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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Anticipation as A380 eyes Heathrow
By Liam Allen
BBC News at Heathrow Airport

The anticipation in the air is palpable as the minutes tick by to touchdown.

The A380 comes in to land
The A380 has been heralded as a major milestone in aviation history

A group of about 200 aircraft enthusiasts are gathered in the car park outside Hatton Cross Tube station, near Heathrow, eagerly awaiting the touchdown of the Airbus A380.

Many of them regularly give up their free time to observe and photograph flying machines. The group is mainly made up of men but there are some couples and families.

They take up their positions - either at the nearby "Myrtle Avenue spot" or by staying here by the Tube station, where the A380 will appear overhead in all its super-sized glory.

The significance of the occasion is not lost on Terry Spruce, 51, who travelled from Hampton, Middlesex, to join his fellow enthusiasts.

Enthusiast Terry Spruce
It's not quite like Concorde's last flight but it's significant for the airport
Terry Spruce

His vantage point of choice will be the "Myrtle Avenue spot", a grassy area nearby.

"Today is very significant," Mr Spruce says. "It's the largest passenger aeroplane that's ever gone into the air.

"Heathrow will be one of the first 16 airports to handle it. It's a significant happening.

"It's not going to be quite like Concorde's last flight but it's going to be significant for the airport."

Mr Spruce warns against labelling his fellow enthusiasts "plane spotters", which, he says, "gives the wrong impression".

"It gives the impression of the guy that stands at the end of a station platform with lukewarm tea and curly ham sandwiches. Some people find it very offensive. Myself I take it tongue in cheek.

"Once people realise there are enthusiasts and experts, people do change their views."

'Lots of ladies'

Wendy Spelling, 59, also does not think of herself as a plane spotter. But she does think that people like Mr Spruce are.

"I wouldn't say I'm a plane spotter," she says. "I'd say the people with notebooks and all their knowledge are."

Enthusiasts stand on a van to get a better view

She is happy, however, to dispel the perception of plane spotting as a strictly male preserve.

"I'm amazed at how many women are here enjoying it - there's a lot of ladies."

Ms Spelling spent a lot of time watching the final Concorde flights, where she says there were also many women.

Richard Stiles, 72, from Harlington, Bedfordshire, who also came to see Concorde take its final bow, thinks Thursday is almost as significant.

"It is quite a momentous occasion," he adds.

Taxi times

As the A380 comes into view, people jostle for position, binoculars and cameras at the ready.

Some even stand on top of vans to gain the optimum vantage point.

As it touches down there are cheers and applause.

Raj and Rishi Dorai
I have been spotting planes for more than 30 years and I am proud to pass that passion on to my son
Raj Dorai

Leading the celebrations is Raj Dorai, 47, a British Airways commercial manager.

Mr Dorai, unlike many others gathered at Hatton Cross, is very proud to be called a plane spotter.

He and son Rishi, 15, spend "many weekends" at Heathrow Airport making notes about planes, taking down their "taxi times" and registration numbers.

He wrote to Rishi's head teacher to request permission to bring his son to Heathrow on Thursday.

"I just believe that if you have got a passion about something, you should be open about it," he says.

"I am very proud to be a plane spotter. I have been spotting planes for more than 30 years and I am proud to pass that passion on to my son."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch the Airbus A380 landing at Heathrow



SEE ALSO:
Airbus A380 making its UK debut
18 May 06 |  Business


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