In case you haven’t heard, it’s been a little windy in the U.K. Or I should say, a lot windy. Storm Eunice has been wreaking havoc across the country, so far killing four people, causing widespread disruption and destruction and producing the fastest gust of wind — 122 mph — England has ever seen. So, trapped at home with nothing to do but listen to the wind aggressively whistle outside and point out, over and over again, how windy it is, us Brits have found comfort in collectively losing our shit over a livestream of airplanes attempting to land.
Said stream came from the YouTube channel Big Jet TV, which, at its peak on February 18th, drew in more than 7.6 million viewers. The premise was simple: Host and aviation enthusiast Jerry Dyer (with his director of operations Gilly Prestwood in his ear) stood on top of a van outside London’s Heathrow Airport — as he does twice a week — and filmed all the planes making their nail-biting descents, narrating the action with such witticisms as, “Come on, mate, bring it in,” “Easy, easy, easy!!!” and “WOOOAAAH!” When a Qatar Airways A380 failed its first two attempts, Dyer offered to buy the pilots beers if they landed the third (they did, but it’s unclear whether his offer has been accepted). And when he wasn’t filming, he was responding to comments in the YouTube chat, giving off-the-cuff interviews with the growing group of reporters surrounding his van and lamenting the treacherous weather.
The hilarious, sweet and suspenseful clips were aired on news segments about the storm, featured in publications across the country and turned into memes on Twitter (Dyer even made appearances on This Morning and the BBC). On my own social media feeds, I watched friends film their reactions to the livestream, share screenshots of group chats popping off with airplane talk and tweet about the “Big Jet TV Daddy.” In the end, the stream reportedly drew in more viewers than any other program on terrestrial television that week.
Speaking to me via Zoom three days after breaking the U.K. internet, Dyer says he first realized how big the stream was when he started hearing Gilly in his ear repeating, “Oh my god, oh my god,” and — notably — when film crews started “trying to get over the fence to come and interview [him].” “It was chaos,” he explains. “We were very lucky that we did it on the right day — thank god to Mother Nature. What a great day, man.”
Dyer has been into airplanes all his life. Not only was his father a pilot — he gestures to a photo he has of him on the wall, standing next to a Fokker DC.I jet — but he grew up near Heathrow, cementing his love of aviation. In 2016, he set up Big Jet TV, after finding out that Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson — who set up his own aircraft maintenance and pilot training company, Cardiff Aviation, in 2012 — was piloting a plane that was due to land at Heathrow. Dyer sped to London, held his phone up against the airport’s fence and livestreamed the plane’s arrival on Twitter. Around 10 people tuned in to watch the stream. “The rest,” he says, “is history.” Now, Big Jet TV boasts a 280,000-strong YouTube channel of paying members — who, for between $2.71 and $24.49 get access to special programming and other perks — as well as a whole load of merch, and, as of last week, national recognition (including a beer dedicated to them).
But not everyone is celebrating Dyer and Big Jet TV’s sudden rise to internet stardom. Shortly after the livestream started spreading across social media, a Twitter account called The Lies of Big Jet TV tweeted: “This companies (sic) administrators are bullies, narcists (sic), anti-royal family, racist, people shouldn’t follow them.” The next day, the account followed this up with: “THANK YOU Big Jet TV, you have helped us double our followers overnight… breeding off your success… we will keep up our drive to close you down, let your followers continue with their drive on Twitter to close us down… Let’s see who wins!”
That a fairly small YouTube channel, which acquired viral fame for its charming documentation of an airport on a stormy day, would have an arch-nemesis seemed too bizarre to be true. It got even weirder when I came across a video on The Lies of Big Jet TV’s YouTube channel that purported to show an apology video from Dyer after he didn’t stop livestreaming on the day Prince Philip died (it’s worth pointing out here that the BBC received over 109,000 complaints after it refused to show anything other than news of Philip’s death — so Dyer’s uninterrupted stream was probably welcomed by fans). But while this might seem like a farcical internet “rivalry,” The Lies of Big Jet TV is actually causing Dyer and Prestwood a fairly significant headache.
