The Great G-reg Airliner Bet 1999
Aeroplanes = Free Beer !

Sometime during the summer, in the midst of one of our regular lengthy, sometimes heated, but always interesting, discussions about the industry, spotting, and what we do and don't need, myself and another well-known list member from Newcastle, placed a 'bet' with each other that we would each finish off needing the least British airliners at the end of the year. The winner of this 'competition', which from the beginning had strict guidelines and criteria (only G- jet airliners operated by British airlines), would be treated to a free night out on the losing party, in one of the top ten party cities in the world, Newcastle ('the toon') !. We weren't to know back then just how this 'bet' would almost take-over our lives in the run up to the end of the year, or how it was to become such a talking point amongst us and other individuals, other list member and notables who were soon drafted in to be adjudicators, judges and fellow drinkers on 'presentation' night.

At the beginning of November I needed 21 airliners fitting the above criteria, that I had to try to get before the end of the year, or at least end up needing less than ???? - oops said his name !. These were :
Airtours A321 G-VOLH, Britannia 767-300's G-OBYE and G-OBYG, British Airways A319's G-EUPA, B, C and D, British Midland A321 G-MIDJ, British Regional ERJ's G-EMBF, BK, BL and BM, easyJet 737's G-EZYO and G-EZYP, Go 737's G-IGOK, M, P and R, Jersey European CRJ G-JECA, and two Monarch A321's, G-OJEG and G-MARA
I always thought that although this was quite a high number, although at the time less than what the opposition needed, it was a very 'gettable' list of machines, with visits to four or five UK airports likely to finish off most or all of them. The opposition after all needed TNT A.300's and BAe146's, and Swissair Express BAe146's !.

While my opponent was spending his huge amounts of time off work, going here, there and everywhere during November, I didn't really devote too mch attention to the 'battle', and consequently only managed to scratch a few off my list during the month. One of these was British Airways Airbus A.319 G-EUPB on a 'joint' trip to Paris on the 12th November, while the first of a few real 'results' for me to occur over the space of a week and a bit at the end of the month/beginning of December, presented itself at Newcastle on the 30th November, Jersey European CRJ G-JECA popping down to Newcastle for a bit of crew training - I was previously going to have to drive to Glasgow for that one (of course at the time I didn't know anything about Singapore Learjets !), although I did throw an idea around my head for a few days, of driving across to Carlisle on a sunny day to see it on flyover !!. Whilst on a non-spotting (drinking) weekend in Amsterdam over the first weekend of December I had all but dismissed the notion of 'making sure I win' entirely, and begun to think of forfeiting and conceding defeat. A couple of events however spurred me on to make plans to win again; whilst walking down a deserted pier D at Schiphol on a very quiet Sunday night to catch the flight home after a weekend in which we'd spent most of the night in bars, and most of the daylight hours in bed, Britannia Airways Boeing 767-300 G-OBYG was towed past the end of the pier (it had been on lease to Martinair, which we'd known about but still it came second to Heineken and Heugemeger !) and then easyJet 737 G-EZYO taxied onto the adjacent stand. A few days later back home at Newcastle, Airtours A321 G-VOLH flew the based A320 programme for a day, only its second visit to our hometown - the Gods were shining on me I thought, they're trying to tell me something !.

Plans began to be formualted therefore for a two day drive around the UK to clear off the rest - for sometime I'd thought that a day at Manchester and Birmingham, with visits to Luton and Stansted the following day, would just about do it; this was therefore the reason for a number of my 'Where are they ?' requests to the lists in recent weeks, and I can't overstate how important the help of fellow list members was, in order to create an itinerary. Two days off on Monday 13th/Tuesday 14th had looked good for sometime, however I nearly succumbed to a 'rush of blood' on Thursday 9th, when another day off presented itself (thanks Dave W.) and a trip in the other direction going Luton-Stansted-Birmingham-Manchester seemed like a good idea. However getting up for a 0230 departure to Luton, in some of the windiest weather of the winter so far, particularly after a very loud Big Country concert at the Newcastle City Hall the night before, after which I was half deaf, and to be honest not feeling too good, didn't seem a good idea, and I 'wimped out' totally, something which I thought I might regret, particularly, as according to information I'd received from a list member, I would have finished off 3 BRT ERJ's at Manchester - those 4 were, I thought, going to be a problem. 'Wimping out' wasn't a option however the next day, when the news broke on the lists of the 3 Singapore Airlines Learjet 45's night-stopping at Glasgow on Friday 10th. Getting up at 0500 on Saturday 11th, I battled through the snow on the M74, and got, not only the 3 Lears, but also Embraer G-EMBK, the one I wouldn't have got at Manchester two days previous - I still didn't feel too confident when I needed just 3 however !. G-JECA was there too, but of course that was 'old', but it provided an interesting contrast, as it was the second time I'd seen what I thought would be a problem 'frame', and ???? had just failed to see it as expected at CDG over two days during the previous week !. Plans were at an advanced stage by the time I got back from Glasgow, and after working a night shift on the Saturday night, I began the epic 'three-dayer' at lunch-time on Sunday 12th, driving down to Manchester slightly earlier than originally planned.

