Guide to aviation and spotting in India

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, India, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Hotels | Posted on 03-05-2014

1

8.-JETAPRONVABB

India is one of the world’s most populous countries. It covers an area of around 1.3 million square miles, and has a population of over 1.2 billion people.

With a country of this size and with that many people, transport naturally plays a major role in everyday life, both in terms of moving the population around, and also in bringing people to and from India from the rest of the world, whether for tourism or business.

Air India 707

The Ministry of Aviation controls civil aviation within India – covering both airlines and airports. However, since the 1990s liberalisation has meant that the airline industry in particular has been able to welcome new entrants to challenge the foothold previously held by national carrier Air India (and Indian Airlines, which it merged with in 2011).

However, for the aviation enthusiast India has proved somewhat difficult as a place to pursue aircraft spotting and photography. Security is notoriously tight and unsympathetic to anyone carrying cameras or binoculars anywhere near an airport, with one notorious case even involving spotters using a hotel room being arrested as suspected terrorists after concern was raised over their behaviour and equipment.

Yet despite this, India is a fascinating place for aviation where new and old meet. It has some incredibly busy airports which see aircraft from many eras operating daily.

Main Airports

Mumbai

There are more than 20 international airports in India. The principal ones of interest to the spotter are:

  • Delhi Indira Ghandi International Airport
  • Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
  • Chennai International Airport
  • Bangalore Kempegowda International Airport
  • Kolkata Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport
  • Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi International Airport
  • Kochi Cochin International Airport
  • Ahmedabad Sardar Patel International Airport
  • Pune Lohegaon Airport
  • Thiruvananthapuram International Airport

 

Principal Carriers

Air India is the national airline of India. It was one the largest airline in Indian subcontinent, but is now not even the largest in India. After years of financial struggles and an ageing fleet, it is now positioning itself for growth, having merged with Indian Airlines in 2011 and introduced a modern and efficient fleet of aircraft over recent years. It is also poised to join the Star Alliance in 2014.

Air India’s principal bases are at Delhi and Mumbai airports. It has smaller bases at Chennai and Kolkata, with a number of focus cities in other regional airports around the country.

Its fleet comprises Airbus A319/A320/A321, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777-200LR and -300ER, and Boeing 787-8.

Air India Express at Cochin

Air India Express is a low-cost subsidiary of the national carrier, operating Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Air India Regional operates regional flights linking with the parent carrier’s hubs using ATR 42-300 and Bombardier CRJ-700ER aircraft.

GoAir

GoAir formed in 2005 as a low cost carrier with its base at Mumbai. It operates Airbus A320s to 21 different domestic cities, and recently placed an order for 72 of the new A320neo models. Originally GoAir painted its aircraft in a range of different colours, but has now standardised on the grey option.

IndiGo is a Delhi-based low-cost airline which has grown incredibly fast since it started flying in 2006, now carrying more passengers than any other airline in India. It has secondary bases in Kolkata and Mumbai, and flies Airbus A320s both domestically and internationally. It also has a large number of A320neo aircraft on order to complement its growth plans.

Jet Airways is one of India’s biggest carriers, operating over 3000 flights per day. Its primary base is at Mumbai Airport, but with expansion has come a number of other secondary hubs, including Kolkata, Kempegowda, and Delhi. It also operates a base at Brussels in Belgium, through which it stages international flights to destinations in North America.

Jet Airways’ fleet comprises Airbus A330-200/300, ATR 72-500/600, Boeing 737-700/800/900, Boeing 777-300ER. Boeing 787-8s are due to join the fleet from late 2014.

Additional coverage is offered through the JetKonnect brand, which flies ATR 72 and Boeing 737s from the main fleet on low cost flights on many domestic routes from Mumbai. This airline emerged from Air Sahara and JetLite.

Spice Jet

SpiceJet is another major low-cost and ‘no frills’ airline in India, formed in 1993 (as ModiLuft). It has principal bases in Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad, and flies a large fleet of Boeing 737-800/900 and Bombardier Q400 aircraft to 46 domestic and ten international cities. It recently placed an order for Boeing 737MAX aircraft as it seeks to increase its market share across the increasingly competitive carriers.

