Spotting at Tarbes Lourdes Airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, France, Spotting Trip Reports, Western Europe | Posted on 02-10-2015


Tarbes Lourdes Spotting Guide

Tarbes Lourdes is a regional airport in the south of France close to the Pyrennees, Andorra and the border with Spain. It is an airport worth visiting for spotters if you are in the area – not because of the regular aircraft traffic, but because it is an increasingly busy airport for storing and dismantling large airliners from around the world.

This guide to spotting at Tarbes Lourdes Airport will show you how to make the most of your visit and where the best places are for viewing aircraft.


The Airport

Tarbes Lourdes has a single, long runway, oriented 02/20. On the eastern side is the passenger terminal, general and business aviation terminal, and associated airport operations.

The western side is home to a large hangar and pans for parking aircraft.

The situation of the airport is quite spectacular, with the Pyrennees as a backdrop. It certainly helps liven up photographs, and there are a few locations to help with spotting on the ground.


Spotting at Tarbes Lourdes

Regular Traffic

Lourdes is a place of pilgrimage for Catholics and, as such, receives a regular stream of aircraft in relation to this. Pilgrims arrive on organised trips from airports all over Europe. These are usually flown on chartered aircraft from both French and international carriers. The mix is too varied and irregular to list here individually, but often includes airlines such as Air Medieterranee, Titan Airways, Germania, and Mistral Air.

Scheduled traffic is provided by Air France regional partner Hop!, which links to Paris a few times per day. TNT provides a cargo link.

In the summer there are a number of additional services by airlines such as Jetairfly, Enter Air, Ryanair, Air Nostrum, Albastar and Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium.



Tarbes Lourdes is now an important base for the storage and dismantling of airliners – in particular wide-body Airbus types, such as the A330 and A340.

Tarmac Aerosave operates a large hangar on the western side of the runway. This is the same company that operates the storage facility at Teruel Airport in Spain.

Many of the aircraft will find new homes, but a lot are also dismantled for spares on site, so it’s not uncommon to see fuselages and parts of aircraft lying around. One of the biggest problems I found whilst spotting at Tarbes Lourdes was the fact that many of the aircraft had their registrations removed, so it took a bit of effort to find some other identifying markings, such as fleet or construction numbers on the nosewheel doors. Many have also been given a temporary F- registration.

In addition to the aircraft stored on the west side of the runway, a number are also stored on a strip of apron to the south of the terminal.

On my visit there were 37 stored airliners visible, of which 27 were Airbus A340 variants (including the A340-600 prototype, F-WWCA). The rest were made up of Airbus A300 (2), A319 (1), A320 (1), A330 (3), Boeing 737 (2), McDonnell Douglas MD-80 (1).


Spotting at Tarbes Lourdes Airport


There are a few places to spot at Lourdes. It’s best if you have a car, but not essential. This map gives you an idea of the best locations I found.

Tarbes Lourdes Spotting

Spotting location 1

1. This is the place to go if you don’t have a car. The road ramp leading from the car park to the departures level of the passenger terminal has a good, elevated view across to the storage area. Whilst it’s hard to see registrations from here, it gives you a good overview of what’s parked on the western side.

Tarbes Lourdes Spotting

Spotting location 2

2. If you have a car, drive from the terminal and keep going straight. You’ll come to a small roundabout. Instead of joining the motorway, take the first exit and follow the road around the perimeter. At the next roundabout, turn right into an industrial estate. Then turn right again at the T-junction. An area of wasteground here offers a good view of the line of stored aircraft along this part of the airport. It’s also a good place to watch any movements on the runway.

Tarbes Lourdes Spotting

Spotting location 3

3. Continuing along the perimeter road, take a right at the next roundabout. The road turns into pretty much a stone track here. Where it turns left towards Ossun, take a right and you’ll come to a crash gate. Don’t linger here too long, but you’ll be able to see a few more of the parked airliners.

Tarbes Lourdes Spotting

Spotting location 4

4. Continue along the track parallel to the runway (not towards Ossun). This will be hemmed in by tall crops in the late summer, but eventually you’ll reach the back of Tarmac Aerosave. You can’t go in, but there are fleeting glimpses of aircraft parked around the hangar here – especially of those being dismantled.

