Maybe spotters like things easy, or the guarantee of seeing a certain kind or amount of traffic. But it can become pretty samey when the likes of London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Atlanta or Frankfurt are visited again and again.
In this post I want to suggest ten of the best spotting airports which you probably haven’t considered visiting, but ones which can be really rewarding.
Renton Municipal, WA
For spotters visiting the Seattle area, the main Seattle Tacoma, or the other two Boeing production plants at Everett and King County Boeing Field are commonly visited. However, the third Boeing plant in the area is at Renton Municipal Airport, and is less than ten miles from the city and other airports. It is here that most of the company’s 737 aircraft are built (over 40 per month!) and see their first flights over neighbouring Lake Washington.
A parking spot off Rainier Ave N is great for looking over the airfield and Boeing 737 ramps. You can take pictures of movements.
An airport that has sprung from open desert to a modern storage and maintenance facility in no time at all. In recent months it has been home to many stored and retired airliners – many from the downfall of Russian carriers such as Transaero. The airport is situated between Valencia and Madrid. Here’s a spotting guide.
Most spotters visiting Thailand will visit Bangkok’s two main airports for their fill of airliners. However, the resort of Phuket in the south of the country is a very busy, popular place and its airport handles a good range of traffic. Expect to see large wide-body airliners from across Asia, Australasia and the Middle East, and plenty of low-cost and leisure airliners from the Far East. The location is very pleasant, with the tropical beach at the end of the runway one of the best places to watch and photograph aircraft.
Hamburg Finkenwerder, Germany
The main Airbus production plant at Toulouse is very popular among spotters. However, the German equivalent at Hamburg is great too. You’ll see the A319, A321 and A380 lines in particular, and can take a tour of the facility just like at Toulouse. Outside, there are two main areas to spot – one a hill overlooking the airfield and runway; the other is the dike which runs the length of the runway.
Tenerife North, Canary Islands
Once the primary airport on the island of Tenerife, and site of the world’s most deadly aviation disaster in 1977, Tenerife North, or Los Rodeos, airport has been largely forgotten since the new Tenerife South airport was built closer to the tourist resorts in 1978. However, you can still find an interesting mix of intra-island traffic, mainline Iberia flights to Madrid, low-cost and tourist airlines to Europe, and even links to Africa. Almost 4 million passengers still use this airport every year.
Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane tend to be the airports of choice for spotters visiting Australia. Over on the west coast, the city of Perth has an airport worth checking out. It is a hub for Jetstar, Tigerair, Virgin Australia and Qantas, and on the route maps for many Far East and Middle East carriers. It has three public viewing areas, including one on the International Terminal, a spotting platform alongside runway 03, and an elevated mound near the domestic terminal.
Sapporo New Chitose, Japan
The busiest airport on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. This airport is a joint civil-military facility, and is home to the government’s Boeing 747-400 transport aircraft, and a squadron of F-15s if military aircraft are your thing. Aside from that it is busy with all of the Japanese carriers and many from around the Far East.
There are both indoor and outdoor observation areas on the fourth floor of the domestic terminal, open 9am to 5pm in the summer.
Minneapolis St. Paul, MN
No, really. It’s not just a faceless hub where you switch from one plane to another. MSP is very busy with Delta and Sun Countrry flights, and sees most North American and some European carriers. If you go when it’s not snowy and cold, you’ve got a great alternative to Atlanta, New York or Dallas for number crunching. Plus, the airport recently recognised the spotter by opening an official viewing location.
Tired of Frankfurt? Munich is a worthy alternative which has been growing in prominence, and is Lufthansa’s second hub. Plus, it is just as popular with European carriers, and has more holiday traffic. The airport is great for spotters, with a collection of preserved airliners and two outdoor viewing areas – one on Terminal 2, and one next to the preserved aircraft at The Mound.
Buenos Aires Aeroparque, Argentina
A really fun place located very centrally in Buenos Aires. Largely a domestic airport, Aeroparque sees lots of movements by Aerolineas Argentinas, LAN, and their partners. There are places to spot alongside the terminal, and in the park near the end of runway 13, which is good for photography. Just be careful, especially at night.