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


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


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


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/

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


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 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



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



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



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.

Wizz Air A321 routes revealed

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Belgium, Eastern Europe, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 28-04-2015


Wizz Air

Wizz Air will shortly take delivery of its second aircraft type, the larger Airbus A321, which will complement its large fleet of A320s.

From November 2015, the type will enter service from its Budapest base on the following routes:

  • Budapest – London Luton – Starts 20 November 2015
  • Budapest – Eindhoven – Starts 16 December 2015
  • Budapest – Brussels Charleroi – Starts 16 December 2015
  • Budapest – Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen – Starts 16 December 2015
  • Budapest – Stockholm Skavsta – Starts 26 February 2016
  • Budapest – Tel Aviv – Starts 26 February 2016
  • Budapest – Alicante – Starts 27 February 2016
  • Budapest – Maastricht – Starts 27 February 2016

The airline has 26 Airbus A321s on order.

In other news, Wizz Air has announced its first flights to Iceland, with a twice-weekly link from Gdansk to Reykjavik starting in July.

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



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.



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.


British Airways’ second hand A320 fleet details

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Brazil, Eastern Europe, Hungary, South America, Spotting News, Turkey, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 08-10-2014


British Airways A320

British Airways is taking on ten second-hand Airbus A320 aircraft to be based at London Gatwick airport.

The aircraft are all due for delivery between October 2014 and June 2015. Here’s a lowdown on the aircraft details.

G-GATH, c/n 1482, ex TC-OBH (Onur Air) – due November 2014
G-GATJ, c/n 1509, ex TC-OBI (Onur Air) – due October 2014
G-GATK, c/n 1902, ex HA-LPD (Wizz Air) – due January 2015
G-GATL, c/n 1834, ex HA-LPF (Wizz Air) – due January 2015
G-GATM, c/n 1892, ex HA-LPE (Wizz Air) – due March 2015
G-GATN, c/n 1613, ex PT-MZX (TAM) – due February 2015
G-GATO, c/n 1663, ex PR-MAB (TAM) – due March 2015
G-GATP, c/n 1804, ex PR-MAE (TAM) – due April 2015
G-GATR, c/n 1771, ex PR-MAD (TAM) – due May 2015
G-GATS, c/n 1672, ex PR-MAC (TAM) – due June 2015

These aircraft will operate the European schedules from Gatwick, mostly replacing the Boeing 737-400 and Airbus A319s based there currently.

SunExpress expand with up to 50 Boeing 737 order

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Eastern Europe, Miscellaneous Spotting, Turkey | Posted on 20-02-2014


SunExpress SXD 737 MAX 8 ArtworkTurkey’s SunExpress is to significantly add to its fleet after placing and order for Boeing 737-800 and 737 MAX-8 aircraft.

The firm order is for 25 737-800s and 15 737 MAX-8s, valued at more than $3.8 billion at list prices. Additional options for 10 MAX-8s have also been secured.

“Twenty-four years ago we started to fly tourists to Turkey with brand-new 737-300s and ten years later the company began to operate the Next-Generation 737-800s. Next year at the age of 25, SunExpress will start the process of renewing its entire fleet and in the future add the latest achievement of Boeing, the 737 MAX,” said Paul Schwaiger, managing director of SunExpress.

Based in Antalya on the Turkish Riviera, SunExpress was founded in October 1989 as a subsidiary of Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa. Today, SunExpress carries more than seven million passengers per year and is one of the leading airlines in terms of passenger numbers between Germany and Turkey. The carrier operates an all-Boeing fleet of more than 60 Next-Generation 737-700s and 737-800s and serves more than 90 destinations across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Etihad A321 routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Abu Dhabi, Airline News, Asia, Eastern Europe, India, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Turkey | Posted on 19-09-2013


Etihad Airways will take delivery of its first Airbus A321 in December.

This will be the first of 11 the airline has on order. They will initially fly on the following routes:

Abu Dhabi – Chennai
Abu Dhabi – Istanbul Ataturk
Abu Dhabi – Riyadh

More destinations will be introduced as more aircraft arrive.

Tassili Airlines launches France routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in About The Site, Africa, Algeria, Dubai, Eastern Europe, France, Middle East, Spain, Turkey, Western Europe | Posted on 17-07-2013


Tassili AirlinesAlgeria’s recently-formed Tassili Airlines has started its first international services, with routes linking Bejaja to St. Etienne, and Jijel to Grenoble.

The airline is planning further international expansion, with routes linking Algeria to Dubai, Morocco, Spain, and Turkey all touted for a start before the end of 2013.

SunExpress Leipzig Base

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Airport News, Eastern Europe, Egypt, Germany, Spain, Spotting News, Turkey, Western Europe | Posted on 28-05-2013


SunExpress B737-800One for the German spotters: SunExpress will base a Boeing 737-800 at Leipzig Halle Airport this summer.

The Turkish airline will operate the aircraft on charter routes to Egypt, the Canary Islands, and Turkey.


Istanbul to build world’s largest airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Eastern Europe, Miscellaneous Spotting, Turkey | Posted on 24-01-2013


Turkish AirlinesWork is to begin on a new airport to serve Istanbul which will grow to accommodate up to 150 million passengers per year.

Despite already being served by Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen airport, the infrastructure at both is not capable of expanding meeting future demand, and so it has been decided to build the new facility on a former mine site on the Black Sea coast near the city.

The airport will initially open in 2017, capable of handling 90 million passengers.

By the time all phases are complete, it will have six runways, and be capable of handling 150 million passengers, putting it ahead of Atlanta Airport, which is currently the world’s largest in terms of passengers.

Istanbul is expecting huge demand in its airport services as national carrier Turkish Airlines expands at a great pace, turning the city into an east-west transfer point. The city is also due to host the Summer Olympics in 2020.