Driving on, across the railway line, will eventually complete the loop of the airport, taking you back to the terminal or the N21 motorway.


Spotting Guide Bookdestin3d

Tarbes Lourdes is just one of over 300 airports to feature in my new World Airports Spotting Guides book. Find out more here:

The book has detailed spotting locations, maps, spotting hotels, museums and much more.

Spotting at Minsk National Airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Belarus, Eastern Europe, Spotting Trip Reports | Posted on 29-07-2015


Minsk Airport Terminal

In May I travelled to Minsk National Airport at the end of an amazing flight on board the last scheduled Tupolev Tu-154 flight in Europe with Belavia (you can read about my trip here).

This was my first time visiting Minsk, so I took the opportunity to check out the spotting situation and make a note of what kind of things you can see.

Minsk National has a single runway, 13/31, with a series of aprons and taxiways along its north eastern side.

To the north is the main passenger terminal, which is in a semi-circular shape with jet bridges off the main building, remote stands at the north end and also opposite to the south.MinskERJ195

Further south is another large apron which was full of Ilyushin IL-76s, Antonov An-12s and a Boeing 747-200 on my visit. All of these were freighter aircraft operating for Ruby Star and TransAviaExport. However, a number of the aircraft on this ramp and parked to the side of it are currently in storage or withdrawn from use.

This made my visit quite interesting, as it’s not often you see 12 IL-76s all parked together these days. In addition, some more Belavia Tu-154s (some retired), including the Government example, were also visible a little further on.



Airlines and Operators

Naturally the biggest operator at Minsk is Belavia. It currently operates a fleet of Boeing 737-300, -500, -800, CRJ100, 200, and Embraer 175, 195 aircraft.

Other carriers with regular service include Aeroflot, Air China, Austrian Airlines, Etihad Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Turkmenistan Airlines, Ukraine International, and Uzbekistan Airways.

TransAvia and Ruby Star operate most of the cargo flights, but it’s not uncommon to see Turkish Airlines Cargo and other ad-hoc services by other carriers.

Minsk Airport 737s


Spotting at Minsk

Minsk National Airport Map

There are a few places to see aircraft at Minsk, but you should always be discrete as the hobby is not necessarily understood.

From the road leading up to departures level outside the terminal, as well as the open air car park to the north, it’s possible to see aircraft parked on the remote stands (1 on the map)

If you are flying from the airport, once in the departure lounge there are large windows overlooking the apron and the cargo/maintenance area beyond (2 on the map). You’ll also see movements on the runway.

Walking through the departures area, there are a number of gate areas which jut out towards the ramp. Each of these has a slightly different view of the cargo ramps, so it’s useful if a particular aircraft is eluding you.

Because this airport is quite remote (it is literally at the end of the motorway from the city), it is not easy to explore around the airfield without a local guide and car.

There are some withdrawn airliners at the southern end of the airfield, behind the maintenance hangars, including two former Belavia Tu-134s. These are just visible from aircraft taxiing to the runway if you look towards the trees.


The mix of active and stored Il-76s at Minsk National, as seen from the departure lounge.

Spotting from the terminal departure lounge at Minsk Airport

Spotting from the terminal departure lounge at Minsk Airport


Preserved Airliners

A really nice aspect of Minsk National Airport which was a pleasant surprise is its collection of preserved airliners representing Belarus aviation history. These are lined up alongside the main road just outside the terminal, each with a small information board; you can’t miss them, and it’s easy to wander over and take some pictures. The collection includes:

EW-85581, Tupolev Tu-154B-2, Belavia
EW-76709, Ilyushin IL-76T, TransAvia Export Cargo Airlines
EW-237CD, Antonov An-2R
EW-88202, Yakovlev 40S2, Miskavia
EW-47291, Antonov An-24RV, Gomelavia
CCCP-65036, Tupolev Tu-134A, Aeroflot

Minsk Preserved Tu-154


Minsk Preserved Tu-134

Many of these identities are not authentic to the aircraft’s actual history, having been painted as such for the sake of the collection. However, they are all in excellent condition.




