Top 10 airports to number crunch at

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, China, Dubai, Eastern Europe, Frankfurt, Germany, Heathrow, Japan, Middle East, North America, Turkey, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 30-04-2015

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If you’re the kind of spotter who likes to number crunch… that is, collect aircraft registration (or tail) numbers… then there are certain airports and spotting locations that are made for you. At these locations you’re likely to see lots of aircraft in a short period of time, and make the most numbers in your book possible.

Whilst everyone reading this will live in a different location and probably already have seen the aircraft of certain airlines, hopefully at least some of the airports will be an inspiration of how to make more inroads into filling your logbooks on future spotting trips.

If you have a particular favourite, or would like to suggest another airport, leave a comment below!

 

1. Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International

 

Atlanta Airport

Atlanta has been for many years the busiest airport in the world. Last year it handled almost 900,000 aircraft movements and, as home to Delta Air Lines, most of them were flown by its aircraft and those of its feeder partners. Southwest Airlines is also a major carrier here, along with a number of interesting international airlines.

Atlanta doesn’t offer any official viewing areas, but for most spotters here the only place to go is the Renaissance Concourse Hotel on the southern perimeter. A room (which will have a balcony) facing the airport on a higher floor will be paradise for plane spotters. It is a bit distant to photograph airliners on anything but the nearest runway, but with good binoculars and the help of flight tracking software you will log hundreds of aircraft registrations each day.

 

2. Dallas Fort Worth

 

Dallas Ft Worth

A huge airport in Texas, with seven runways and a complex of five terminals in the central area. Dallas Fort Worth is the home base of American Airlines, whose fleet of aircraft numbers almost 1,000 including that of regional partner Envoy and the former US Airways fleet. So if you need to add these aircraft to your log books, this airport is a good place to begin as movements are non-stop all day long.

The best place to watch aircraft at Dallas Fort Worth is the official Founders Plaza observation area off Highway 114. You’ll see a lot of aircraft movements from here, but with so many runways it’s hard to catch everything!

You can also do a loop on the Skylink Train monorail which passes all terminals with elevated views over many gate areas.

 

3. Oshkosh Wittman Regional

 

Oshkosh

Oshkosh for most of the year is a quiet regional airport with various general aviation and executive aircraft movements, along with historic aircraft from the interesting EAA Museum on site. However, come here for a week at the end of July each year and you’ll encounter the world’s busiest airport as it plays host to the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Air Show. In recent years up to 15,000 aircraft have flown into the airport over the course of the air show week, with number crunchers filling multiple notebooks and all available time trying to catch everything! One pro tip is to photograph rows of aircraft and note them down later when you have more time, as logging everything simply becomes too demanding.

Most aircraft visiting Oshkosh during the air show are light aircraft, however you will also see many interesting experimental, historic, military and airliner aircraft in attendance to sweeten the log.

 

4. London Heathrow

 

Airbus A380 at Heathrow's Myrtle Avenue Spotting Location

Airbus A380 approaching Heathrow’s Myrtle Avenue Spotting Location

The busiest airport in the United Kingdom, and one of the busiest airports for international flights. Heathrow is great for its mix of airlines arriving from all over the world. Although there are a lot of European and North American carriers, plus British Airways and Virgin Atlantic aircraft, interesting carriers more than make up for it. The airport is also one of the busiest for Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft.

There are a number of places to spot around the perimeter, plus the Renaissance Hotel has great views and even does spotter packages! One of the favourite spotting locations when arrivals are from the east is Myrtle Avenue.

 

5. Dubai International

 

Dubai Airport © Dubai Airports

Having newly taken the crown of the busiest international airport in the world from Heathrow (see above), Dubai continues to offer a mouthwatering mix of aircraft from around the world. True, most movements are by the impressive Emirates Airline, with its huge fleet of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, but other types from around the Middle East and Asia are fascinating to see and often very rare to the log book.

Spotting can be tricky (and misunderstood) here, so it’s best to find a hotel with a view, such as the excellent Sheraton Deira or the Nojoum Apartments.

 

6. Istanbul Ataturk International

 

Istanbul Spotting

Turkish Airlines’ phenomenal growth over recent years has thrust Istanbul’s two airports into the major leagues. Almost 57 million passengers used the larger Ataturk airport last year, mainly on Turkish Airlines’ flights, but also on a variety of other interesting carriers from around the world. It’s also a great airport for interesting cargo movements, often using some older airliners.

