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Dream ride: Plane spotter Elias with the airport marshaller

29.4.2016 at 06:00
What happens when a true aircraft enthusiast hops on board the airport marshaller’s follow-me car?

Not many people are as familiar with the aircraft taking off and landing at Helsinki Airport as 17-year-old plane spotter Elias Hadjari.

He has been spotting planes for a few years and has taken to the hobby with real passion. As Elias lives in Vantaa, quite close to Helsinki Airport, he’s there almost every week to photograph planes as they take to the air and touch down.

According to Elias, the best place for spotting is at Katriinantie.

”You can get nice photos of planes making their ascent,” Elias says.

In early April 2016, Finavia arranged an even sweeter photo opportunity for Elias, as airport marshaller Heikki Kari agreed to take him on a ride around the tarmac in his black-and-yellow follow-me car.

Here’s how the avid plane spotter’s ride with the marshaller went.

Marshaller Kari knows the airport like the back of his hand, as he and the eight other Helsinki Airport marshallers are responsible for keeping the traffic in the airfield smooth, as well as directing the aircraft to their right parking spots.

In the marshaller’s follow-me car, Elias can get right up close to all the aircraft on the field. First, he wishes to stop and shoot a smaller, CRJ-900LR airplane operated by Slovenian Adria Airways.

”This airline doesn’t fly so often to Helsinki,” Elias knows and takes out one of his sturdy systems cameras.

Spotters share their photos and talk about aviation and aircraft online, for instance in Facebook groups and the FlightForum and Airliners sites.

Elias is most interested in large and rare aircraft that seldom visit Helsinki Airport. He also finds less popular airlines and unique paint jobs interesting to shoot.

With marshaller Kari, Elias gets to see a real rarity up close: a Douglas DC-8 aircraft, which has been soaring the skies since 1969, waiting for a maintenance job at the far end of the airfield.

”I have to get a lot of photos of this one,” Elias enthuses.

Another unique opportunity arises when Elias and Heikki visit Finnair’s large aviation hangar, where two Airbus 350 planes are being maintained.

”I like the size and design of the Airbus 350,” Elias says. “I was also here at the airport when they first arrived at Helsinki.”

During the ride, Elias also learns some facts about the marshaller’s work and gets to witness Heikki leading a plane with the follow-me car towards its parking space and signalling it into a good position.

”One of our main tasks is to lead the planes to the right spots,” Heikki says. “The marshaller is also often the first person on the scene when something unusual happens at the airfield.”

The final stop of the tour takes place at one of the runways, where Elias photographs the landing of aircraft up-close. As the brand new Finnair A350 approaches the tarmac with a thundering sound, it’s easy to understand what makes aviation such a passion for Elias.

Photos: Elias Hadjari

Read more about plane spotting at Helsinki Airport.

See Elias’ photos in Flickr and on Instagram.

People & Aviation