 

 

A380 and 787 in India

Large and modern airliners such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 have both come to India. In the case of the 787, Air India was one of the first carriers to take delivery of the type, and now deploys it on international routes mostly from Delhi, as well as from Mumbai to London Heathrow.

Jet Airways are due to take delivery of Boeing 787s in late 2014, and will use them on their international schedules.

No Indian carrier operates the Airbus A380, and the Indian government was determined to ban airlines from flying it to the country, despite passenger demand on some routes. This was mainly a move to stop large international carriers from dominating routes to India’s hubs at the cost of losing business for Air India. However, recently the government has relented on its ban, allowing the A380 to fly into Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai airports. Singapore Airlines were first to take advantage, introducing the type twice daily to both Delhi and Mumbai. Emirates and Lufthansa are likely to follow suit.

 

Other interesting aircraft in India

What about other aircraft that might be of interest to the spotter in India? Well, the Indian Air Force operates a number of interesting transport types, including Antonov An-32, BAe/HS 748, Boeing 737-700, C-130 Hercules, DHC-4 Caribou, Dornier 228, Embraer 135 LEGACY, Ilyushin IL-76/78, and C-17 Globemaster which all occasionally show up at the country’s civil airports.

Indian BAe 748

The Indian Navy also operates Boeing 737 P-8, BN2 Islands, and Dornier 228 aircraft.

 

Spotting

Spotting is where things get difficult in India. The hobby is definitely not understood by most people, and you’ll be sure to attract attention if you take out a camera or binoculars and start pointing them at aircraft – particularly if you’re near an airport fence.

You will also attract attention of the police or security personnel around the bigger airports, such as Delhi or Mumbai.

However, it is important that you know the official rules regarding this as there is hope for spotters and photographers in India…

The official law states that: No person shall take, or cause or permit to be taken, at a Government aerodrome or from an aircraft in flight, any photograph except in accordance with and subject to the terms and conditions of a permission in writing.

However, photography IS permitted within airport terminal buildings of all civilian airports, and at some mixed government/civilian airports, such as Goa and Pune.

You are also permitted to take photographs on board and airliner, so long as you are a ticket holder on that flight, and the aircraft is not at a government or military airport. Can you believe it was actually illegal to carry cameras and video equipment aboard an aircraft until 2005?

Another key aspect of the rules to remember if you are photographing outside an airport – it is not permitted to take pictures of the airport itself, however there is no rules about pictures at the airport.

It is wise to keep a copy of the rules handy if you are visiting India. This will at least allow you to back up your case if you are approached by an official. See these links:

http://dgca.nic.in/airrule/rule13.htm

http://dgca.nic.in/airrule/so1353.pdf

http://dgca.nic.in/aic/aic7_2004.pdf

 

None of India’s airports provide places for people to watch aircraft. As I said, it’s a misunderstood hobby which raises suspicion. Having said that, for most fare paying passengers you have a ticket to sit by the windows of your chosen airport and watch movements quite easily in most cases.

When doing this it is important to show discretion, particularly with the use of cameras, binoculars and SBS equipment as you are likely to attract attention quickly. Keep compact binoculars and cameras with shorter lenses in a bag and only use them sparingly.

Where the locals go

Naturally, local spotters will always know the best positions. When working on the book Mumbai Airports Through Time, spotters Sean DSilva and Jimmy Wadia shared their collection of hundreds of pictures taken around Mumbai Airports, and you can see that they knew the best locations to get good shots.  See some examples here from the book:

Mumbai IL-76

Air India 747 rain

14.-P1170226

The spot is a raised area of land near the airport perimeter which is higher than the fence level and is good for pictures of aircraft on the ground and in the air. However, Sean tells me that even here the officials will regularly move on and interrogate spotters.

Delhi Airport is not known for its spotting locations, so unless you find a local to show you around it is best to stick to watching movements from inside the terminal.The same can be said for Kolkata, Goa and Hyderabad.

Spotting at Chennai Airport

Spotting at Chennai Airport

Bangalore and Chennai are similar to Mumbai in that there are some locations close to the end of the runways which offer views. An active local community of spotters have a Facebook page for Chennai at (https://www.facebook.com/ChennaiPlaneSpotters) which shows the latest pictures that have been taken here, and may offer advice on where to go.

