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Plane spotter guilty of illegal possession of aircraft scanner

A plane spotter is found guilty of using an aircraft scanner.. Faces a 5000 Rand fine or 10 months in jail! ( More...

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jack oreilly 1
Wow. Just wow. I can understand that steps need to be taken to maintain public safety. But this is stupid beyond belief.
Ralph Wigzell 1
If you have an aircrew license which will include a radiotelephony license, surely they couldn't prosecute you? Any legal experts on this?
jack oreilly 2
I'd think not. But the fact that we need "legal experts" to answer such a question is a testimony to how cuckoo the legal system has become.
Chris Taylor 0
The police in the UK generally leave spotters alone,except for some ID checks,but the occasional jobsworth will try to make an issue for a spotter using a radio.This is extremly rare,though.

Germany is far worse,where fines of over 1,000 euros are not unknown for use,not possesion of a aircraft radio.
indy2001 0
The LiveATC web site, and especially their mobile app, has almost made scanners redundant. However, there is that pesky 10 minute delay and the frequencies are pre-determined on LiveATC. Also, many airports are not included. So if I know I'll be staying near a busy airport, I often pack my portable scanner. I guess I'll have to be more careful the next time I travel to Africa, which is likely to be NEVER.

However, I am going to the UK in 3 weeks and I was planning to take my scanner. LiveATC doesn't have any British sites because, according to their forum, it is illegal to retransmit ATC communications. But they said it is perfectly legal to listen to them yourself. To be extra careful, I checked the many UK plane-spotting web sites. (The country that invented train-spotting apparently has an active plane-spotting community as well!) I can't find anything about scanners being illegal. In fact, almost every UK site provides a list of ATC frequencies. So Chip, if you know of a site that says otherwise, I would really like to know. I'm not being argumentative, I just want to avoid legal problems.
Chris Taylor 0

The chances of you having trouble using a scanner for spotting are extremely remote.The issue comes if you "make use" of what you hear.I'm not a lawyer,so I wouldn't describe what "making use"of anything you may hear on a scanner might be,but any prosecution of any spotters is just not going to happen for using a radio to listen to the ATC at airports.
mikeap 0
Indy2001. LiveATC normally delays only about 20 seconds. Not 10 minutes. Thankfully.
amahran 0

no seriously, does the SAP have anything better to do? Like, for example...arrest the guy mugging the old lady in the dark alley?

But noooooooo, let's arrest the guy that can do no harm, but is still doing something no-one else is doing! I'm sure we can all benefit! :D
Daniel Baker 0
The LiveATC site is entirely based on scanners, so I guess it literally is redundant but (if anything) increases the importance of scanners.
alistairm 0
Well, the law is the law. Though, i pathetic one at that. I used to have a scanner and listened to all the flights going in and out of Mirabel during it's heyday. Don't have the scanner anymore though. I do plane spot at CYUL and take photos with my DSLR, but i just wait to see what comes and goes. I think it would be an interesting poll to ask plane spotters whether they use scanners or "smartpones" to listen in on the ATC. I think you may find more and more people, perhaps the younger generation, use their data plan and smartphone to listen to LiveATC - of course, your airport better be listed on the site or your out of luck.
Justin Barnes 0
F$#@ these oppressive governments! Folks this is "child's play" compared to what's about to begin here in America. Who would have EVER imagined we'd be: Arrested for growing tomatoes in your front gardens --- children fined and shut down for operating a simple neighborhood lemonade stand on a summer afternoon --- beaten down with batons for embracing at the Jefferson Memorial --- The list goes ON and ON!

Wake up people! Stand up against this tyranny, and encourage friends and family to do the same, before it's too late!
Troy Raiteri 0
@Alistar I have a Palm Pre and LiveATC doesn't even work on that phone even on their mobile website. I just look and snap but I do use FA to track them which sadly FA has a 10 - 20 minute delay....
99NY 0
Sure the law is the law, but some cops just have nothing better to do than to hassle people for no good reason. Sorta like the end of the month here in the US when state troopers are pulling everyone over to make their ticket quota's. Whats overlooked today is tomorrow's fine and possible jail time.
jack oreilly 1
I never understood what "the law is the law" really emphasises. It seems like a self-evident thing. The discussion should be "is it an appropriate law or not"?

Also, "ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking" is sometimes silly. I don't think any reasonable person, judge or jury with half a brain would blindly use that maxim to find someone guilty in all cases. Many laws are simply footnotes buried in some bible written by some long gone policymaker, and it would be idiotic to suggest that citizens can know every law out there. Common sense in the justice systems seems to be amiss.
Matt Comerford 0
"Ham radio licences are over rated anyway and most people who have them think they are in a class all there own."