My 'needs list' at the beginning of the journey was therefore :
G-EMBF G-EMBL G-EMBM G-EUPA G-EUPC G-EUPD G-EZYP G-IGOK G-IGOM G-IGOP G-IGOR G-MARA G-MIDJ G-OBYE G-OJEG
All 'out-of-sequence' !

A very cold Manchester on the Sunday afternoon knocked off G-EMBL and G-EMBM, which made me feel much better, while others seen of note were Airtours' latest A.330 G-CSJS (not part of the 'bet' however, as it was destined to be operated by a foreign airline !), SABENA A.320 OO-SNF, Egyptair A.320 SU-GBD, Skyways Embraer 145 SE-DZD and Portugalia Fokker 100 CS-TPB. I was joined here by one of the adjudicators who flew up from Gatwick to oversee and judge the first half of the trip (actually he was gunning for a number of G-'s himself !), and we spent a very nice night-stop in a local hostelry overlooking the airport itself. I knew Monarch A321 G-OZBC was based at Birmingham at the time so I would definitely need the Manchester-based aircraft, but I resisted the urge to get up at 0030 to check the arriving MON2183 from Larnaca (even though I did set my alarm for 0025 !), and went back to sleep hoping it would indeed day-stop the following day as the Monarch programme seemed to suggest. First light, which was of course as late as 0800, and we were back on the car park roof; immediately I went off in search of the 321 and there it was on the remote stands - G-OJEG was struck off !. There were no further new G-'s however, but of interest during the morning were Gestair CitationJet EC-FZP, OLT Saab 340 D-COLE, ElAl Boeing 737-800 4X-EKA and Iberia MD.88 EC-FND in full colours. Leaving Manchester at 1200 we took a quick look at Woodford where Aegean RJ.100 SX-DVD was doing engine runs outside, and 'primer' Jestream 31 G-31-983 was test flying. On approaching Woodford I could see a 146 in BA's 'Union Flag' scheme, and hopes were high that it would be City-Flyer's new delivery (and therefore another that the opposition would need), but of course it was National Jets Italia (a foreign airline of course !) and two of their 146's, G-NJIC and G-NJIE.

Next target was Birmingham, for the A319's of course, but also for G-EMBF which I knew was still Birmingham-based, after having checked my e-mail remotely on an Internet terminal in the International arrivals area at Manchester Airport. Hitting the M6 earlier than I had planned for, the realisation that we may see this one before it left for Edinburgh at 1430 hit; however the M6 lived up to its reputation, and we got stuck in a jam just north of 'Spaghetti junction' which delayed us for over half an hour. Arriving at a very snowy Birmingham airport at 1515, we were overjoyed to see that G-EMBF was still on stand close to the long-stay car park; indeed it was being de-iced, and the airport was still 'Snowclo' !. At least we didn't have to wait to see it return from Manchester on the positioner at 1900 !. A very useful list of A319 flights posted to the list a few weeks ago had told me that 1600-1700 would be a good time to get the 3 319's, but of course they now had 4 !. One was parked remote, and we could just see the top of the fin - however this was soon pressed into service, and PA was towed onto a Eurohub stand. The airport re-opened at 1600 which was fortunate as the 319's were due in; just as well the snow didn't fall later or they could have diverted away !. The next hour produced two more, PC and PD - we could have left then for me, but the adjudicator needed PB, so we left after this returned home at 1745. Monarch A321 G-OZBC was on stand so it was looking good for G-MARA at Luton, while others of note were Gulfstream V N513MW and Citation 560 G-TTFN. The adjudicator had a great time here, clearing off all sorts of stuff like Maersk CRJ's, SABENA RJ.100's and BMA E.145's. Next it was down to Luton on a surprisingly passable M6 and M1, and arriving at 1900 the Luton-based Monarch A321 was confirmed as G-MARA - another bites the dust. My last easyJet 737 wasn't on stand so I enquired at the easyJet ticket sales desk, where a very friendly lady advised me that my last one would be back after 2200. As we had to get back to the adjudicator's house south of Gatwick, we decided not to stay, and checked out the biz before leaving - two were new to me, both G4's, N152KB and N399CC. Getting back to Horsham just after 2100, I had knocked 8 from my 15 over two days, and had just 7 to go for the following day - G-EZYP still worried me slightly though !.

