Scanning the skies for the next flight

Video posted April 25, 2017 in News by Yukai Peng


Most people go to airports because they want to fly somewhere.

Penn State junior Wenjie Zheng goes to see the planes.

Just like bird watchers watch birds, he is a plane watcher -- an aviation enthusiast for whom airplanes have become an indispensable part of their lives.

He was born in Beijing, but attended high school in Turkey becaue his parents were working there at the time. He caught the plane watcher bug as he traveled through Europe, where a new country was just a short plane ride away.

As a civil aviation enthusiast, Wenjie Zheng is interested in everything about airplanes. On a European flight he was invited to sit in the cabin of a Boeing 737. Photo courtesy of Wenjie Zheng

Zheng received a DSLR camera as a high school graduation gift from his parents. The first thing he did with his new camera was travel to Ataturk Airport and start making pictures of planes.

Now he's a senior majoring in geography and economics. Now he drives to airports from  New York to Maryland.

“State College is not close from all of these places,” Zheng said. “Usually it takes me at least an entire day to make the airplane spotting trip.”

The drives can be as long as five hours each way, but Zheng said it's worth the time to be able to see and photograph the planes.

Recently, Zheng spent a day going to Washington Dulles Airport to do plane spotting with Thomas Yin, another civil aviation enthusiast from China. It is the third plane spotting trip this year for Zheng. He has been to Dulles so many times that he can drive directly to the airport without looking at GPS.

“I cannot remember how many times have I been to the airports,” Zheng said.“Probably more than 15 times. I hope I can keep making these trips as much as possible in the future.”

Zheng said he loves the whole phoptpographic process, from taking the pictures to editing and uploading them to a his personal gallery on the website

Zheng uploaded his first picture to the website in December, 2016. Jetphotos curates submissions. Zheng's images have been chosen for publication more than 40 times. His more popular images have been viewed more than 2000 times each.

In addition to photographing airplanes, Zheng began collecting model planes three years ago. He now has more than 70 models. He said his favorite collection features aircraft operated by Delta Airlines.

Photo gallery: Wenjie Zheng's collection

Here are highlights from Wenjie Zheng’s airplane photo and model collections.