town and pore over the aviation books, couldnt get enough of the pictures. In 1994 I finally bought the annual "Civil Aircraft Markings" by Alan J Wright. I then wanted to know what all these lists of numbers were about, so my grandad showed me the registrations on the sides of the aircraft. I now had a new focus, ticking off the registrations in my book and hi-lighting them yellow. Off we went to local GA
airfields near St Albans of Elstree, Leavesden, Panshanger, Rush Green & Denham to tick off as much as I could in this book and it was fascinating being able to wander around unhindered on the grass amongst the Cessna's & Piper's etc. I remember the frustration of seeing bizjets with N or VR
-B or VR
-C registrations and having no idea who they belonged too. I remember when I got my first edition of "INTAG" then later JP
Airlines Fleets which helped identify some of these foregin aircraft and the enlightenment it bought - even into the late 90's early 00's there was not the information on the net there is today and we didnt have it at home and I couldnt use it at work. I have only just started going through my old logs from the mid 90's onwards trying to identify on the net all those aircraft I saw back then, I really should publish a little blog - the history even in 15 years is astounding. All the Russian metal at LTN
, all the Boeing classis the EU airlines used to operate at LHR
and hardly any Airbii. BA
planes with names..................
Anyway, each birthday I got a new book from someone and I have quite the library now. The big present one year was my binoculars so I didnt have to shares grandad's! They seemed like they were worth a million pounds and as being on the flightpath of LHR
at home I used to sit in the garden or kitchen proudly telling my mum what was coming over!!
As I got older, I used to go and stay there for a week in the holidays and we would go on spotting weeks and cover LHR
as well as LTN
of course and the GA
When I got my own car, I drove myself around, mostly to LTN
and air shows - but my biggest regret now I have left the UK is that I did not spot more and get round to even more airports, places like SEN
which today I would not think twice about driving to from North London to see different planes.
My last and ongoing special memory really is living in Richmond and 5 mins from YVR
- its great having a major international airport literally on your doorstep with a plethora or rare types and different visitors a daily guarantee and have a feel on the pulse of the daily goings on with the local spotting & photographer community here.