 

Spotting Hotels

Hotels often produce the best results for plane spotters in India. They offer privacy to watch (and often photograph) aircraft without worry about being questioned by security officers. Having said that, there were some people arrested for this at Delhi’s Radisson in 2010, so always show caution with equipment and how you behave in hotels.

The best hotels for spotting in India are:

Orchid Hotel at Mumbai Airport (http://www.orchidhotel.com/)

This hotel has some rooms facing the airport terminals, which are fine for logging movements. However, the main draw is the rooftop terrace and swimming pool which overlooks the airport and allows nearly all aircraft to be logged and acceptable photos to be taken. The hotel management understand the hobby, although you should inform staff of your intentions when arriving.

Radisson Blu Hotel at Delhi Airport (http://www.radissonblu.com/hotel-newdelhi)

Some rooms at this hotel face the airport, making it probably the best option for spotting in the city. However, given the problems caused with spotters at this hotel in the past, extreme caution should be exercised.

 

Museums

A few aviation museums exist in India, and these are usually happy for enthusiasts to take pictures of exhibits. Most, however, focus primarily on military aircraft. Examples include:

Connie_at_NAM_2

HAL Aerospace Museum, in Bangalore

Indian Air Force Museum, in Palam, Delhi. Website http://indianairforce.nic.in/show_page.php?pg_id=49

Naval Aviation Museum, in Vasco da Gama, Goa. The most notable exhibit is a Lockheed Constellation aircraft. Website http://www.goatourism.gov.in/destinations/museums/159-naval-aviation-museum

 

Events

India is home to a few air shows. Most notable is AeroIndia, which has become the largest in Asia and is primarily a showcase for military manufacturers and organisations to do business, but it also opens to the public. It is held at Yelahanka Air Force Base in Bangalore biannually. The next one is expected to be held in early 2015. Photography is acceptable at such events.

 

Should I go to India?

This is something that spotters need to weigh up. Clearly there are security issues with spotting, and some spotters have gotten into trouble in the past. But with discretion, many spotters travel to India every year and get some great results (just look at the photos on Airliners.net).

Mumbai Airports Through Time

In terms of aircraft, there are some here that you won’t find elsewhere – particularly aircraft in domestic fleets, and those of the Indian Air Force. Most of the airports are pretty busy so you should have a fruitful time.
One of the reasons we put together our book Mumbai Airports Through Time was to show off the variety of fascinating aircraft to be seen in India simply because it is difficult for people to get there and see for themselves. You can buy a copy of the book here.

If you do choose to go, it’s always advisable to seek advice from locals and show the utmost discretion in what you do.

Have you been spotting in India? Write a comment below and let us know how you found it…

Sydney Airport aviation community weekend – 4-5 April

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, Australasia, Australia | Posted on 19-03-2014

0

Qantas_A380_VH-OQB_SydneySydney Airport will host its second annual Aviation Community Weekend on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th April.

This year Sydney Airport will be offering two exclusive airfield tours.  Both tours will be escorted by an airfield safety vehicle enabling each of you to spend a reasonable amount of time on the airfield to capture aircraft landings and takeoffs.  The airfield tour will also consist of a tour around the inside perimeter fence.

Canon Australia are on board to offer product demonstrations along with a selection of super telephoto lenses available for use during an afternoon plane spotting session from a high vantage point.  This session will occur on the airport’s corporate office rooftop which has an impressive 180 degree runway view.

After Canon’s product demonstrations, Sydney Airport and YSSY Forum will offer light refreshments and finger food. A trivia competition will also be held, with several of stakeholders offering great experiences as prizes.

Pre-registration is open until Friday, 21st March at 9am (SYD time) where names for both airfield tours will be selected at random.

Sydney Rydges Hotel is the new spotting location

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Australasia, Australia, Spotting Hotels, Spotting News | Posted on 17-03-2014

0

Rydges Hotel ViewWe recently reported on the closure of Sydney’s Observation Deck on the International Terminal. However, the airport has been working with the Rydges Hotel in providing an alternative place for spotters to congregate.

