Plane Spotting – Security

Aviation Media and News since 2008


Airport Security

As you know, the world is now a more security conscious place. Since the events of 9/11 (11th September 2001) airports are extremely security conscious and as a plane spotter you must be aware of the things you can do and cannot do. While on or around airport grounds you are a part of a secured environment and must behave accordingly.

Airport security is everyone’s concern.

Security Areas and Zones

Most people don’t know that there is a 3 metre exclusion zone around airport fences on the landside^. Equipment must not be placed in this zone (ladders, bags, boxes, vehicles etc.). Take your photo and move away and take your camera with you. Do not leave tripods etc. as unattended equipment can be sized by the AFP and it may be some time (if at all) before you get it back. Not to mention the explaining you will have to do.

The basic rules are:

  • look after your gear, keep it with you at all times
  • don’t be where you should not be
  • abide by instructions from airport officials
  • don’t interfere with fences and gates*
  • Obide by the exclusion zone regulations

NOTE: Landside^ means outside the areas where aircraft are located. Airside is area where the aircraft are located. Usually a fenced off area at major airports. *Fences and gates should not be manipulated to allow you to get your camera lens through. You will more than likely be hearing from the AFP or Airport Security if you interfere with any security measures or devices.


Airport Watch ProgramSome airports have an Airport Watch program and Adelaide is one of these airports. The airport authorities enlist the cooperation of local aviation groups and endeavour to get along with plane spotters in general and involve them in theAirport Watch program. They are not anti-photographer/plane spotter but they must do their job. Try to get along with officials and don’t take every approach as an affront to your rights.

Don’t be surprised if you are asked for Identification, what you are doing or to move away from time to time. Especially, if you take photos very near or inside the airport grounds. It is not an insult upon you and you should be polite and respect all instructions given by officials. Just explain why you are there and you will find most of the time they are very cooperative and understanding, unless there is a special reason for you not to be at your current location. In this case just move on as requested.

NOTE: The AFP can arrest you should you not comply.

Basically, do the right thing. The idea is to be allowed to take your plane spotting photos in a cooperative environment. The last thing you want is to be banned or worse, arrested. Airport authorities have legitimate concerns and obligations. Try to get along with them and be cooperative.


Note on Airport Watch

You can positively contribute to the Airport Watch program as a legitimate plane spotter by reporting anything suspicious to the AFP.

You are an extra pair of eyes and ears and because you frequent the airport(s) and surrounding areas regularly you get to know what is normal and what is not.

Adelaide Airport participated in the original operational trials ofAirport Watch and has now adopted the program. Other major airports are expected to participate in a national roll-out ofAirport Watch in the near future.

Even if the airport does not run an Airport Watch program, you may be challenged from time-to-time by security officials. Cooperation is the most positive way to get along.


Remember, See It, Hear It, Report It, is the slogan of Airport Watch. Dial 131 237.




Airport Watch 5DME Reference Videos

Airport Watch Operational Trial – Summary : (CLICK PLAY)

Previous Videos:

Airport Watch Operational Trial – Overview : (PLAY)

Airport Watch Operational Trial – Suspicious Activities 🙁PLAY)

Airport Watch Operational Trial – Suspicious Items & Vehicles 🙁PLAY)


Article by: David Hales, Team Leader 5DME.

Photos by: David Wilkie & David Hales.

Images by: AAL

Video by: 5DME


DISCLAIMER: This advice is of a general nature and may not suit specific situations. Professional advice should be sought if you are unsure or have specific requirements.