IF YOU make allowances for delays on the way to the airport, I asked a fortnight ago, how can you subsequently fill in the time on the occasions when nothing goes wrong? 'Plane-spotting. That's how,' suggests Philip Robinson of Sheffield. 'Now I can talk to any anorak-clad, notebook-clutching aircraft spotter on equal terms. I know the maximum take-off weight of an Airbus A340, and can tell you how many 747s Air Madagascar has in its fleet.' (One.)

Manchester, he says, is the most spotter-friendly airport. The spectator terrace (admission free) has a shop selling airband radios; these allow you to listen in to arriving and departing aircraft.

To sort out the A340s from the 747s, Mr Robinson suggests buying Flightcheck from the spotter-shop. This contains a comprehensive list of Manchester's services, including the weekly Uzbekistan Airlines flight to Tashkent (Thursdays, 8pm). The aircraft, says Flightcheck, is an Ilyushin 62 - no doubt carrying a bicycle or two.