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/

SATA rebranding as competition heats up in Azores

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, North America, Portugal, Western Europe | Posted on 20-01-2015



SATA International will be rebranded as Azores Airlines this year as it begins taking steps to secure its business as the aviation scene in the island chain heats up.

We reported last month that Ryanair is to set up a base in Ponta Delgada from April 1st, bringing low-cost flights to the Portuguese mainland and further afield for the first time. easyJet is also set to enter the Azores market.

SATA, which offers intra-island services as well as links to Portugal, Europe and North America, will begin a five year scheme to reduce its fleet size and refocus its core business to ensure it remains profitable in the face of increasing competition. Part of this will see the airline focus more on flights to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde islands, Madeira through its SATA Air Acores subsidiary, and to North America.

In 2016 the airline will also establish SATA Serviços, a ground handling company, to be based at the islands’ airports and make money from the new low-cost airlines’ flights.

Part of the airline’s woes have also come from the US Air Force’s decision to remove 500 troops from the joint civil-military airport at Lajes in the Azores. The airline relied upon the presence of the air base here and it will be felt in the local economy once they have gone.

Iberia to launch 13 new routes in 2015

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Eastern Europe, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 11-12-2014


Iberia A321

Iberia and its partner Iberia Express will launch 13 new routes in the summer 2015 season.

The airlines will operate non-stop flights from Madrid to Florence, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Verona in Italy, Manchester and Edinburgh in the UK, Hamburg in Germany, Funchal in Madeira, Portugal, and Budapest in Hungary.

They will also launch non-stop flights from Asturias to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, from Madrid to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and from Madrid to London Gatwick.

In addition the airlines will add 65 weekly flights to 24 existing Spanish, European and long-haul routes

Luis Gallego, Iberia’s Chairman and CEO, commented that “The introduction of additional routes and frequencies in such a competitive short- and medium-haul market is an indication of the effectiveness of our cost-cutting measures, and also of the quality of the new product and services that we offer our customers.”

The new routes and additional frequencies follow the eight destinations launched by Iberia in 2014 (Montevideo, Santo Domingo, Amsterdam, Athens, Hanover, Istanbul, Stockholm and Stuttgart), the capacity increase to Panama City and Santiago in Chile, as well as the summer destinations operated by the airline (St. Petersburg, Ibiza, Dubrovnik and Zagreb)

Ryanair adding Azores base

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Portugal, Western Europe | Posted on 09-12-2014


Ryanair Marrakech

Ryanair is stretching out into the Atlantic with the announcement of a new base at Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

The base will open on 1 April 2015 (no fool!), with one Boeing  737-800 based initially.

The first routes will be to Lisbon and Porto in mainland Portgual, along with a 1x weekly flight to London Stansted.

It remains to be seen whether this is some stepping stone across the Atlantic or into Africa.

5 Airports for Crosswind Landing Videos

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Germany, Japan, Miscellaneous Spotting, Portugal, Spotting Videos, Switzerland, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 11-05-2014


If you want to get out there and capture some stunning videos or pictures of crosswind landings, here is some inspiration from five different airports.

The key to emphasising the crosswind is to be positioned looking down the runway, either in front of or behind arriving traffic.

Birmingham, UK

Dusseldorf, Germany

Funchal, Madeira

Tokyo Narita, Japan

Zurich, Switzerland


Airport Spotting Guides Europe book

Airport Spotting Guides Europe

Comprehensive guide book to Europe’s best airports for spotting aircraft. Includes:

  • Maps with spotting locations marked
  • Spotting hotels
  • Airlines, runway details, radio frequencies
  • Nearby aviation attractions – museums, airfields, preserved aircraft.

Perfect for your spotting trips. Buy your copy here!

TAAG Angola aims to develop Luanda into large hub

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Airport News, Belgium, Brazil, China, Dubai, France, Heathrow, Italy, Middle East, Portugal, South America, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 01-04-2014


TAAG_777-3M2ERTAAG Angola Airlines is planning to turn its Luanda Airport base into a hub to link Central Africa with worldwide destinations in association with Emirates Airline.

TAAG is currently on the EU banned airline list, but it is hoped it will emerge soon and begin expanding its connections to Europe, including Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon, London Heathrow, Paris CDG, and Rome Fiumicino.

Luanda will also be linked through Dubai via Emirates, who will also take on TAAG’s links to Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo.

A new airport is being built at Luanda which will be able to handle this increased traffic, and match modern standards expected at airports.

Spotting at Porto Airport

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


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

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

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

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

Porto Departures area

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

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

Air France 747 at Porto

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

Porto is a Ryanair hub

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

Vueling starting Brussels base

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Western Europe | Posted on 07-11-2013


This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.Spanish low-cos carrier Vueling will open a new base at Brussels Airport in May 2014.

The carrier already operates four routes from the airport, and will commence seven new ones to Rome, Lisbon, Oporto, Venice, Santiago de Compostela, Ibiza and Palma when the base opens.


Scary runways around the world

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Eastern Europe, France, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Western Europe | Posted on 22-06-2013


Faith Norris has written this run-down of some of the scariest runways around the world. How many have you flown to?


Scary Runways around the World

Flying can be a turbulent experience for some, especially the take-off and landing. However, the thrill of arriving at an exciting and fun location means that most of us are keen fliers who love knowing we’re just hours away from dream destinations. So, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s look at five of the shortest and scariest runways around the world.