There is a shopping mall alongside one of the runways at Ataturk, with a seating area as part of the food court that overlooks the runway and is close enough to see all movements. Spotters are rarely bothered as long as they buy food and drink. Then, on an evening you can retire to a room at the Radisson Blu hotel, which has rooms overlooking the runway and taxiways.

 

7. Beijing Capital

 

Beijing

With almost 90 million passengers flying through last year, Beijing Capital is teetering on the verge of becoming the busiest in the world. It is certainly the busiest in Asia and China, and an obvious place to make dents into logging aircraft, particularly from the many domestic and regional airlines in China, and the airlines from around the Far East.

Although Capital is due to be superseded by a new airport in the coming years, for the time being it will keep on going, bursting at the seams.

The best place to spot is at the southern end of the airport, where there are a variety of locations just under the approach path to two of the runways. These can be walked to from the terminal, or ask a taxi driver to take you.

 

8. Tokyo Haneda

 

800px-Haneda_Airport_Terminal2_ObservationDeck

Haneda is the busiest airport in Japan, and home to most of the domestic aircraft fleets in the country – namely the ones you are unlikely to see anywhere else in the world… and there are lot of them! In addition to this, the airport is regaining international flights at a good rate after years of living in the shadow of nearby Narita.

The airport has three official observation decks – one on each terminal. These are the best, and easiest, places to spot from to log aircraft. However, the problem with them is that you can’t see all movements from just one deck. So you’ll have to move around a bit. The decks on Terminal 1 and 2 are probably the best.

 

9. Frankfurt Main

 

Frankfurt Terminal 2 Visitors Terrace

Frankfurt is another of Europe’s more interesting airports, and one of the busiest. Like Heathrow it has a really nice mix of international airlines flying in, as well as the fleet of Lufthansa and its partners, plus a variety of charter and low cost airlines.

Spotting at Frankfurt is possible from a few locations, but these are spread out and none is perfect for catching all movements. The observation area on Terminal 2 is good for seeing aircraft on the ground and the main runways. There is also a small viewing area alongside the departure-only runway 18, but you’ll need a taxi or car to get there.

 

10. Van Nuys

 

LosAngeles-VanNuys

Van Nuys Airport is in the north of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley. It doesn’t handle any airline services at present, however it is on of the world’s busiest general aviation airports. It has two parallel runways, and last year handled over 260,000 aircraft movements. General aviation doesn’t just mean light aircraft… Van Nuys also handles a great number of executive movements, with all manner of biz jets.

The best place to spot aircraft at Van Nuys is the dedicated viewing area off Woodley Avenue at the end of Waterman Drive on the eastern side of the airport. You’ll see all runway movements from here.

Vietnam Airlines first Boeing 787 rolled out

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Vietnam | Posted on 22-04-2015

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Vietnam787a

Vietnam787b

The first Boeing 787-9 for Vietnam Airlines has been rolled out of the factory at Everett Paine Field near Seattle.

The airline is due to take delivery of this, the first of 19 of the aircraft on order, in May. It will initially be used on flights between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for crew familiarisation, before commencing international flights to Frankfurt and London Heathrow later in the year (see our Boeing 787 Routes Page)

Vietnam Airlines will also soon take delivery of its first Airbus A350XWB, which was seen at Toulouse in March.

Air India’s 20th 787 delivered; first in Star Alliance colours

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, India, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 03-04-2015

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Air India 787-8 Star Alliance

Air India has received its 20th Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, VT-ANU, from the manufacturer’s Charleston facility.

This aircraft is the first Dreamliner to date to wear the colours of an alliance, in this case Star Alliance.

“Taking delivery of our 20th 787 Dreamliner marks an important day for Air India,” said Rohit Nandan, Chairman and Managing Director, Air India. “With this airplane we are building on the success of our other 787s, which are providing an exceptional experience to our passengers while allowing us to expand our network both within India and around the world.”

Vietnam Airlines first Airbus A350 revealed

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Vietnam | Posted on 09-03-2015

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A350-900_Vietnam_Airlines_roll_out_paintshop_2

The first A350 XWB for Vietnam Airlines was rolled out of the Airbus paint shop in Toulouse on Friday 6th March, featuring the airline’s updated distinctive blue and gold lotus livery.