Spotting Guide Bookdestin3d

Minsk is just one of over 300 airports to feature in my new World Airports Spotting Guides book. Find out more here:

The book has detailed spotting locations, maps, spotting hotels, museums and much more.

Chasing retired airliners in Belgium

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Belgium, Spotting Trip Reports, Western Europe | Posted on 02-07-2015


A recent visit to Belgium gave me the opportunity to track down a few former airliners scattered around the small country which are now looking a little forlorn and in need of some care an attention. Here’s what I found…


Boeing 707-300 TY-BBW
Originally N758PA with Pan American, and more recently with Government of Benin, this sorry looking 707 sits in a car park in Wetteren, not far from Ghent (map). There are still plans to convert it into a restaurant, so watch this space.



Vickers Viscoun 800 G-AZNA
After a busy life with British Midland and a few other carriers, this Viscount was retired and put in use outside a disco called Kokorico on the N9 near Zomergem and Ghent (map).



Boeing 727-200 OO-DHS
A former DHL aircraft in later life, this Boeing classic is now used by the fire training department at Brussels South Charleroi airport (map). It is visible from the Rue Santos Dumont which heads towards Gosselies from the terminal.

Click Here
to view the photo

Airbus A310 5N-AUG
Preserved in Gilly, near Charleroi (map), is this former Nigeria Airways A310. It has been used as a cafe.

Photo: Daniel Brackx

Photo: Daniel Brackx


Douglas C-54 N2894C
Situated on the grass airfield at Overboelare (map). This military DC-4 was used as a cargo carrier in later life, and then became the club house at the airfield.



Sud Caravelle 6N OO-SRA
Part of the Musee Royal De L’Armee in central Brussels is this Caravelle in Sabena colours, positioned above ground in the vast museum hall. Other aircraft here include a Fairchild Boxcar and Boeing 707 nose section.



Other aircraft exist at Ostend, including a Boeing 727, and at Melsbroek Air Base, including a C-47 and Boxcar.

Belavia Tu-154 flight video

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Belarus, Eastern Europe, Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Trip Reports, Spotting Videos, Switzerland, Western Europe | Posted on 16-06-2015


At the end of May I was on board Belavia’s Tupolev Tu-154 EW-85748 on what was billed as the final regular scheduled service of the type in western Europe. The flight was from Geneva to Minsk, and you can read the report here.

I’ve put together this video of the flight. I hope you enjoy the sound of those engines!

The final Tupolev TU-154 scheduled flight in Europe – trip report

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Belarus, Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS, Spotting Trip Reports, Switzerland, Western Europe | Posted on 01-06-2015


TU154 last scheduled flight

A few days ago I made the journey to Geneva in Switzerland to join a special flight which would be a first for me, but evidently a last for Europe.

Belavia, the national airline of Belarus, are the last European carrier to operate the Tupolev TU-154 in scheduled service and had made a decision to cease flying the type on such services in favour of its modern equipment, such as the Boeing 737 and Embraer 175/195 which are much more suited to modern travelers, unlike the Russian relics that were so dominant until the early 2000s.

Whilst Belavia doesn’t usually operate its TU-154s to Geneva, or on many scheduled services for that matter, Friday 29th May had been chosen as the symbolic last flight where it would substitute the smoking tri-jet in place of the usual CRJ or EMB-175 equipment.

I checked in at 9am, with most of the passengers clearly there for the event, having booked (like me) through the specialist tour agency Merlintour, which has organised three previous trips to Belarus for oldjet fans to experience flights on old Russian equipment. Arriving at the gate in one of Geneva’s satellites, around 90% of the crowd around me waiting for boarding to be called had cameras around their necks and were chatting excitedly about the upcoming flight; a few regular passengers, clearly not expecting this, looked on bemused.


Eventually boarding was initiated. Our aircraft was parked at a remote stand and we were taken in two buses. Once there, passengers were allowed off ten at a time in order to give an opportunity to take some photos without crowding the ramp. The captain was stood underneath the nose, looking smart (and hot; it was 28 degrees out) in his full uniform, posing for selfies with anyone who asked.