WTF? I'm a pilot and a ham, got my radio license in 1999 when I was 14. I've never once met a ham who thinks they are in a class of their own. If anything, that's pilots!
alistairm 0
@Troy: yeah, unfortunatley, Palm (now part of HP) OS is not on an App developers top 3 list. I have a Nokia with Symbian and i don't think it would work either - have not tried yet. But again, i would rather just listen at home. I plane spot to relax ;)
Wingscrubber 0
South Africa - wtf, bru?
Ricky Scott 0
Matt Im with you. Ive had my license since 1976 and Ive not had that nor have my friends have that feeling. I too however have met tons of snob pilots.
indy2001 0
My mistake, mikeap. I guess I was thinking about FlightAware's delay. Although the LiveATC mobile app has a more substantial delay than their web site, it is less than 20 seconds for my local airport (KIND). But during a recent trip to San Francisco, the delays were MUCH longer than 20 seconds. From my hotel about 2 miles from the runway threshold, I watched a Lufthansa A380 approach, touch down, and taxi well clear of the runway before I heard it report "5 miles out to the tower" on the LiveATC mobile app. That same delay was present on all KSFO channels. Apparently different airports have different delays, whether intentional or not.

Still, it's better than South Africa. But not necessarily Britain. Thanks for the info on the UK situation, but I found a bit more on the LiveATC web site, and it is a bit on the scary side...

"It is illegal to provide air traffic control feeds from within the UK due to an outdated law that originated back in 1942. The antiquated law states that although it is not illegal to sell, buy or own a scanning receiver in the UK, it must only be used to listen to transmissions meant to be broadcast to the general public.

OfCom (the U.K. regulatory authority for communications) has stated on numerous occasions: "It is an offence to listen to any other radio services unless you are authorised by a designated person to do so."

This means that it is illegal to listen to anything other than general reception transmissions unless you are either a licensed user of the frequencies in question or have been specifically authorized to do so by an authorized person. This is clearly a law that needs to be updated in light of the many educational uses for listening to aircraft communications. Furthermore, the original reasons for this law have long since become irrelevant.

Let's hope this law gets modified - there has been at least one online petition aimed at attempting to get some attention but it does not seem to have had much of an effect on Ofcom. If you are a UK citizen, please contact your MP and see if they can help make an exception to this law."

So it's not just 3rd world countries that have these ridiculous laws. Even if the UK doesn't enforce its WWII era law, it is still on the books. So I guess I won't be taking my scanner after all, in case some zealous prosecutor decides to make an example of a tourist!
sparkie624 0
That is stupid. He did nothing wrong. As stated above... Glad I live in the US, and I enjoy listening to air traffic.
Troy Raiteri 0
@Alistar yeah I just sit and listen while doing computer work heh.
Wow, open radio freqs being "illegal" in which to listen? I feel bad. The U.S. begs to differ (differently). In fact, I don't "flaunt" my Amateur Radio license (at all), but I'm fine with air security (and really anyone can listen to those freqencies without any license/accountability. Plus, lots of U.S. personnel volunteer for emergency Government communication (local, State, or National), yet the TSA often takes issue with a portable device's large battery and associated electronics. Nevertheless, I explain the device, they test the surface for suspective contaminants, and I'm on my way.

I can still listen while at the airport (+ nearby) or at home, for example -- no law exists for listening and having a license or not.

For many laws, I feel that those outside U.S. can be forced to be embarrassingly behind; but for healthcare, assistance, etc., we are obviously behind instead. Insert politically-charged disagreement here...

Matt Comerford 0
"but for healthcare, assistance, etc., we are obviously behind instead. Insert politically-charged disagreement here..."

lol show me one thing that says the USA is is ahead on anything. we're screwed.
Chip Hermes 0
Typical government, anyway...cell phone frequencies got congested so they moved to digital trunking but airplanes still use VHF.
Tom Wright 0
Chip, what is wrong with aviation using VHF!! That range of freqs do the job very well even at congested facilities!! What is so special about ATC freqs and traffic? I did that job for 32 yrs and there is absolutely nothing 'secretive' that could not be heard by radio listeners. There is nothing magical about it!!
Indy2001: Going to UK for three weeks? Isn't there something else you could occupy your time? Visit castles or museums? Read up on flight regs? Try not to get involved in possibly illegal activities that could affect your own legal status professionally. Think!
Mephistopheles 0
In Canada you can listen to what you want, if it's on Radio Waves it's free... if it's ENCRYPTED (not just digitaly encoded like Apco25 etc) you are not allowed to purposely "decrypt" the transmission.
good luck... a pilot, and ham radio since 1977... and do airplane spotting with "many" scanners at the same time... and real Air portable radios.
Harold Schultz 0
Is "plane spotting" as a hobby in the UK, a remnant from WW2? Regardless of the origin of the "hobby", I don't see the point? Listening to ATC, is that a hobby?

What happened to butterflys, stamps, coins, posters, 78 recordings, militaria? With the exception of people who are aviators (not I), What is the point?

