10 Airports You Need to Visit

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Colombia, Eastern Europe, France, Frankfurt, Germany, North America, North Korea, Portugal, South America, Turkey, UK, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 05-07-2015

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The world is full of such a variety of airports and each has its own appeal to spotters. I’ve put together this list of airports which every spotter should try to visit at some time to help enrich their aviation interests and make the most of their hobby.

 

1. Everett Paine Field

Paine Field Spotting

Home of Boeing’s widebodie production lines and the world’s largest building – currently responsible for producing 747s, 777s, 787s and the occasional 767. Once aircraft have been completed they are taken to the paint assembly building, and then placed outside whilst final preparations are made.

Aircraft undertake testing regularly once complete, so you’ll always see something of interest using the airport’s single main runway.

Aircraft that have been completed are sometimes placed in storage at the airport – seen recently with some early 787s and 747-8s. You may also be lucky to see the first Boeing 727 aircraft, which is preserved at the airport, along with a De Havilland Comet 4 and some other historic aircraft.

Head to the Future of Flight centre for a grandstand view over the airport. Here’s a post about spotting at Paine Field.

 

2. Pyongyang

Pyongyang Line-Up

It’s not the busiest, and some might be a little sensitive about the way North Korea is run, but purely from an enthusiast’s point of view this is a very interesting place. Air Koryo, the national carrier, still flies classic Russian types such as the Tu-134, Tu-154, Tu-204, IL-62 and IL-18.

Pyongyang airport recently opened its brand new terminal, which looks much more akin to those found in the West. But to be able to experience the aircraft here you’ll need to take part in an organised tour, such as those on offer with Juche Travel Service.

 

3. London City

London City Airport Morning Ramp

The British capital is served by many airports, but London City is by far one of the world’s more unusual. Built on a former dock at the heart of the city, it makes for a challenging and restricted environment to operate large airliners in. Yet every day aircraft arrive from across Europe, and even New York. Its location among the skyscrapers of London’s financial district means the short runway requires a steep approach angle and only certified aircraft are permitted to operate there.

It’s easy to watch aircraft come and go here from the docks opposite the runway, or under the approach paths at either end.

Here’s a post about London City Behind The Scenes.

 

4. Los Angeles International

LosAngeles-LAX

With California’s amazing climate, endless sunshine, and an incredible mix of aircraft, LAX should be on anyone’s list of must-visit airports.

Los Angeles has four runways and nine passenger terminals. Each major US airline has a decent presence here, as well as large airliners from across the globe, and leisure airlines from Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean. On the south side of the airport, cargo airliners and biz jets complete the lineup.

Head to Imperial Hill or the In ‘n’ Out Burger restaurant for the best views. Here’s a post about spotting at Los Angeles.

 

5. Frankfurt Main

Frankfurt Terminal 2 Visitors Terrace

Germany’s busiest airport, and one of the main gateways to Europe. Like LAX, its mix is mouthwatering to the enthusiast, comprising all main European carriers, low-cost airlines, leisure carriers, cargo, regional, and long-haul traffic.

Spotting is not as good here as in days gone by, but the airport still provides two official locations – at Terminal 2 and alongside runway 18 – and there are some other good spots to watch aircraft.

 

6. Toulouse Blagnac

A350 © Airbus S.A.S 2013 Photo by H. Goussé

Europe’s busiest aircraft manufacturing airport. Most Airbus A319, A320, A330, A340 and A380 aircraft are constructed here, as well as ATR turboprops. Regular airline traffic isn’t much to write home about, but who cares when you’ve got airliners destined for all corners of the globe undergoing completion and flight testing in the southern France sun?

There are various places to watch aircraft around the airport perimeter, and an official viewing deck at the terminal. Plus, you can arrange tours of the Airbus plant, and visit historic aircraft at the on-site museum.

 

7. Funchal

By Thomas Klein (Own work (own photography)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Thomas Klein (Own work (own photography)) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

When space is limited, sometimes the only option is to build your airport runway on stilts. That’s exactly what heppend at Funchal, on the Portuguese island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean. When demand from leisure airlines grew, the runway was extended out from the cliff-side that it occupies to allow larger aircraft to be handled. The position of this airport also means aircraft take an interesting approach path before landing, often in crosswind conditions.

Spotters can position themselves on the hillside above the runway for some excellent photographs and videos.

 

8. Phoenix Deer Valley

Phoenix Deer Valley

Unlike other airports on this list, Deer Valley isn’t on the route map of lots of scheduled airlines or a place to see the latest Dreamliners and Airbus A380s. Yet it is one of the busiest airports in the world. In particular, it is actually the busiest airport in the world for biz jet movements, according to recent statistics.