Quoting a Daily Mail article in which the reporter referred to the two as “rivals,” Prestwood wrote that The Lies of Big Jet TV’s “four-year hate/bullying campaign” has had a negative impact on the team’s mental health. “Everything they claim is completely false,” she wrote. “There are no lies. The only lies come from them.” This line is echoed by Dyer, who tells me that the people behind the anti-Big Jet TV campaign are a “very small group of keyboard warriors.” Prestwood later clarifies that there’s an estimated 10 admins of the Lies of Big Jet TV group, and a further 50 people who’ve said libelous things about Big Jet TV online. So far, their actions against Big Jet TV include: meticulously monitoring when Dyer should potentially be self-isolating; warning that “he is being watched” and then alleging that he’s breaking the rules (more than once); threatening him about his tax return; and, seemingly, stalking him and sharing the photos on Twitter. The group has also accused Dyer of racism because of a clip in which he allegedly jokes about being in a “minstrel show” (people on Twitter have questioned if Dyer will emerge as a Milkshake Duck — someone who gains popularity online, but is later outed as having engaged in offensive behavior).
What could have possibly happened in the world of aviation fandom to lead to such a messy dispute? Although they don’t appear to know the founder of the page, Big Jet TV says that the drama properly kicked off in 2018, when someone — who we’ll call Keith — published Dyer’s real surname (which is Dier — he only changed it for Big Jet TV because people kept pronouncing it wrong) on the Big Jet TV Facebook page. Despite the fact that Dyer’s name wasn’t a secret, the admins decided to delete the post. After this, Keith became suspicious that his posts were regularly being deleted — an accusation that Prestwood denies — which wasn’t helped by a second post of his actually getting removed, when he announced one of Big Jet TV’s crew’s job change (the staff member wanted to tell friends himself, so asked for it to be taken down). “I sent a message to Keith and explained [why the post was removed],” says Prestwood. “[And he said in caps lock], ‘I’m a dictator,’ and all this other nonsense. Then he found [The Lies of Big Jet TV] page, he got involved with it and it all blew up from there.”
Since then, Dyer and his team say they’ve been doxxed, threatened and reported to Heathrow Police for supposedly filming illegally. The hate has even spread offline, with members of The Lies of Big Jet TV allegedly calling the security at LAX airport, claiming that Dyer — who they knew was catching a flight at the time — was a terrorist. Dyer and Prestwood also allege that the group is responsible for keying the Big Jet TV van and sticking nails into the tires — a discovery made by Dyer when he realized he had two flats while driving on the freeway. When I ask if he finds this intimidating, Dyer asserts that he’s “not scared of anyone” — though he says he’s taken certain safety precautions, like installing cameras outside of his van.
In an email statement, The Lies of Big Jet TV denies all of these accusations. “We would never condone such actions that would endanger the life or limb of the driver or any other road user,” the group says. They explain that their aim with the campaign — they refute the word ‘feud,’ as does Big Jet TV — “is to highlight Big Jet TV’s rule breaking,” specifically live streaming from an aircraft in flight. The group also says that their intention isn’t to shut down Big Jet TV’s channel, but rather to force them to “follow rules everywhere” and stop breaking “health and safety laws.” They’re also concerned about Big Jet TV’s “monopoly” on YouTube and Facebook. “A healthy streaming community with variety is better than just one streamer,” the group continues.
Ultimately, Dyer — who’s clearly agitated discussing this issue — puts it down to jealousy. “Because of my background in media and having worked in sales, it was very easy for me to upscale the business rapidly, where other people have tried and failed,” he says. “There’s people [in The Lies of Big Jet TV group] who I’ve met along the way who kiss my ass, but then started this hate campaign toward me because of nothing. I don’t mind somebody saying, ‘I don’t like Big Jet TV’ or ‘I hate Jerry Dyer, I think he’s an idiot’ — that’s freedom of speech. But when you start [saying libelous things]…”
Nevertheless, both Dyer and Prestwood say that they just want the campaign — which they claim is using their footage illegally — to be shut down, and say they don’t understand why social media platforms haven’t done anything about it. Even today, The Lies of Big Jet TV has gloated about avoiding shut down. At least, says Dyer, Big Jet TV’s newfound fame might help with their enemy’s destruction. “The good thing is that what’s happened has exposed them,” he explains, “so they’re getting reported multiple times. They’re getting ripped to shreds [by the public].”
That said, it’s still hard to draw an accurate conclusion about what’s really going on in the world of big jet fanatics. But in my opinion, what this whole drama proves is that we really, truly cannot have nice things. All 7.6 million people wanted to do was watch some planes trying to land in the wind, and yet here we are, talking about the politics of it all. I guess every subculture has it’s weird, wacky, and, frankly, outrageous drama — truthfully, I’m just glad we all got to be a part of Big Jet TV’s, even if the turbulence is strong.