Madeira Airport Runway - credit futureshape

Santa Catarina, Madeira, FNC

The international airport on Madeira Island is known as Funchal Airport, located just 13km from the Funchal Cathedral. The runway is 9000 ft. long and the landing process is not a straight forward descent. With the Atlantic Ocean to one side of the runway and sheer mountains to the other, the pilot has to direct the plane towards these mountains before making a last minute turn to land on this short runway. The airport opened in 1964, when the runway was just 5,200 ft., before being revamped in the 21st century. Once landed on this beautiful Portuguese island, tourists can enjoy exploring towns such as Funchal and Canico, taking stunning mountainous walks, as well as visiting excellent beaches. The southern location of the island means that the weather on Madeira is great all year round.

Nepal Airport - credit ilkerender

Tenzing Hillary, Nepal, LUA

Also known as Lukla, the Himalayan airport is renowned for having one of the most feared runways in the world. Built on a steep incline in the middle of the Himalayan Mountains, it’s a mere 1500 ft. long and 65 ft. wide! There is no room for error when landing as you approach the runway, winding your way through mountain peaks and clouds. The take-off is just as daunting, accelerating at full speed down the runway before reaching a 9000 foot drop into the valley. The airport is usually quite a busy place as it’s the starting point for people trekking to the Khumbu and the Mount Everest Base Camps.


Courchevel Airport - credit pr1001Courcheval, France, CVF

The airport at Courcheval in the French Alps has a steep runway, with a gradient of 18%, a length of just 1700 ft. and a vertical drop at the end. The weather conditions throw another spanner in the works, with snow, wind and ice making for a challenging landing at the best of times. As pilots approach to land they have to carefully manoeuvre between the snowy valleys and mountains, this can only be performed by specially trained pilots. As well as being rather dangerous, the airport also has another claim to fame; filming for the James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies took place here. Even Pierce Brosnan must have been slightly scared! To calm your nerves, make a detour at the après-ski bar in the airport, grab a hot chocolate or a shot of schnapps to really warm you through, as you watch the planes attempt the awkward landing. Once sufficiently settled after the nerve-racking land, tighten those ski boots, click on your skis and carve up the piste.


Heraklion, Crete, HER

Heraklion airport, also known as Nikos Kazantzakis, is the second busiest airport in Greece after Athens. It was first opened in March 1939 where it was simply a flat area of agricultural land. It wasn’t until 1953 that it had a concrete runway measuring a mere 5,100 ft. Over the years, the airport has had a number of improvements, with terminals being built as well as the runway being extended to 8,000 ft. It operates to 102 destinations in 27 countries offering stunning views of the island as you fly over the Mediterranean Sea. In 2012 over forty thousand flights arrived and departed the airport. Unfortunately, it’s requested that photographs or videos are not to be taken, as the airport is the base for the Hellenic Air Force. Fear not, as once you’ve landed, there will be plenty of opportunities to take your holiday snaps.


Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, FUE

The runway at Fuerteventura airport, also known as El Matorral, is 7000 ft. long and requires a skilled pilot to land safely on the short stretch. It reaches out to 66 destinations in 11 countries and caters to millions of tourists every year; 5 million in 2012! Built in the 1960s, and next to the Atlantic Ocean, it gives passengers a stunning view as they arrive in Puerto del Rosario, the island’s capital. As you come in to land, you’ll notice the lunar landscape and golden sand dunes. Once you’ve touched down, head to the coast to try out water sports activities, such as windsurfing and kite surfing, taking advantage of the strong winds and great waves. Corralejo and Costa Calma are both popular resorts, with long sandy beaches and excellent restaurants.


Even though you may have to overcome some minor panic, the destination will make the flying experience worthwhile, and you’ll have some great stories to tell your friends if you spend time one of these iconic runways. Buckle up and enjoy your travels.

7 Most Bizarre Airport Runways

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Caribbean, France, Japan, Portugal, Sint Maarten, Thailand, Western Europe | Posted on 30-11-2012


David Eaves at Private Jet Charter has compiled this great selection of some of the most bizarre airport runways around the world.

How many of them have you travelled to? Are they as crazy in an aircraft as they look from the outside?


1. Funchal Airport’s Extended Runway

Above: When engineers were looking for a viable way to extend Funchal Airport’s dangerously brief runway, they cleverly opted to ‘rest’ the enormous structure on 180 pillars, each measuring 230ft, rather than using landfill to support the strip. – more info.

2. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport runway


Image Source

Above: This is the only airport on the Caribbean island of Saba and because it is so short it is extremely difficult for even very experienced pilots to land on. – more info.

3. Princess Juliana International Airport runway

Above: The beach pictured can be found on the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean and is unfortunately located directly underneath the landing path of planes approaching the airport runway.


4. Gibraltar Airport’s Runway

Image source

Above: This airport runway located in Gibraltar is one of the only airport runways to intersect a public road. The runway operates similarly to a train crossing so traffic is put on hold whilst planes take off.


5. Don Mueang International Airport Runway

Above: The bizarre thing about the runways at this Bangkok airport is that there is about this an 18 hole golf course situated between the two different runways.


6. Courchevel Airport Runway

Above: Courchevel Airport is a French airport that serves Courchevel, which is located in a ski area in the French Alps mountain. The airport has a very short runway of only 525 m (1,722 ft) with gradient of 18.5%. – more info.


7. Kobe Airport Runway

Above: The picture above is of one of Japan’s custom made runways on an artificial island just off the coast of Kobe which can be seen on Google maps. More info can be found on Wikipedia.



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: http://www.airportspotting.com/world-airports-spotting-book

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