The hotel has a rooftop area which it is now opening up to plane spotters for a small fee of $10.This fee gets you access to the rooftop, a free beverage from the cafe, and a spotter information sheet to help you get to grips with Sydney Airport. There are also family passes available for $30 for 2 adults and 2 children.

The Rydges Hotel is located within the International Terminal complex, and is Sydney’s only airport terminal hotel.

Views from the roof look across the airfield and runways, with many of the International Terminal gates in view, and the Domestic Terminal visible in the distance. All movements can be seen to some degree, so you’re not going to miss anything from here.

Rydges Hotel Rooftop

Photography is also possible for aircraft at the International Terminal and on the nearest (16R/34L) runway but needs a zoom lens.

Rydges Hotel Room Views

Spotter Hotel Package
If you’re looking to stay in Sydney, the Rydges Hotel has a special Plane Spotter Package which guarantees you a Deluxe King Room with a great view of the airport and surroundings, a pair of binoculars, food & drink voucher, free Wi-Fi and late checkout. The price starts at AUS$229 for non-members, or $206 for members. Check it out here: http://www.rydges.com/accommodation/sydney-nsw/sydney-airport/offers/plane-spotter-package/

 

Jakarta Airport FM7 Spotting Hotel

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Indonesia, Spotting Hotels | Posted on 03-03-2014

3

FM7 spotting hotelA new spotting hotel has emerged at Jakarta Airport and is receiving favourable reviews from spotters who have visited.

The FM7 Resort Hotel is situated close to the end of Runway 25R, and one of the main benefits is the proximity of aircraft approaching this runway, which can be photographed quite easily.

Although the hotel is only two stories high, rooms on the top floor can be found that have good views and are not too obstructed by the surrounding trees. Some rooms also have views across to runway 25L, but SBS is necessary to identify them as they disappear behind the buildings.

The owner of the hotel is aware of the needs of plane spotters and welcomes the trade this brings. A rooftop bar is being constructed which has views of both sides of the airport, although through glass.

The hotel is in a less than ideal neighbourhood, but once inside is quite luxurious and serves good food. It also provides a free shuttle to the airport. Here’s a map of the hotel’s location.

Visit the FM7 Hotel’s webpage here: http://fm7hotel.com/

If you have visited, leave a comment below and tell us about your experience.

Austin welcomes BA Dreamliner. Where to view from

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, Heathrow, North America, Spotting News, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 28-02-2014

0

British Airways 787Austin-Bergstrom International Airport becomes the latest to add Boeing 787 Dreamliner service on 3rd March when British Airways begin a daily flight from London Heathrow.

The airport’s Family Viewing Area will provide a vantage point and refreshments for spotters and other members of the public wishing to see the first arrival of the Dreamliner. British Airways’ flight 191 is scheduled for its first landing at 5 pm. Inaugural flight BA 190 is scheduled to depart ABIA for London Heathrow at 7 pm (after the inaugural launch, British Airways’ flights are scheduled to depart Austin at 8 pm).

Austin Bergstrom Family Viewing Area

Austin Bergstrom Family Viewing Area

The Family Viewing Area is located near the airport’s east runway. Please note, while the 787 may land on the east or west runway, Gate 2, used by British Airways, faces the viewing area providing ample time to see the aircraft. To access the airport’s Family Viewing Area, take the Hwy. 71 access road past Presidential Blvd. (road to airport terminal). Take the first right past Presidential Blvd. to Golf Course Rd. Follow Golf Course Rd. to the end, where the Family Viewing Area is located.

Sydney to close observation deck

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, Australasia, Australia, Spotting News | Posted on 20-02-2014

1

Sydney Spotting. Photo (c) YSSYguySome sad news today… Sydney Airport is to close its observation deck on the International Terminal in March.

According to site Australian Business Traveller, Sydney Airport confirmed the closure due to “operational reasons” as the airport explores a range of potential uses for the space as it looks to redevelop parts of the terminal.

This is sad news for spotters who enjoy the panoramic views and great position for photographing and watching aircraft at the airport.

There are a number of alternative locations for spotting aircraft at Sydney, which the airport encourages you to use. These include the Rydges Hotel at Terminal 1, Qantas Drive, the mound next to runway 16L, and the area alongside the runway 25 threshold.

