Plane spotting, like train spotting, car spotting, bird-watching, badger-watching or hedgehog-watching are particularly British pastimes which appear eccentric to foreigners. The spotters (or watchers, in the case of animals), travel to venues where they are most likely to find their prey, armed with binoculars, notebooks, pencil and camera.
In the case of the vehicles, they note down the number of the car, train or plane and the plane, and in this case, the time it took off and landed. In the case of the animals, they note down the behaviour.
Such voyeurism has landed a group of 12 British plane spotters in Greek prisons, their case complicated by a referral to a higher court. The Britons had applied for permission to go to an airshow at an airbase in Kalamata, on November 8th. They were arrested for suspicious behaviour.
Four of the group had detailed information on the take-offs and landings of military aircraft, which for plane spotters is normal behaviour but since this practice is virtually unknown in Greece, the authorities understand what the Britons were doing to be espionage.
One of the group even had a frequency scanner in his bag, provoking added suspicion, even though plane spotters like to hear the conversations between pilots and control towers.
The group had been warned by the Greek authorities three times not to take photographs of military aircraft. The Greek Foreign Ministry explained that they had already been arrested at another airfield, the Tanagra military base, on November 5th and released, after a warning.
The Britons are complaining about the deplorable conditions in the Greek jails where they are being held.
Everybody is entitled to a hobby, even if this entails jotting down numbers and names of aircraft, the question is, why?. To do so in sensitive areas after having been warned is courting disaster.
John ASHTEAD PRAVDA.Ru LONDON UNITED KINGDOM