This was a first for me. I’d never flown a TU-154, or any Russian jet, before. Our aircraft was EW-85748. It sat glistening in the sun with mountains as a backdrop. Although we all think of this classic jet as old, it was in fact built in 1994 and was younger than the Lufthansa Boeing 737-500 that taxied past as we took photos. But the technology, design and style was definitely old and, clambering aboard, the cabin felt like something from a bygone age. It was split into two sections, with old-fashioned designs on the walls, seats that didn’t look like they could withstand much, and the smell of a museum piece.

TU-154 cabin

Because it took so long to board, we missed our departure slot. We sat for over an hour, with no air conditioning and a general hum from the APU that was louder than most modern jets at full thrust. Most agreed that this was not a problem, and any extra time on board was welcome.


We eventually taxied off under a water cannon salute by the fire service, and performed a sprightly, yet shallow, takeoff towards France. The noise was immense and the aircraft seemed to scream as she took flight. Soon we commenced a wide turn back over Lake Geneva, with those on the starboard side treated to fantastic views over Mont Blanc and the Alps. From my port-side window seat I had a classic view over the wing, which seemed more flexible in flight than it looked when on the ground.


During the flight the aisle became crowded. Passengers wanted to mingle and chat, and to have a look at the toilets and the view from the last window, which looked out on the engines. There were also TV crews from Belarussian stations interviewing the crew and passengers. The crew performed their duties as well as can be expected considering passengers were rarely seated, but as it came to the meal and drinks service we were told fairly sternly to sit down and shut up (I paraphrase), after which everyone had the choice of chicken or beef with rice, along with some sliced cucumber and a dry bun. Hardly nouvelle cuisine, but I was famished.



Drinks came afterwards – some kind of Russian Champagne knock-off, and brown water masquerading as coffee. We didn’t mind.

The flight took around 2 hours and 40 minutes, passing over Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Belarus. The engines whined down around 20 minutes before landing, and we made our way around the south of Minsk. The gear was deployed quite a way out, evidently to help slow the beast down. Landing was on runway 31, and was as smooth as can be, but again the engines went into a screaming frenzy as reverse thrust was deployed.


A slow taxi past the modern terminal took us to a remote stand where, again, fire tenders were waiting to create an arch in salute to the last flight. My first and second water cannon salutes in one day! Outside, more TV crews were on the ramp to capture the moment.



Following a brief ramp tour, Belavia’s Commercial Director, Technical Director, and the pilot from our flight, took the opportunity to present the airline’s history, and future vision, and talk about today’s flight. It was confirmed that as more new aircraft join the fleet, the three remaining TU-154s would be retired, likely by September 2016. Between now and then, they will operate only charters, such as taking mining groups to Siberia, or holidaymakers to Bulgaria.


The flight was definitely over too quick, but a real experience. The atmosphere on board was fun and both the crews and organisers from Merlintour were completely understanding of, and prepared for, what a bunch of aviation enthusiasts would want – namely lots of opportunities for taking pictures, videos, and clambering about all over the aircraft. I think it’s great that a carrier like Belavia would embrace such an opportunity when they could simply want to talk about their new aircraft and quietly put away their old ones.


2Excel’s Boeing 727s at Doncaster

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Trip Reports, Spotting Videos, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 06-02-2015


2Excel Aviation now have two former FedEx Express Boeing 727s based at Doncaster Sheffield Airport in the north of England. I was on site yesterday to witness the arrival of the second, G-OSRB, recently painted in the striking red and white colours.

The company’s first aircraft, G-OSRA, was in fact the last Boeing 727 built. Both have been saved from the axe following their retirement by FedEx last year.

Now, the aircraft will be used for oil spill response duties, and also in a cargo carrying capacity.

Enjoy this video of the aircraft at Doncaster.

Spotting at Kuala Lumpur KLIA2

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Malaysia, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports | Posted on 06-12-2014


KLIA 2 gates

Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s dedicated low-cost terminal, KLIA2, was opened in May 2014 and is the world’s largest dedicated low-cost terminal. It can handle up to 45 million passengers per year.

All of the airport’s low-cost airline movements were moved to the terminal, leaving the original buildings to handle full service airlines and the mainline flights of Malaysia Airlines.

Paul Moiser recently visited the airport and got the low down on spotting at KLIA2.