The airport maintains that the aviation enthusiast community is important to them and has a page dedicated to this (see here) with details of spotting locations. Nevertheless, some enthusiasts have reacted badly at the news of this closure.

Spotting at Porto Airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Portugal, Spotting Trip Reports, Western Europe | Posted on 05-02-2014

1

Porto AirportI recently had the chance to visit Porto Airport in northern Portugal. Whilst at the airport on the return journey, I checked out the opportunities for spotting from within and around the terminal. Here’s what I found.

Outside the terminal the roadway curves up to the departures area on the first floor. At either end, you can get a limited view of the airfield and see aircraft distant on the runway. You will miss most of what is parked at the terminal, however.

Before heading through to departures, there are no views of aircraft from within the terminal.

Once you have reached the departures area, Porto’s modern glass terminal is ideal for viewing the aircraft on the ground. Walking the length of the departures area reveals all aircraft parked at the gates, which are mainly parked nose in or on remote stands a short distance away.

Porto Departures area

From the northern end of the building you have a view along the cargo ramp. Aircraft parked on the opposite side of the runway, such as the DHL Boeing 757 on my visit, are a little too distant to easily read off.

Anything that moves on the runway is easily visible from the departures area.

Air France 747 at Porto

Porto’s traffic is made up primarily of TAP Portugal, Portugalia, and Ryanair aircraft. A number of European scheduled and low cost airlines also fly to the airport. On my visit, cargo movements included the DHL 757, a Swiftair ATR, and an Air France Cargo 747-400.

Porto is a Ryanair hub

The airport has a single runway, and a large modern terminal with jet bridges, and a lower floor area for walking to aircraft which is used by Ryanair.

Heathrow opens new viewing area

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Heathrow, Spotting News, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 01-01-2014

3

View HeathrowLondon Heathrow airport has opened a new viewing area in Terminal 4, called View Heathrow.

The room offers views over the southern runway (09R/27L), the stands at Terminal 4, and some distant stands at other terminals. It also boasts a view of the stored British Airways Concorde (G-BOAB) which remains at Heathrow.

The viewing area was created out of an old lounge, and sadly is only available to airside passengers who have passed through security (with a boarding card). But if that’s you, it’s an excuse to check in a few hours early to enjoy the view.

View Heathrow 2

From the pictures it looks like photography is possible, albeit through glass. You will enter the room through a faux aircraft door and stairway, and it is free to use the room at any time the terminal is open.

Have you used the new viewing area? Why not post some pictures of it on our Facebook page!

Visitors to View Heathrow can get involved with the airport’s social media team by hashtagging their spectacular Instagram pics and Twitter comments using #ViewHeathrow.

Gatwick Bloc hotel offers spotting opportunities

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, Spotting Hotels, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 27-11-2013

0

Gatwick Bloc HotelLondon Gatwick Airport has become notoriously difficult to spot at since the viewing terraces closed in 2002. However, a solution is imminent in the form of a new hotel due to open early next year.

The Bloc Hotel has been constructed on the site of the former terraces, atop the South Terminal. As a result, guests can expect views from some of the rooms to be similar to the views that used to be enjoyed in the old days of spotting at the airport.

Other rooms will face the approach to the runway.

The Bloc Hotel is due to open in April 2014, and is keen to welcome spotters. It will offer a special day rate for viewing aircraft and using the hotel’s facilities between 7am-4pm.

Keep an eye on the Bloc Hotel website here.

Chicago O’Hare opens new runway

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Airport Spotting Guide, North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 19-10-2013

0

Chicago O’Hare opened its new runway 10C/28C opened on 17th October in the hope that it will instantly improve the crippling delays experienced at the airport.

O'Hare RunwaysThe new 10,800ft runway is the sixth parallel runway at the airport and hopes to allow it to offer up to 90,000 extra movements per year. Its construction has meant the relocation of a cemetery and section of railroad, amongst other ground infrastructure.

You will find the new runway close to the existing runway 10L/28R, and just to the north of the cargo terminals.

In terms of spotting, the new runway does not really offer any new opportunities to those existing already (see our book Airport Spotting Guides USA). The nearest unofficial spotting location is on Balmoral Avenue, just off Mannheim Road, with parking at the Rosemont Metra Station.