In January of 2011, my wife and I took a trip out to Seattle to visit some of her family there. Aviation is hard to miss in Seattle given Boeing's enormous operation in the region. We had planned for one day to be spent taking the wonderful Boeing factory tour at Paine Field and to spend another day at the incredible Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. Though snow was forecast for later in the evening, the morning of our visit to Boeing was the only time we saw the sun all week. While it was cold and windy, we spent some time both before and after our tour out on the observation deck watching the activity on the field. I had my camera with me, my trusty Canon S2-IS superzoom, which would prove to be a faithful companion to me over the next 2 years. Though we didn't stay out there for very long, I thououghly enjoyed taking the shots that I was able to. Later that afternoon, after we visited the Flying Heritage Collection, I would experience my first missed shot as a Dreamlifter landed before I could make my way around the airport to see it.
The next year and a half was spent slowly building my interest into a hobby. I became an avid aviation blog reader which greatly expanded my level of knowledge. I would also often take shots from my front yard of aircraft that would be landing at nearby Stewart International Airport. The excitement of hearing a large jet approaching and running into the house to grab my camera with the hope that I would be able to grab a shot before it disappeared behind the trees became a common thrill.
On September 10th, 2011, while visiting family in Connecticut, I was fortunate enough to catch some lucky shots of a World War II Era B17 bomber departing out of Oxford Airport. And yet later that night I was talked out of making my first trip down to JFK the next morning, on what would have been the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. My family was concerned with what trouble I might find, and I still did not know enough to be able to calm their fears easily.
By the spring of 2012, I had a strong desire to go down to JFK on a planespotting trip, and yet weekend after weekend passed with too much planned for me to be able to find the time to make the trip. In May, the Space Shuttle Enterprise flew over New York City on the back of it's 747 -based Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. I was extremely fortunate to have a front row seat right outside my workplace as it flew up the Hudson River, made a very wide turn, and then headed back south on its way to a landing at JFK. Enterprise's arrival was probably the aviation event of the year in New York City and I had one of the best seats in the house. I eagerly showed off the pictures that I took that weekend to anybody who would look at them.
Finally in early July, I found the need to be down near JFK one afternoon and I decided to bring my camera along with me. After taking care of the business that needed to be attended to, I headed over to a spot known as "The Mounds" which was deemed best for evening shots on the runways that were currently in use. I arrived and had fired off only a couple of shots when suddenly the batteries in my camera died. Soon I was off to find replacements as well as dinner, and after exploring the area for a bit, I returned to The Mounds where I spent the next couple of hours in a state of avgeek bliss capturing some wonderful shots in near perfect light. I headed home that evening with a grin from ear to ear that would not leave my face for days.
I spent the ensuing weeks and months rapidly growing as a planespotter. My first JFK trip was followed a few weeks later by an impromptu afternoon trip to Stewart to catch planes diverting from Newark due to thunderstorms. Next came my first airshow in early August, and September was packed with events including LaGuardia Kids Day, UN Week, and Newark Airport Day. I had passed the point of no return. I had become a true planespotter and avgeek and I was proud of it.