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With a plane spotter at Helsinki Airport 1/3

Published
12.7.2014 at 18:35
Aleksi Tihula has a unique hobby, plane spotting around Helsinki Airport. He and journalist Katja Alaja visit three different spotting places. This time it is the Scenic terrace close to Helsinki Airport. 

The nose of Privilege Style's Boeing 767-35D becomes visible from behind the airport building. The plane takes off and Aleksi Tihula, 20, lets his camera sing. His systems camera is equipped with a long objective.

- That is a rarity at Helsinki Airport. Finnair has rented the wide-body aircraft from the Spanish aviation company for ten days for the New York route. Finnair's own plane is under maintenance. Privilege will return tomorrow around 8 a.m. I will come here again if the weather is good.

Somebody might ask why, Tihula has already seen that plane. But no, it is not enough, as Tihula also wants to shoot the landings of interesting planes.

Kerava-based Tihula is a plane spotter, who spots and takes photos of planes as a hobby.

View to the main runway

Aleksi Tihula usually spots many times a week around Helsinki Airport. Now he has taken me, the writer of this story and my photographer Jyrki Komulainen to the viewing terrace of the airport. We can see the events at runway 1, the main runway, well. We also get a very good general view of the airport.

- The direction and speed of the wind have an impact on which runways the planes use. Right now the wind blows from the north-east. The planes take off from runway 1 and land on runway 3 further away, where that yellow building is situated.

Runway 3 (22R/04L) runs in the same direction as runway 1 (22L/04R). In addition to these, there is one more runway, runway 2 (15/33), which is a transverse runway.

The runway number tells the direction of a runway. Alphabet L means left, i.e. the left part of the runway and R means right, i.e. the right part of the runway.

Information from the "plane radar"

Despite of it being the end of June, the weather is windy and cloudy. Some rain drops are actually visible on Aleksi Tihula's mobile phone when he opens it once again. The FlightRadar24 application, the so-called "plane radar", shows the real time locations of planes around the world.

- The departure of Turkish Airlines' Airbus A321 is delayed. The plane should already have taken off. American Airlines' Boeing 767 is about to leave to Chicago. It interests me, because it flies a summer route for a couple of months and its metallic colour stands out from the crowd.

Tihula explains that the application gives a lot of information about each plane.

- One can, for example, see the picture, route, predicted landing time and register number of the plane. The register number is important information for me. I have compiled Excel lists that include the register numbers of planes. When I spot a new plane, I mark the date after the right register number.

A lasting relationship

Even if Aleksi Tihula favours spotting rare planes, he may become immersed in watching and taking photos of any planes.

- The smell of kerosene, the awesome sound of planes and their imposing way to take off to the sky will never ever bore me.

The relationship is not exactly new. Tihula got interested in planes as a kid, because his father flies as a hobby. Tihula started to spot planes five years ago. He spends a lot of time at the airport anyway because he works there.

- I like timetables. They are an essential part of activities at the airport, as well as this hobby.

Then he slips the camera and objective into his rucksack. It is time to move to the next spotting place, the so called Lemminkäisen kallio.

The interview was done at the end of June 2014. The 2nd part of the story is published on 17 July 2014 and the 3rd part on 24 July 2014.

Aleksi Tihula especially loves to spot these types of planes

  • Really old passenger planes
  • Exotic airlines' planes
  • Diverts, i.e. planes that exceptionally land at Helsinki Airport 
  • Planes with special paintwork

Read and try

Plane radar, mobile phone application FlightRadar24

Helsinki Airport: Plane spotting and filming and ScenicTerrace

Share a story, your photos and experiences on Twitter or Instagram with hashtag #HELview.

Text: Katja Alaja @KatjaAlaja
Privilege Style Boeing 767-35D photo: Aleksi Tihula
Other photos: Jyrki Komulainen