November 23, 2001
11:02 AM   Subscribe

Not everyone understands the excitement of plane-spotting. Certainly not the Greeks [WSJ subscription link] who have jailed a group of plane spotters as spies. Asperger's Syndrome maybe. But spies? Ask the Romanians and Poles?
posted by Geo (9 comments total)
Gotta do something while taking the lizzy.
posted by geoff. at 11:05 AM on November 23, 2001

It is great to be part of the European Union. What lovely friends Britain has. It is worth noting that the Foreign Office have said basically nothing about this total farce.
posted by RobertLoch at 11:19 AM on November 23, 2001

I'm a "plane spotter".

I *used to* sit at airports and just "spot" the planes..

However, the past couple months have been from home!

Plus I got a new R/C F4U corsair to finish building and a Viper to convert.
posted by BlitzK at 11:49 AM on November 23, 2001

All the arrested people were part of the Touchdown Tours, who travel around Europe taking photos of airplanes. Maybe the Greeks were concerned about what they had shot with their lenses. BBC links: 1, 2.
posted by tamim at 11:57 AM on November 23, 2001

In defense of my homeland: most Greek airports are dual-purpose (civilian and military). This is mostly due to financial and space constraints --Greece is a small country with lots of mountains that makes creating airports difficult.

These Brits were caught near a very important base in the south, were the main bomber squadrons of the Air Force are located, plus most of the fighter training facilities. This is not a small thing in Greece: Air Force bases are on constant alert, as we and the Turks have a nasty habit of dogfighting over the Aegean *every day*.

For Brits who think of Mykonos and Santorini when they think of Greece, this may sound funny; however, even Mykonos, the most touristy of the Greek islands is one of the largest radar bases in the Aegean --the eastern half that's basically untouched by tourism. OTOH, I can understand the attraction for plain-spotters: Greece --unfortunately IMHO-- maintains one of the most diverse Air Forces in the world (A-7, F-4Gs, F-16 of many types, Mirage F-1s and F-2000s, and on and on).
posted by costas at 2:33 PM on November 23, 2001

we and the Turks have a nasty habit of dogfighting over the Aegean *every day*.

What do you mean by dogfighting? I can't remember hearing about any downed planes in the Aegean.
posted by skallas at 2:52 PM on November 23, 2001

It's not live-fire dogfighting; it's mock dogfighting; i.e. usually if there is a missile-lock by one party (which is detectable by the other fighter) the "victim" disengages. However, the maneuvers can get very hairy, flying close to the water, stalling on purpose, etc, etc. And usually, both sides carry live missiles, not trainers.

This is due to a Greek-Turkish disagreement over territorial waters (and thus airspace) over the Aegean. The Turks believe that they can fly in certain areas and we think otherwise, so both sides try to ascert control. It's literally "Top Gun" but with live ammo and a high fatality rate --yes, fighter planes from both sides go down in the Aegean all the time, mostly because of accidents or maneuvers gone wrong.

This is BTW, why the Greek Air Force is one of the best-trained in the world: the Turks can afford to rotate squadrons in the Aegean so that all their pilots get some real live training. From a strategic point of view it's quite interesting: two NATO "allies" dog-fighting all the time with 4G fighters, F-16 against F-16.

I used to live near the main interceptor base in Greece (111FW, Nea Achialos, near Volos in the central part of the mainland). I remember lying on the beach at 1-2am seeing F-16s take off at full throttle, with afterburners on, to intercept some Turkish fighter pair that wanted to 'play'. It made for a great light show, until you started thinking that one of those guys (mostly 30yr olds with wives and kids) may not make it back...
posted by costas at 3:43 PM on November 23, 2001

costas the Taliban released a British journalist during war time when it became obvious that she was not a spy. It seems odd that Greece is struggling to show the same sense. This farce is beyond a joke, these people have families.
posted by RobertLoch at 6:20 PM on November 23, 2001

Well, it does seem that the UK is protesting through channels. But on the other hand the Greek government is probably sticking to its guns largely as a deterrent to future planespotting. Will this result in jail time? Unlikely -- they'll probably get slap on the wrist convictions and deportations.

Meanwhile, it sure would be nice if the Greek-Turk Cold War would relax. I suppose a solution in Cyprus would help, but jeez.
posted by dhartung at 12:14 PM on November 24, 2001

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