So if you’re looking for something different, or like to log and photograph Citations, Global Expresses and Gulfstreams, this is the place to head to.

The Arizona airport has two runways and is in the north east of the city. You can watch movements from the official observation deck on top of the terminal building, which even pipes in ATC broadcasts.

 

9. Bogota

Bogota

Probably the most interesting of South America’s main airports. Bogota, in Colombia, is a hub for Aviana, LAN Colombia, Copa Airlines and VivaColombia. This is great in itself, but the airport is also one of the last bastions for some older jets, like Boeing 727s of AeroSucre and Lineas Aereas Suramericanas, and F-28s and DC-3s of the Colombian Government.

The airport also has a nice collection of preserved aircraft on the military side of the airport.

Spotting is possible inside the terminal, or from the end of the runways if you have a car.

 

10. Istanbul Ataturk

Istanbul Spotting

Europe’s latest up-and-coming airport thanks mainly to the explosive growth of Turkish Airlines, which is trying to emulate what Middle East carriers are doing in connecting east and west. As such, this main base for the airline (it also operates from nearby Sabiha Gokcen Airport) sees a constant stream of the carrier’s red tails coming and going.

Traffic comprises a good mix of European and long-haul flights, with the vast majority naturally made up of Turkish Airlines and AtlasJet. The draw for enthusiasts is the growing fleet of the national airline, and the opportunity for photography in the warm climate. A good mix of cargo carriers can also be seen.

There are a number of places to spot from round the perimeter, as well as the excellent FlyInn shopping mall which is great for viewing and photographing aircraft from the cafe balcony. There is also a nice aviation museum on the southern boundary.

 

World Airports Spotting Guides

World Airports Spotting Guide

My upcoming book, World Airports Spotting Guides covers over 300 of the world’s airports, including details on what you can see there, and where to spot from. Many of the guides also include the best spotting hotels and aviation museum attractions. Find out more and pre-order the book here: http://www.destinworld.co.uk/products/world-airport-spotting-guides/

First A350 delivered to Vietnam Airlines

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Vietnam | Posted on 30-06-2015

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A350_XWB_Vietnam_Airlines_in_flight_4

Today the first Airbus A350XWB for Vietnam Airlines was delivered to the carrier from the manufacturer’s Toulouse plant.

The aircraft is on lease from AerCap, and is registered VN-A886.

Today’s milestone delivery makes Vietnam Airlines the world’s second A350 XWB operator after the jetliner’s introduction in January by launch customer Qatar Airways.

The airline will initially operate their A350s on crew familiarisation flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi from 5th July, before it commences international duties to Paris and Seoul after the summer.

 

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Remember to check out our Airbus A350 Routes Page for up-to-date information on who flies the aircraft and on which routes.

Another Dreamliner donated to a museum

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Japan, North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 25-06-2015

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Boeing has donated another of its prototype 787 Dreamliner aircraft to a museum.

This time the first prototype to fly, ZA001 / N787BA, has been sent to Japan for preservation!

The aircraft flew from Seattle to Nagoya Chubu Airport on 22nd June, where it will be put on display and made accessible to the public. Fittingly two of the crew members who flew this aircraft on the 787s maiden flight in 2009 were the ones to ferry it to Japan.

Japan had a lot of involvement in the 787 programme, helping to fund development. Its two main carriers, ANA and Japan Air Lines, were also the first to operate the type commercially.

Two other Dreamliners were recently donated to museums, with ZA002 / N787EX sent to the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, AZ, and ZA003 / N787BX retired at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

 

Two special Singapore Airlines A380 schemes celebrate anniversary

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Asia, Singapore | Posted on 03-06-2015

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SingaporeA380

Singapore Airlines is painting two of its Airbus A380 aircraft in special colour schemes to celebrate the nation’s Golden Jubilee.

The first aircraft with the commemorative livery will take to the skies in early June and the second in July. The A380s will be in the livery until the end of 2015, with the aircraft serving Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New Delhi, Shanghai, Sydney and Zurich routes.

The A380 is the world’s largest aircraft and the special livery features a 10m-tall and 47m-long Singapore flag-themed design on both sides of the fuselage. On the two inboard engines is the official SG50 logo.

The special livery is one of many initiatives by Singapore Airlines to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday.

SingaporeA380b

For customers, Singapore Airlines has launched special promotions to encourage both overseas Singaporeans and visitors to travel to Singapore for the SG50 celebrations.

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.