Meet Scotland's Eye on the Sky, Plane Spotter Colin Lourie
By Laura Piper on Sunday 27 April 2014

On a hill in Edinburgh, a boy with blue eyes stares out of his bedroom window at planes swooping by like birds in flight.
Above him, small models of the flying machines dangle on threads. He saved up his pocket money to buy them, two shillings a plane, and built them himself.
It is the 1960s Scotland and Colin Lourie is hooked on a hobby that will last a lifetime.
“Virtually every afternoon, after school, I would cycle to Turnhouse to watch the planes,” said Colin. “I remember the smell of burnt aviation fuel and newly cut grass. Those are the two things that stick in your mind. It’s a smell of its own, it’s stunning.
Turnhouse, the first incarnation of Edinburgh Airport, joined the other airports across the country in an era of flight which Scots flocked to take part in.
“People dressed up for their flights back then, it was a real occasion,” said Colin.
As a lad, Colin joined the other shorts-clad boys to form The Turnhouse Aircraft Spotters Club, along with a bunch of older plane spotting gents who had been gazing at the skies above the airport since the war.
From Mike (“Cake”) Gateaux, Terry and Mike, to Bill Bowie who lived on tea and cigarettes, Colin became a part of an unlikely group of plane spotters, armed with pencils, pads and cameras.

P'wick 83

   Lying on the ground. Prestwick airshow, June 1983, trying to get an interesting angle of a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy.

“One of my earliest memories is of a Dragon Rapide doing ten bob flights, where he’d fly around Edinburgh for a bit before landing,” recalls Colin.
“We used to run and get the pilot’s cigarettes or crisps for him and every now and then we’d get a shot in the plane in return.”
But it was Prestwick airport in the west which really drew the plane spotters in. “We’d take the train at half six in the morning through to Glasgow where we’d get a bus down to Prestwick airport,” said Colin.
“It was Mecca for us because that’s where the American pilots were based. They were educated, they’d been abroad and these guys were the ones who’d let you on the planes. Hardly any of the British ones would, but they would let you do what you want.
“They also had cans of Coca Cola with them, which you didn’t get in Scotland at the time – we just had the bottles. As kids we used to get them off them and sell them on at school,” said Colin with a grin.
Today, 67-year-old Colin still has the old journals he kept from his teenage plane-spotting days, complete with entire records of plane numbers and delicate sketches of the aircraft painted in coloured ink.
He has also become a gentle guardian of our aircraft history, carefully preserving all the photos he has taken
through his website so he can share them with everyo


A young Colin exloring the cockpit of Fairey Gannet at RNAS Abbotsinch (which became Glasgow Airport).

“I still need to find the right place to put everything so everyone can see them in the future though, once I’m gone,” said Colin.
“Young people aren’t interested in this sort of thing at the moment. They can fly and land planes on their computers.
“What I do now might not be so important to this generation, but it might be important to the generation which comes next. It will become history.”
To visit the full log books and view all the fantastic images of our aviation history that Colin has compiled visit his website and share your own memories with him.