Getting to KLIA2

There’s an excellent train service which connects KLIA to KLIA2, and the journey time is only 3 minutes. It costs RM2 which is less than $1 / 50p.


Where to spot

KLIA2 has an official spotting area, just like KLIA1. Once you arrive at the KLIA2 train station take the elevator to level 3 departures and follow the signs for the smoking area and food courts. You will come across the outside viewing area next to McDonald’s.

KLIA2 terminal spotting location

There are two sides to the viewing area. Both sides only overlook nine parking gates, so you need visit each side of this level to see all of the aircraft. The larger parking area is the central bay, and aircraft parked here can’t be seen from either end of the viewing areas. Only movements taxiing in and out of this central bay can be seen from the right hand side of this level. As you enter past McDonald’s the viewing area to your right offers the best overall view as you can see movements over at KLIA, however you may need to use SBS or FlightRadar24 to identify these; although any departing traffic off the central runway (32R/14L) are readable.

The viewing area to your left as you enter only gives views of the new third runway and nine parking gates. This runway was quite active while I was there, so that’s why you have to spend time at each end.

It is possible to just stay at the main KLIA’s observation hall as you can see all movements moving about over at KLIA2, but closeup photography will not be possible.


KLIA 2 spotting hotel

Kuala Lumpur KLIA2 has its own hotel which is reached via a covered ground-level walkway. The hotel is a Tune Hotel and I had a walk over there to check out the rooms to see what the views were like.

Tune Hotel KLIA

As the hotel was busy the only room I could be shown was room 601. From the room you can see all departures off the new runway. No parking gates could be seen and I couldn’t see anything over at KLIA. I could only see movements taxiing in/out to one side of the parking bays, so although the hotel is very cheap at £35 a night, compared to excellent Sama Sama spotting hotel you need (if it’s important to you!) to factor this point in regarding views. Going off the location I really don’t think any other rooms would offer much better than the one I was shown.

The Tune hotel was very nice and modern, and they offer free wifi in all areas. The room I was shown was a double, but they do have twins. Rooms are very small but all have a flat screen TV with air-con, but no tea/coffee making facilities etc.


The aircraft photos on this page are from Paul Moiser’s visit. You can find out more about KLIA2 at the official website:

Spotting at the Comfort Hotel RunWay at Oslo Airport

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Norway, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports, Western Europe | Posted on 06-09-2014


Comfort Hotel Runway
This is a guest report from Mark Williams, who recently stayed at one of Norway’s best spotting hotels…I have recently returned from a one night stay at the Comfort Hotel RunWay at Oslo Airport.

The hotel is nicely situated next to the perimeter fence overlooking Runway 01L/19R. To get there from the airport you have a couple of options – the more expensive dedicated S44 hotel shuttle bus at 70NOK or the cheaper normal service bus 855 which involves a short 2 minute walk from the stop to the hotel.

I had emailed the hotel beforehand requesting a high floor room overlooking the airport and they replied very promptly saying a suitable room had been allocated. True to their word, they had reserved me such a room and with the minimal of fuss from an efficient front desk I was ready to spot. The fourth floor room (which is the top floor) contained a number of suitable rooms – 4015, 4017, 4019, 4021, 4023 and 4025 all being noted as among those suitable for our needs.

Runway 01L/19R is right in front of you and everything can be easily read off with binoculars. The hotel grounds actually end at the perimeter fence. There is an issue with trees in these grounds, and this will be to a greater or lesser extent from each individual room. However, there should be sufficient gaps from all to ensure nothing on this runway would be missed. Views over to the terminal are again affected by the trees, although the gaps will allow at least some sections of the piers to be seen. Where they are, reading the registrations off was no problem.

Oslo Spotting Hotel

Cargo was parked opposite the hotel, and being tail-on could not be read off. Runway 01L/19R seemed to handle the majority of the domestic or short regional traffic, and while this is probably favoured at first, the repeats start after about 5 or 6 hours After about 24 hours, little lands that hasn’t already been seen. However, much of the long haul traffic seemed to depart (not land) from this runway – including Norwegian B787s, Thai B777s and a SAS A330. While this can’t of course be guaranteed (the Qatar B787 for instance went off Runway 01R on one day and 01L on the other), from your perch at the Comfort Hotel RunWay most of the wide-body movements were read off.

