‘Blimey, He Looks High.’ A Gale-Force Play-by-Play at Heathrow Goes Viral.
LONDON — As a winter gale with 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts tore across the British Isles on Friday, the government warned everybody to stay inside. But one man, Jerry Dyer, ventured out to a blustery field at the end of Runway 27L at Heathrow Airport to capture live footage of planes trying to land in the howling storm.
Within minutes, Mr. Dyer’s YouTube feed, Big Jet TV, had gone viral, drawing nearly 200,000 people who hung on every word of his breathless play-by-play. Within hours, he had become a media sensation, pulled out of the enthusiastic, if obscure, subculture of plane spotters to do interviews with the BBC, ITV and Channel Four.
“Easy, easy, easy,” Mr. Dyer said, coaxing down an Emirates A380, as it bobbed and wove in the treacherous crosswinds, its wings flexing and flaps moving up and down to keep the giant aircraft steady. “Look at the outboard ailerons, man,” he said as it landed with a puff of smoke from its tires. “And she’s down.”
“Go around!” he shouted as a Qatar Airways A380 aborted its approach and climbed back into the clouds, engines screaming. The plane made a second failed attempt, eliciting another whoop from Mr. Dyer. On its third attempt, he offered to buy beers for the Qatar pilots if they landed the plane. They did.
“Blimey, he looks high,” Mr. Dyer said of a British Airways jet that struggled to descend before planting itself well down the runway.
High winds damaged buildings, disrupted travel and caused multiple deaths.CreditCredit…Stefan Rousseau/PA Images, via Getty Images
There was no shortage of earthbound upheaval from the storm known as Eunice. The authorities issued the first-ever red weather warning for London. Winds shredded parts of the roof of the O2 sports arena. Video showed pedestrians being blown into the street in a London neighborhood. Flights and trains were canceled while broadcasters showed obligatory pictures of waves crashing into sea walls.
And yet, it was Mr. Dyer who caught the public imagination. For anyone who has ever suffered through a bumpy landing, his images were occasionally terrifying. Some planes landed at an angle and swung around sharply as their tires gripped the tarmac. Others thudded down or alighted unsteadily, their wings dipping. For a few particularly stormy hours, about a third of the planes were forced to abort their landings, or in aviation parlance, to do a “go around.”
Mr. Dyer, an aviation buff who founded Big Jet TV as an online membership club and films landings twice a week, mixed armchair analysis of flying techniques with occasional flights of song (he sampled John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”). He showed a fondness for bigger planes, referring to the Boeing 777 as a “big old bully boy triple-7” and lavishing attention on an aging 747 (“we waited all day for her,” he said reverently).
Mr. Dyer made a point of describing the nationality of the airlines, saying at one point, “Let’s see how the Chinese do,” and at another, “Here come the Russians.” Big Jet TV was like the “Winter Olympics for plane landings,” Jon Sopel, a former North America editor of the BBC, said on Twitter.
“Let’s see how the Brits do with their 380,” he said as a British Airways jet lumbered into view in a fierce headwind. Mr. Dyer said he hoped that the airline would stay committed to the A380, a double-deck behemoth that carries 600 passengers but has fallen out of fashion. As a romantic, he praised the carrier for painting some of its planes in vintage livery.
“Smell that tire smoke from the 380, mate,” Mr. Dyer exclaimed from his perch, across a road and a chain-link fence from the runway.
In the gaps between planes, Mr. Dyer photographed a small herd of horses that gamboled around the field, stopping occasionally to rub their noses on the hood of his truck. He complained about not being able to drink coffee in the howling wind. He read out comments from new subscribers to Big Jet TV, from Ireland and the United States. And he juggled visits from film crews.
Mr. Dyer’s rough-edged style rubs some people the wrong way. When news of the death of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, interrupted a show last April, he snapped, “Long live the king, or whatever it is.” The next day, he made a contrite statement, saying he had reacted badly under stress.
On Friday, however, he was euphoric. “This is the best scenario you could possibly imagine,” he told BBC Radio. “Big kudos to the pilots and the crews working at the airports.”
While Mr. Dyer repeated his admiration for the skills of the pilots, an unmistakable glee crept into his voice whenever a plane looked to be having an especially gnarly approach. “He’s off center,” Mr. Dyer exclaimed of a wayward Delta Air Lines jet. “Careful, now,” he said as a 737 bucked and pitched in the wind.
“It’s getting a bit mental again,” he said with undisguised pleasure, as the wind whipped up after a brief lull. “Bloody hell! Bring it on, man.”