I wanted to get to Stansted for 0830 at the latest on the morning of Tuesday the 14th, as analysis of the Go timetables had shown that all the carrier's 'lines' could be seen between 0825 and 1225. There was a Britannia 767-300 to be seen first however, an aeroplane I knew had just returned from Barbados on an Airtours 'sub' at Gatwick at 0450. Looking through the gate opposite the remote stands on the south side of Gatwick Airport, G-OBYE was conveniently parked at the southern end of the line behind the tower, which proved very fortunate as it was straight onto the M23/25, after dropping the adjudicator off at work. I just made it to Stansted for 0830, and went straight to the old side with the intention of seeing the departures off 23 - I figured this was the only place where I could keep the shelter of the car within reach, as it was literally freezing. Things began well with G-IGOP departing to Rome, followed closely by G-MIDJ on the first Lufthansa Munich departure of the day. Standing later on a very cold south end of the terminal, G-IGOK and G-IGOR were knocked off the list, and finally G-IGOM returned from Copenhagen just before mid-day. Others noted during the visit were Ryanair 737-800 EI-CSE, Challenger N604BD, Falcon 50 VP-BSA, an Antonov 124 and 3 Il-76's, including UK-76410. With just 'one to go' it was over to Luton, and arriving at 1315 I hoped that G-EZYP would just be sitting there - of course it wasn't. Attempts to find out when it would be back failed, so it was over to the north-side crash gate to simply sit and wait. New biz included 125 TC-TEK, Falcon 50 N8550A and NetJets Europe Hawker 800 CS-DNK. By late afternoon the sun was going down, and so were my hopes of catching up with YP - a quick phone call to another adjudicator was made to get the easyJet Ops and Reed Aviation frequencys - if I heard YP going into/coming out of Liverpool, it was going to be back up the M6 !. My fears were banished however when at 1600 on the Reed Aviation Luton frequency came "Reed Aviation Luton, EZY602 YP" !!. Estimating at 1630, all I had to do was wait 30 minutes more, and there was G-EZYP returning back from Barcelona, and I had done it !.

I got home about 2200, shattered but safe in the knowledge that at least I couldn't lose - it felt like I had spent four full days behind the wheel (I had more or less !) - I had done 900+ miles on this trip alone, not counting the Glasgow excursion the previous Saturday - and my body ached owing to sitting in the same position for so long.

What the whole trip was a testament to was the power that the Internet has brought to the spotter - at times it seemed just like 'spotting by numbers', after all for nearly all the 15 I was chasing, apart from the easy's and Go's, I just about knew exactly where they would be at what time, thanks to the great help provided by list members with access to airlines' programme information. In conversations with ex-spotters from older generations, a frequently-discussed subject is how much the Internet has in many ways, reduced a lot of the fun of spotting, in removing the surprise factor which was apparently always present in trips to airports made by these enthusiasts in the 60's, 70's and 80's. I guess they're right, but I don't think any of us, having tasted just what it can offer, would wish to be without the help available, from the invention of the century !. Who knows where it might take us in the next ........ ?

.... and now ????'s side of the story. Needless to say I don't agree with his his description of the conversation that was the origin of the bet !

The Great-British Airliner Chase 1999

Well you may have all read Andy's side of the story, but now here is the side of the looser, yep, me ???? ???????! Well the bet was set in late in April, I vaguely remember the conversation between myself and Andy, the conversation went along the lines that Andy proclaimed himself as Newcastle's top super-spotter. That I could not ague with but what I did argue with was that he often overlooked the 'frames' closer to home! So the bet was set, who would need the least G- registered Jetliners before the end of the 20th Century. The forfeit was decided that the looser would have to buy drinks all night for the looser, on the World famous Newcastle Quayside, incidentally where we set the bet.

The year for myself seemed to chug on nicely with me getting a few British Jetliners here and there all over Europe. Then after my little states trip in October, I came back totally focused, here was my opportunity to win. Unlike Andy, I don't drive so I had to enlist the services of British Airways, CityFlyer, Gill Airways, and the help of list members. And so November was designated my month of UK travelling. With my needs list set I knew that the bulk were easy to get with most being the likes of BA, easyJet, Go-Fly and British Regional, but on the bottom side of the coin I needed a few British operated aircraft that lived in out of the way places, such as a Debonair 146. You can imagine how overjoyed I was then when Debonair went down the pan (No offence to anyone tied up with the company) thus crossing off the illustrious GDEBL, little did I know how quickly Flightline would pick up the Swissair Wet Leases and restore the aircraft to the register as GDEFL. The other little teasers were going to be the two TNT A300's and two TNT 146's. Anyhow, I thought If I was to get all bar these teases then I would be safe and could finished needing still less than Andy.

So every weekend in November was spent travelling the airways back and forth from London Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. My needs list nicely culminated in a trip to Birmingham, and then Stansted, where I was fortunate enough to grab a TNT 146 and A300. So my total settled on 8, just needing GEMBL, GEMBM, GEZYR, GJECA, GTNTD, GBYDH, GOBYG and GJSJX. I also had a slightly unfortunate day in MAN late in November where I had hoped to get the two ERJ's, GOBYG and GJSJX, but the two ERJ's were missed, GJSJX was based away in CWL and GOBYG went of to AMS with Martinair.

So my total settled on 8, and Andy needed 16 so I thought, there is no way he can win this, even if he does go away on a trip he won't be that lucky! Andy assured me he had no plans, but I always knew he did, after all would a man with his calibre give up so easy, I thought not. I was just a little shocked when he told me on Friday he had been away and got ALL of his needs! Ouch!

Anyhow despite being the looser, it kept my interest up in spotting over the slow months and kept me busy. My thanks go to all who helped ME by providing lifts and telling me where and when things were.....

Now I'm off to save my pennies!

Copyright on all text and images within this web site remains with A.Hutchings (2006).