The aircraft, which will be leased from AerCap, is now entering the advanced stage of production. This will include installation of the engines, completion of cabin furnishing, and cockpit fitting, followed by ground and flight tests. The aircraft is scheduled for delivery in the middle of the year.

A350-900_Vietnam_Airlines_roll_out_paintshop

Vietnam Airlines will become the first Asian airline to fly the A350 XWB and the second operator in the world. Vietnam Airlines will acquire 14 A350 XWBs, including ten on order from Airbus and four under lease agreements. The carrier will operate its A350 XWB fleet on premium long haul routes, beginning with services between Hanoi and Paris.

To find out where Vietnam Airlines and other A350 customers will be flying their aircraft, visit our A350 Routes Page.

Boeing finding homes for ‘terrible teen’ 787s

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Asia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, North America, USA | Posted on 03-03-2015

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Ethiopian 787 (c) Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

Boeing is making progress on finding homes for the early Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft which have been sat in storage at its Everett Paine Field manufacturing site since the early days of the aircraft.

These particular aircraft were built shortly after the prototypes began flying, with Boeing seeking to catch up on the delays it had incurred. The aircraft were completed, and most had the basic liveries of the airlines who had ordered them applied. But then they didn’t go anywhere.

When I visited Paine Field in early 2012 there were a number of these aircraft scattered around, painted in the colours of Royal Air Maroc, ANA All Nippon Airways, Air India and others.

Since these aircraft were among the first 20 built (hence the nickname ‘terrible teens’) they also incurred vital modifications which were necessary as a result of testing on the prototypes and first delivery aircraft. Notably, there were problems with electrical fires and the strength of the wing assemblies.

All future Dreamliners were built with fixes for these problems, but for the terrible teens a process of modifications took place to make them airworthy; this in turn added extra weight to the airframe and they incurred a range penalty of around 1,000 miles.

Naturally the planned operators of these aircraft demanded newer airframes, leaving the early examples looking for a new home.

Terrible Teen 787s at Paine Field

Terrible Teen 787s at Paine Field

But now Boeing seems set to announce where they’ll be heading. Since the backlog for orders is so great, taking a terrible teen will be a way to jump the queue for any airline – especially those who don’t mind the range restrictions so much, and would prefer to pay a reduced price tag, which presumably is the case for the unwanted aircraft.

Last week it was confirmed that Air Austral would be taking two of the aircraft, to operate from Reunion Island.

Now it looks like Ethiopian Airlines will take up to eight examples.

Garuda Indonesia and Malaysia Airlines have been approached to take some of the jets, according to ch-aviation, and it seems likely Rwandair will take two of the Royal Air Maroc candidates.

 

Last Airbus A300B2 retired from passenger service

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Iran, Japan, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 27-02-2015

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A300B2 MahanAir (c) Mohammad Razzazan

The final example of the first model Airbus A300B2 has been retired from passenger service by Iranian carrier Mahain Air after a career spanning 34 years.

Originally delivered to Japanese airline TOA Domestic Airlines in 1981 and later joining Japan Air System, EP-MHA (c/n 160) started flying for Mahan Air in 2006 on routes around Iran and the Middle East.

Now the aircraft has been ferried to Kerman, according to ch-aviation, to join two other stablemates which were retired recently. It is expected that the aircraft will be scrapped rather than going on to serve with another airline.

It is expected that Mahan Air will also retire its ageing A300B4 fleet this year, too.

KLM’s Boeing 787 routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Abu Dhabi, Africa, Airline News, Asia, Bahrain, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Middle East, Netherlands, South America, Western Europe | Posted on 12-02-2015

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KLM 787-9

KLM has added some more route details for its upcoming Boeing 787 fleet, with six initial destinations.

The airline will take the stretched 787-9 model, with the first flights due to commence in October.

The routes KLM will initially fly with its Boeing 787s are:

  • Amsterdam – Abu Dhabi – Bahrain – Starts 25th October
  • Amsterdam – Cairo – Starts 30th November
  • Amsterdam – Quito – Guayaquil – Amsterdam – Starts 2nd December
  • Amsterdam – Xiamen – Starts 3rd December

 

I’m looking forward to seeing the plane in the smart blue colour scheme of KLM, and it will be delivered in the updated scheme which is currently being rolled out across the existing fleet.