The other runway (01R/19L) is just out of range for reading with binoculars (particularly of course as it is through glass and at an angle). However, seeing everything land on Runway 01R was no problem, so identification with SBS would ensure nothing is missed. They landed on 01R/01L during my entire stay – I imagine trees would mean if they were landing on 19L it wouldn’t have been so easy to even see them, so runway use could affect your logging considerably.

One thing I must mention. While the rooms are more than adequate, they only have a long thin window, which is set quite low. Not only does this mean the room is quite dark, but at 6ft, I had to bend down to actually see out (if you are 5ft it would be about perfect). However, if you settle down for a long spotting session, you will no doubt be seated, and I could see out of the window from a chair.

The room was priced at 849NOK (roughly £84 / $135) which included a half-decent breakfast – not bad for this location. There is a restaurant and a small snack area, and although there are other hotels nearby and a large conference centre, there appeared to be no other local places to get provisions.


Apart from the excellent view of the near runway that the hotel affords, it is also well placed to reach the SAS museum, which contains a small spotter’s terrace that is permanently open.

The museum itself is only open on Tuesday and Sunday. It is around a 15 minute walk away. Head out of the hotel and turn right on Hans Gaarders Veg. Keep heading along this road (running virtually parallel with the perimeter fence) and you will come to the museum and the raised spotting terrace. A quick look at Google Maps will show the way.

The terrace is a wooden structure, accessed via a few stairs, and gives a good panoramic view of the airport. The parked West Air ATPs (out of sight from the hotel) are right in front of you, and I could also read off the inhabitants of the cargo area (as well as a couple of biz jets in the GA area). The view of runway 01L/19R is restricted to about half the runway at one end but is very close with an excellent view of traffic departing off 01L. I imagine the views of traffic landing on 19R would be equally as impressive.
When I was departing I met an extremely helpful lady from NSSF – The Norwegian Plane Spotter Association who kindly gave me a copy of their viewing guide and offered advice as to the best spots. Check them out and show your support – they clearly do some good work to ensure that such facilities exist for us all. It appears that the majority of spotting locations for Runway 01R/19L require a car. All the long-haul traffic landed on this runway during my stay (but, as previously mentioned, the majority departed off the near 01L/19R runway). Most of the international traffic from Europe (if not all) seemed to land on 01R/19L and much went out that way too, so, for a registration reader, expect to miss some frames. While my success rate out in the open air and side on from the viewing terrace of departing traffic from 01R improved, it is still quite a long way away so success is by no means guaranteed. However, if the weather is good (there is no shelter here), this would be an extremely nice place to spend a few hours and is highly recommended.

Movements wise, Oslo was actually busier than I had expected. Norwegian and SAS dominate as you would expect with their B737s, although there was a healthy number of Wideroe Dash 8s in action. Three different Norwegian Dreamliners were seen in the 24 hours, plus a daily Thai B777, Qatar B787, a SAS A330, Primera B737 and Novair A321. Cargo offered a UPS B767, Jet Time B737 and Air Contractors ATR42.

Overall, an extremely enjoyable 24 hours in Oslo which, like the hotel and spotting terrace, comes highly recommended.

You can book a room at the Comfort Hotel RunWay Oslo here:



Brussels Spotting Guide added

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Belgium, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports, Spotting Videos, Western Europe | Posted on 29-08-2014


View from Wingtips Restaurant

View from Wingtips Restaurant

A new guide to spotting at Brussels Airport has been added, which is up-to-date from a recent trip (and will be kept up-to-date if anything changes). You can view the spotting guide at the top of the page under ‘Spotting Guides’, or by clicking this link:

Brussels is the largest and busiest airport in Belgium, handling a large amount of passenger and cargo traffic.

Cargo and low-cost mix at Brussels

Cargo and low-cost mix at Brussels

It is also home to Melsbroek Air Base, which handles the Belgian Air Force transport aircraft and any visiting foreign governments etc.

The airport has three runways – 25L/07R, 25R/07L, and 01/19.
It has a single large terminal building, with two long piers and various remote stands.

