Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Reaching for the sky

Demetris Gregoriou is determined to be a pilot

By Constantinos Psillides

FOR MOST of us, “catching a plane” means to board one, but for 16-year-old Nicosia plane-spotter Demetris Gregoriou the phrase takes on a whole new meaning. To him plane-spotting is a way of life and judging by his never-vanishing smile and infectious optimism, it is a happy one.

But mere observation and jotting down aircraft serial numbers doesn’t seem to sate the 16-year-old’s thirst for aviation. Gregoriou has taken the hobby a step further by shooting, editing and uploading videos of aircrafts to his YouTube channel.

And if you think that this is a little nerdy, the more than 30,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, GreatFlyer Aviation Video Productions (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3U3CqyYHvp1rALI2t-_AUg), beg to differ. In total, Gregoriou’s channel has had over 16 million views since 2009.

The young aviation enthusiast – as he describes himself – gets immense pleasure from recognising aircraft types, logging aircraft registration numbers, observing each aircraft for unique characteristics and meeting other plane-spotters.

“Since I was a child I was always into aviation. Nobody in my family ever was, actually, so it was kind of a decision of mine to become an aviation enthusiast,” Gregoriou told the Sunday Mail.

“Most of my childhood memories have to do with travelling to Athens on Cyprus Airways’ planes, as I have relatives there. Plane-spotting came along the way, since McKenzie beach [near Larnaca airport], where I used to go from a very young age with my family, provides a fantastic location for watching landings and takeoffs.”

Gregoriou soon grabbed his father’s camera and started taking pictures. Then he got his own and experimented with it. Still not satisfied, and knowing that it was easier to tell a story using video, he got his first camcorder aged nine and the aviation camera-man was born.

Among his many videos, Gregoriou posted one with airplanes landing at the airport on the Greek island of Skiathos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRb-xF0RW-k). Skiathos is known for its short and narrow runways that force pilots to fly at a low altitude in order to land. The place is ideal for plane-spotting and a number of YouTube videos were posted featuring planes landing and on-lookers being thrown around like rag dolls due to the jet blasts. Authorities actually put in place a protective barrier for people to shelter behind so they don’t get hurt by the jet blasts.

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Gregoriou’s Skiathos video has over six million hits, possibly making it the most viewed video ever posted by a Cypriot on YouTube.

Gregoriou also has the distinguished honour of having shot what he claims to be the lowest landing ever at Skiathos airport. If you are afraid of aeroplanes you better hold on to something because this video is terrifying (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWetojC0ul0).

When asked if he was ever afraid, Georgiou is amused.

“That’s actually a surprising question as many people consider plane spotting a rather boring hobby. My only fears when plane spotting are running out of battery, people blocking my shots and/or yelling, me messing up the footage due to a cramp or a bee stinging my leg, and (especially in Cyprus) getting sunburn!” he said.

He sings a different tune when it comes to the Skiathos airport though. “Plane spotting at Skiathos Airport is a different story. On take-offs at Skiathos, we get to experience ‘jet blast’, the raw power of aircraft engines running on full power. Stand behind it and you might run into some problems, such as a stone hitting you or even being blown away. It can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. I do not usually stand behind a jetblast, in order to protect my camera,” he said.

Gregoriou repeats the aviators’ motto “you should never be afraid of your aircraft, but you must respect it”, explaining that this is also what plane-spotters do.

“We are not afraid of what we are doing, but we take every precaution and follow the law and any other applicable rules.”

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And how does he handle his YouTube fame?

Gregoriou says that it’s overwhelming – since he has to go through thousands of comments everyday – but admits that it’s the positive feedback that keeps him going. “Not only do I enjoy doing what I do, but now I know that millions of others get to enjoy it, too. When it comes to video views, it is not about numbers. It is about knowing that you make people happy, and that is my goal, ultimately. It is the positive feedback from the fans of my channel that keeps my channel going and growing,” the 16-year-old said.

He stressed, however, that it’s not always rosy on the successful side of YouTube. “Unfortunately, there are people who do not see the good in what I am doing. There are some who are entirely against it and do not see the creative, artistic, useful and productive side of what I am trying to achieve with my YouTube channel. I have been asked to entirely stop my channel,” he said.

He finds it ironic and very depressing.

“I hope that one day young people with ambitions who, instead of doing nothing with their free time, go and do something creative, innovative, healthy and constructive to be taken are taken more seriously.”

Not surprisingly, Gregoriou sees his future in aviation and not just as a spectator. Besides going around filming aircrafts, Gregoriou is working towards getting his pilot’s licence. He has been flying ASK-13 and K7 gliders/sailplanes since 2010 -completing 145 hours – while he has also logged 15 hours of powered aircraft flying for his Private Pilot’s Licence.

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And before that he flew remote-controlled models and has his own flight simulator home cockpit.

“What is certain is that my interest in aviation will never die, and most of what I do in my life will always have to do with aviation.”

His dream is to become an airline pilot and he says he is willing to do everything necessary to achieve his goal.

“Pilots are not only aircraft operators; they are geographers, meteorologists, lawyers, biologists and psychologists, physicists, navigators,” he said. “They need to plan ahead, work with different kinds of people as a team and much more. Moreover, they get to enjoy what they love doing most, while getting paid to do it.

“When people ask me ‘Are you going to study to be a pilot?’, I answer, ‘Yes, I WILL become a pilot’.”

At the tender age of 16, Gregoriou has achieved what most people go through their whole lives and never do. He has found his purpose. He has set his sights on it and is determined to fly straight towards it.

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