Keep up to date with KLM and all other airlines’ Boeing 787 routes on our dedicated page here.

American Airlines Boeing 787 Routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Argentina, Asia, China, North America, South America, USA | Posted on 11-02-2015

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Bradley Basin Employee Shoot Patrick Summers rms275910 cns2014nef

American Airlines is the latest US airline to take delivery of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It has now announced the initial routes which the type will operate on.

Like most airlines, American will operate its 787s initially on domestic sectors to gain crew familiarity on the type before it embarks on long haul flying. The aircraft will be based at Dallas Ft Worth Airport and fly on the following routes:

  • Dallas Ft Worth – Chicago O’Hare – Starts 7th May
  • Dallas Ft Worth – Beijing Capital – Starts 2nd June
  • Dallas Ft Worth – Buenos Aires – Starts 4th June

AA 787 interior

Customers can start booking 787 flights beginning 14th February. American will deploy the 787 to additional markets in 2015 as it takes delivery of new aircraft.

American has placed firm orders for 42 Boeing 787 aircraft, with the right to acquire an additional 58.

You can keep track of American Airlines and all other airlines’ Boeing 787 routes on our dedicated page here.

2014’s most popular Airport Spotting posts

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Airport News, Asia, Australasia, Australia, Eastern Europe, Germany, Ghana, Heathrow, India, Indonesia, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, Turkey, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 27-12-2014

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MostPopular2014

With 2014 coming to an end and lots to look forward to next year, I wanted to revisit some of our most popular articles from the past year.

These have all had the most views, shares and comments.

What has been your aviation or spotting highlight of 2014? Leave a comment below!

 

 

Spotting News

Jakarta Airport FM7 Spotting Hotel
This new spotting hotel was a welcome addition to one of the most interesting airports for spotters to visit.

Guide to aviation and spotting in India
Spotting is notoriously difficult and misunderstood in India, so I put together this guide on what to expect and where to spot in this huge country.

Sydney to close observation deck
Sad new for spotters this year when Sydney’s International Terminal observation deck closed. But all was not lost.

Heathrow opens new viewing area
Few saw this coming – Heathrow opening an official viewing area again! But there was a catch…

ex-Ghana DC-10 turned into a restaurant
A former Ghana Airways Douglas DC-10 has been converted into a restaurant next to the main international airport.

BLOC Hotel Gatwick – Spotting Hotel Review
London’s second busiest airport got a new spotting hotel. I visited this summer and reported here on the excellent views and opportunities.

9 top spotting airports to reach by budget airline
This little guide offers some inspiration on the major international airports that are great to spot at, and also easily reached by budget airlines, helping keep the cost down.

 

BrazilThemeWeek

Airline and Aircraft News

SunExpress expand with up to 50 Boeing 737 order
A large order for aircraft from the joint German/Turkish leisure airline SunExpress.

Farnborough Air Show Orders Summary
This year’s Farnborough Air Show brought an unprecedented number of aircraft orders from around the world. We put a summary together here.

Brazil World Cup Special Liveries
This year’s Football World Cup in Brazil brought a number of special airline liveries. See them here!

McDonnell Douglas MD-11 Farewell
The final passenger MD-11 flights took place in 2014. In this farewell piece we look at the history or the aircraft and where you can still see them flying today.

 

Singapore Seletar airport to be upgraded

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Asia, Singapore | Posted on 22-12-2014

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Seletar Airport

Singapore’s historic Seletar Airport will be upgraded in 2015 to allow it to relieve some of the pressure on the busy Changi Airport.

Built in 1928, Seletar once handled scheduled services, and has remained a base for general aviation and aircraft maintenance.

Now, the ageing passenger terminal will be demolished and replaced by a new structure capable of handling the smaller turboprop types currently operating into Changi, and acting as a regional airport. This will likely affect carriers such as Firefly and Berjaya Air, but it might also encourage more smaller regional airlines to start services to Singapore using the upgraded Seletar.

Seletar is around 13 miles from Changi and the city, and easily reached by road. It is managed by the same owners as Changi airport.