On the northern and western portions of the airport are a number of aprons for cargo aircraft. DHL have a base here.

Passenger movements are dominated by Brussels Airlines, Jetairfly, Jet Airways, and Vueling.
Other airlines of note include Ethiopian Airlines (787), Etihad (A330), Qatar Airways (787), Thai (777-300), Tailwind (737-400), MEA (A320), Air Arabia Maroc (A320).

Spotting is quite easy at Brussels, with a number of locations in and around the terminal, and a few good spots for photography around the perimeter for those using a car or public transport.

Here’s a video showing the various spotting locations and airline operators from my recent visit.

Nearby attractions include the Royal Army Museum in Brussels, with a large collection of preserved aircraft, and Brussels South Charleroi Airport, which is a base for Ryanair and Jetairfly.

Check out the spotting guide to Brussels and keep it handy when planning your trip. It includes spotting hotels at Brussels too!

BLOC Hotel Gatwick – Spotting Hotel Review

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Spotting Hotels, Spotting Trip Reports, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 27-07-2014



I recently had the pleasure of staying in the newly opened BLOC Hotel at London Gatwick Airport.

The hotel occupies part of the South Terminal at the airport, and is accessible pre-departures, making it an excellent place to stay before or after your flight without having to worry about transport to or from a hotel away from the airport itself.

But for enthusiasts the BLOC Hotel offers an even greater draw, and that’s fantastic views of the action at Gatwick itself.

Gatwick Airport has been notoriously difficult to spot from since the viewing terraces closed down in 2002. But for those who remember these terraces, the BLOC Hotel actually offers a similar view from many of its rooms, albeit with a further elevated perspective, meaning even more can be seen.

I was offered room 748 at the hotel, which is one of the best for spotting. It occupies a corner of the top floor of the hotel, with panoramic views from the runway to the left, round to the North Terminal and the South Terminal’s satellite to the right.

BLOC Hotel

The view from the BLOC hotel is similar to that of the old viewing terraces at Gatwick.

No movements can be missed from this room, as everything using the runway is visible, as are most stands. Some South Terminal stands are not visible, however. The maintenance area is also not visible.


The old viewing terraces still exist, but will not be reopened.

BLOC’s concept is modern design, and the furniture and fittings in the room are really unique. In this particular room there was a large bed, TV, bathroom (with equally good views),  and a touch-screen control panel to handle the lights, blinds, temperature etc.

One feature that always goes down well with spotters is Wi-Fi, and at the BLOC hotel it’s free for all guests, regardless of which room you stay in. This is ideal for running Flightradar24 or similar flight tracking websites to tie up distant or night time movements. On my stay I also noticed some Heathrow departures flying overhead, which could be identified on the internet.


Be careful when booking at this hotel as some rooms have no windows. These are clearly labelled on the website, and naturally will not offer any views of movements. It is best to try and get a higher room facing the airport (west or south) to ensure you can see movements easily; the benefit of Gatwick only having one runway is that all aircraft will be in the same place at some point.

BLOC Hotel Gatwick

An example of the photographs possible from the BLOC Hotel at Gatwick

Photography through the windows was easy on my stay. The windows were clean, and with a 200mm lens I could photograph any aircraft within a reasonable distance. I found, however, that as the light started to fade the windows took on a slight tint which stopped the ability to take good photographs.

The room rates at the BLOC Hotel are pretty good, and in most cases less than £100 per night for all but the VIP rooms. The website handily lists the full standard rate, and the actual rate they are charging over a range of dates. So you can plan your trip well.

This is easily one of the best spotting hotels I’ve ever experienced. I had the benefit of probably the best room for views, but many others at the hotel offer a similar panorama of this notoriously difficult-to-spot-at airport where nothing will be missed. Add to that easy access, comfortable facilities, friendly staff, and good prices.


To find out more or book a room, visit the BLOC Hotel Gatwick website.



World Airports Spotting Guide Book

Get this fantastic book covering London Gatwick and over 300 other airports around the world. It offers tips, spotting locations, spotting hotels, museums, and an indication of what you’ll see. Many airport also have spotting location maps. Buy it now.