M&J Aviation


INTRODUCTION
INTRODUCTION
EYES ALOFT!
CONTRIBUTIONS
TECHNOLOGY
MOTIVATION
INTRODUCTION
ARE PLANESPOTTERS SPIES?
Some Thoughts by a Misunderstood Planespotter —— By Jerry Zhang
Ever since my first visit to an international airport at the age of 14, I became obsessed with the hobby of "plane-spotting", which is a hobby of photographing aircraft with a camera at an airport. However, this seemingly simple hobby has a lot of underlying issues and controversies behind it.This is largely related to the development of aviation safety in the recent decades. During the infamous 9-11 attack, planes bearing "United" and “American” crashed into some of the world's most densely populated places, killing thousands. Since then, public awareness for aviation safety rose to a new level. People became worried about suspicious actions around the airport, as they did not want another 9-11. This public conception led to the controversy in the plane-spotting community. According to my experiences, understanding, and researches, I believe that plane-spotting is a harmless hobby that does not threaten national and social security.
EYES ALOFT!
Planespotting originated as early as World War II and served as an important contribution during the war! Eyes Aloft is a film produced by US Army during the war to elaborate the details of civilian plane-spotting activities and to promote this activity to ordinary citizens.
If the general history of plane-spotting is carefully examined, we may realize that plane-spotting did not start with a negative impression. The earliest history of plane-spotting activities traces back to World War II. During the war, the US Army encouraged and incorporated a group of trained citizens, named “The Ground Observing Corps” to observe and recognize aircraft and help report enemy offensives to the authority. The Army even produced a film named “Eyes Aloft – Aircraft Warning Service Film” to elaborate the details of civilian plane-spotting activities and to promote this activity to ordinary citizens. The narrator in the video specifically commemorated the civilians for their contribution to national security and the war efforts of the United States (Internet Archives, n.p.). For example, civilian aircraft observers in North Carolina during World War II are responsible for staying cautious on German bombers from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
To accomplish this arduous task, early “plane-spotters” had to endure some arduous hardships and paid substantial efforts for the safety of the US. Not only did they have to study and memorize the shape and approximated appearance of German Ju-52 bombers and Bf-109 fighters, they also needed to hold the secret and endured their neighbors and community members’ doubt and suspicion. According to this reference, we can clearly see that plane-spotting has been a positive and important activity during its early stages. Not only was plane-spotters harmless to national security, they were also great contributors to it, and plane-spotting functioned as a substantial part of national security when it first got started.

A typical observation station used by aircraft observers during WWII.

Image credit: http://collectair.org/museum.html

Some of the most important disciplines that an observer must comply with when they were serving the country. It is hard to quantify how much the early "plane-spotters" have contributed to our country!

Image credit: Screenshot from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXO3w2E3G8M

EYES ALOFT!
——The contributions of plane-spotters made during World War II
CONTRIBUTIONS

Picture on the right was taken by Mason during the 2018 Zhuhai Airshow. Some of my local medias reached out to use this picture in a news article.

It is important for critics to realize the social-political effects that plane-spotters bring in to our modern-day society. The details plane-spotters collect provide an open-source trove of data about global commerce and politics, which has been invaluable to journalists and whistleblowers (not to mention various intelligence-gathering agencies) seeking to identify planes and their passengers (Lichter-Marck, n.p.). Many times, plane-spotters provided helpful and important information about the air traffic flow in a certain area, and there were times when plane-spotters function significantly as high-quality image suppliers for aviation-related news articles (Sutherland, n.p.) For example, the images taken by plane-spotters during the renowned air shows, often related to the unveiling of a novel model of aircraft model or airline, frequently make their way up to the headlines of mainstream media.

References:

Lichter-Marck, Rose. "Eyes Aloft: The Sublime Obsession of Plane Spotting." Virginia Quarterly Review, vol. 92 no. 4, 2016, pp. 52-63. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/633085.

Sutherland, Ken. "More than just plane spotting." Airport World 11.2 (2006).

——Planespotters have made major contributions to the society, as illustrated in the stream of high-quality aviation-related images provided by planespotters that appear in various news headlines and aviation websites.
TECHNOLOGY ——
——The technology and equipment used by planespotters have commonly been utilized as the medium of dispute by outside sources. However, it is obvious that planespotters did not need to use illegal equipment since most of the "concealed" data are already available.
Nevertheless, someone could also argue that modern-day plane-spotting may be a potentially threatening activity because of the technology and complications present. However, in his article about cybersecurity in aerial vehicles, Sedjelmaci described most plane-spotters as “innocent hobbyists” and stated that most information that plane-spotters record is already available on various sources, and therefore plane-spotting does not contribute as a major source of threat to the field of aviation and national security. He analyzes the devices that were used by plane-spotters around the LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) area and concluded that none of the handheld radios and ADS-B interceptors (devices used to intercept the signals emitted by aircraft to determine its location) were capable of intercepting information that was classified as “confidential” by the United States Department of Homeland Security (Sedjelmaci, 17). His analysis disproves the misunderstanding that plane-spotters use their devices to intercept “secret” information that would threaten national security.
Depicted in the picture was an ADS-B interceptor by commercial flight tracker "Flightradar 24". The data intercepted by the interceptor would be publicly available, and all actions are through legal means. - Photo credit: wikipedia commons.
As a plane-spotter myself, I have legally purchased a considerable number of electronic devices in order to support my hobby, including telephoto lenses, air-band radio interceptors, and ADS-B signal receptors. According to my personal experiences, I clearly understand that it is impossible to attain classified information for several reasons. Firstly, the wavelengths of military radio frequencies are beyond the limits of the legally produced electronic devices; secondly, the information available to ADS-B receptors is only generated by civilian aircraft and is available to everyone with the ability to intercept it. In fact, there are certain purchasable apps on your cell phone that could indicate the exact location, speed, registration, serial number… etc. with data from their intensive ADS-B receiver network. Therefore, we could see that there is no legal means for a plane-spotter to attain classified information, and in fact few plane-spotters are interested in doing so since most of the data they want are already legally available.

References:

Sedjelmaci, Hichem, and Sidi Mohamed Senouci. "Cyber security methods for aerial vehicle networks: taxonomy, challenges and solution." The Journal of Supercomputing (2018): 1-17.

——As far as the differences between planespotters and spies are carefully distinguished, there is not enough motivation for planespotters to steal information and break the law. We are just innocent hobbyist
MOTIVATION

I would like to emphasize the differences between “plane-spotters” and “spies”. The most important distinguishing feature between a plane-spotter and a spy is the intent. The intent of an innocent hobbyist is not to disclose any secrets related to national security, as he simply wants to take pictures of aircraft for recreational purposes. Meanwhile, the intent of a spy is to steal national secret for the benefit of another nation or group. Since planes-potters do not bear evil intents and motives, I do not see any reason to blame them for hampering national security.

It’s about that love for aviation, whether it was because your Dad walked you into the cockpit to meet the pilot when you were 8 years old or because   you love the rush of heavy metal zooming past you at 200 miles per hour. It has nothing to do with terrorism.

Login
Login
Login by:
My Profile
leave a message
back to the top