The older I get, the less I understand about what motivates some people, to have the interests that they do!
Mary Partelow 0
Harold, (my Dad's name too) different strokes for different folks.
Although I don't go to lengths to plane spot, I understand the thrill.
As a 49 year old single mom, to this very day I will stop what I'm doing and run outside to stare at whatever aircraft happens to be screaming by. In fact just now two F-16s flew over and yeah, I watched them until they were no longer visible. My dad was a a pilot and it's in my blood.
Oh, and coin collecting is still cool too.
Harold Schultz 0
Mary Partelow,

I live under the glide path of KTEB! I too when in the back yard or in front of the house always look up and marvel at the different aircraft that are landing. I love witness the affluence of our nation, that so many have the means to afford (or maybe not) private aviation alternatives. I also love to see unusual aircraft that sometimes come to KTEB. Not too long ago, a B17, B26, P51 and a P38 (ultra cool!!!)

But that is a different matter, from a hobby of spotting the run of the mill aircraft types which are landing or taking off.

As you said, "different strokes for different folks".

Waiting one day to see a Lockheed Constellation. Probably none left which are still airworthy. But a beautiful example of aeronautical engineering.
Marc Wester 0
Everytime a person is prosecuted for something like this, the terrorists win another victory and the people lose a bit more freedom. Sigh...
alistairm 0
@harold: once upon a time aircraft like the B's and p's u mentioned were a bit run of the mill.sure,kinda cool to see them these days.but,that is still plane spotting, which is a hobby.go to a local airport and watch warbirds come in, jet fighters,airlines,private planes,cargo planes.... it's all plane're no different just becuase you prefer to see warbirds. Even at cyul, i see something different every weekend.yes,it does originate from ww2 - how old are you
anyway? Im not to sure why aviators should be the only ones to enjoy plane spotting.are postal workers the only ones who should collect stamps? Should bankers be the only ones to collect coins?ex military to collect military memoribilia?if you are confused by why peopple plane spot,then i am a little confused by your train of thought.
@Harold as well -- In Kansas City, we have a ex-TWA Super-G Constellation that is almost back to airworthiness at the [ National Airline History Museum] I had the chance to do a walk-through and chat with the caretakers and get the status of the aircraft. It may once again make trips to airshows, but it needs more work, especially on the engines. For movie buffs out there, it was featured in the film, "Aviator" and hangs out with a Martin 404, DC-3, and a newly acquired L-1011.
I cannot see how the cops in SA can keep themselves busy with a plain spotter when the crime is so high, I heard that it is very unlikely to get help when you call the cops at night. I myself had been watching how a car is being hot-wired and while we tried to call the emergency number of the cops 10111, we actually waited more than 20 minutes before the call was answered! They never came out and the car was gone!
Scott R a y 0
It's only a matter of time before the US(SR) government outlaws aircraft and police scanners in the US. As usual it will be pawned of as an issue of your safety. This country is orbiting the tyranny drain faster by the day.
linbb 0
Glad that I live in the USA not in that place with those laws that serve no one or anything worth while. Go chase bad guys not someone who can go home and listen to the radio traffic on there computer or sit in there house where no one can see them. Ham radio licences are over rated anyway and most people who have them think they are in a class all there own.
ken young 0
Ahh...Here in the good 'ol US of A the airwaves belong to the PUBLIC. Therefore, anything that goes through our airspace is fair game. If an entity wishes to keep it from the public they are free( within limitations set by law) to prevent reception. Although, save for highly sensitive transmissions, such as the comm between AF-1 or AF-2 and tower/ATC and sensitive national security/military communications, I know of no such exception.
Scott R a y 0
" for highly sensitive transmissions, such as the comm between...I know of no such exception."

Not yet, but it's coming. Open your eyes.

Aviation spotters, photographers and buffs without radios are already harassed and under suspicion at many US airports as are RR buffs photographing trains.

Any future implementation of laws restricting radio monitoring would be useless from a safety enhancing angle, since the real bad guys don't obey the law anyway, but politicians don't seem to care about such minor details.
Frank Goodale 0
In this post 9/11 climate here in the USA (Patriot Act, DHS, and much more, about which average Joe Citizen knows nothing about), this kind of action might be here tomorrow. You can be detained for taking photos of "non-aesthetic" scenes, etc. already
Mary Partelow 0
@Harold My personal wish would be one of the rare B-24s. My dad flew them in WWII. He did get the chance to ride aboard as a passenger in his later years. He didn't even mention to the crew that he once piloted those Liberators.
It's funny, everywhere I've lived I point out the nearby bases as landmarks. Never mind "Silicon Valley", etc. It's always been Moffett Field, Edwards AFB and now Davis-Monthan. There's nothing like being near a great flight path.
John Tyler 0
Cant' imagine needing a license to just listen. Brits have let their pols take a freedom from them. The "Patriot Act" could do the same thing too. Americans must be ever vigilant or their freedoms will be taken in the name of "Protecting the people ". We let the Patriot act continue. TSA ezaminers routinely feel-up women, men, children, and infants. A great place for a guy that gets his jollys off feeling up people or pedophile.
Ralph Wigzell 0
They have all sorts of stupid laws here. I hunted high and low but could not find one that applies directly to listening to ATC.
It´s looks like in the future, to be an officer, will be the only legal activity.
Chip Hermes 0
I agree with you, Boyd, but honestly I'm surprised we don't hear more about this kind of stuff, particularly in the UK where aircraft spotting is very popular and I believe listening to the radio is illegal as well.


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