Following our recent posts about the airports in New Zealand, and a photographic snapshot of Auckland Airport, Mark Mabey has contributed this guide to spotting in New Zealand based on his experiences whilst living in the country, and including many of the smaller airfields.
Auckland International Airport
Located to the south west of the city.
Easy access from both southern and south western motorways.
A public viewpoint is available on both sides of Puinui Road on the eastern approach to the airport. This area is signposted and offers good photo opportunities if aircraft are landing from the east.
The airport has two terminals. NO spotting space within the terminals unless you are actually flying – if that is the case good views from large windows in both Domestic and International terminals.
Don’t miss Percival Gull G-ADPR which is hung from the ceiling in the public part of the International terminal above the stairs by the international arrivals area.
It is also possible to get photos of aircraft on the two eastern aprons – one which often houses cargo airliners from a short term car park entered by the Domestic terminal. The apron further to the east which often has biz jets parked up can be accessed from a service road off of Hape Drive, close to the DHL building. I have not had any problems with security from making quick visits here.
A view of the Air New Zealand maintenance apron can also be had by parking in the DHL visitors car park – Laurence Stephens Drive. Again if quick I have not had any problems.
Spotting from the top floor of the multi-storey car park by the Domestic terminal is also possible, but the views are not great.
Located about 30 mins to the south west of Auckland city centre, near Alfriston. This is a pretty busy light airfield with a great café open to the public which has views of the main runway. There are many hangars here which house both old aircraft being restored and locally based light aircraft. The Oceania hangar close to the entrance often houses foreign imported helicopters, and in good weather you can see into the hangar from main airport road. They also have their own small apron outside the hangar.
During 2016 there may be further security fences added but at the time of writing you could still drive through the airfield to the hangars at the far end and get views of the warbird hangar and apron. Many Harvards are based here and are active throughout the year in good weather.
Ardmore Flying School have a verandah where you can ask to sit and get a close view of their aircraft. Access from junction for Takanini off the southern motorway.
North Shore Airfield
Located about 30 mins to the north of Auckland city centre. Access is off the main northern motorway junction for Silverdale and Dairy Flat. Airfield is on Postman Road off Dairy Flat Highway via Wilks Road.
North Shore used to have various BN Trislanders serviced here, but as of April 2016 only a couple of “wrecks” were left, including VH-NKW stored between two hangars – visible from a gate entrance on the northern side of the airfield.
The flying club here has a clubhouse where visitors are welcome, and good photos can be taken from here or adjacent car park.
Located on North Shore on Rosedale Road. About 5 minutes drive from the junction on the northern motorway.
Rosedale is a base for Helitranz and on a sunny day there are often some helicopters parked outside. I have not asked to view in the hangar but it may be possible upon request.
Mechanics Bay Heliport
Situated in downtown off Tamaki Drive. Limited parking next to the dock entrance at a restaurant (Mikano). A public walkway passes next to the heliport fence and past the freight terminal for the docks, giving views of the whole heliport apron.
An air ambulance is based here, plus Police helicopters and some scenic flight helicopters.
Mechanics Bay is busiest in the summer months (Nov to Feb).
Less than two hours north west of Auckland.
VERY friendly small strip with a fly-in most Saturdays with lunch available in the clubhouse.
A small but varied group of residents.
I was shown around a hangar when I asked a guy working on a plane.
About two hours north of Auckland on SH1.
Has a small terminal. Easy views from car park and also service road to hangars.
Nothing much was visible on my only visit so far. Has a few residents.
Kaitaia and Keri Keri
Two small strips at the “top” of New Zealand. Often a final/first stop for aircraft being imported or exported from the country. Pretty quiet generally. Both airfields have easy access and views of aprons.
Bay of Plenty
A pretty busy light airfield with a hangar packed with gyrocopters, and a gliding club.
The gliding club gave me access to their hangar upon request – they are situated to the west side of the airfield.
The main terminal and car park give good views of the apron.
There is also a viewing area by the flying club. If you are prepared to walk there are various vantage points.
The other bonus here is a GREAT small aircraft museum which is very cheap to get in (only about $10). It also has a great café, called Avgas Café.
Central North Island
A busy central airfield with based Saab (as at April 2016) – a new regional air service.
Views of the apron from the main terminal and adjacent parking with a new helicopter hangar next to the terminal, with some glazed panels to see helicopters inside.
Best place to spot is in the centre of the airfield by the control tower and flying club. Ample free parking here. Access is off Ohaupo Road. Good views of central aprons / flying club grass parking area and also any crop spraying aircraft being serviced by Farmair.
A medis MU2 is also based here (as at April 2016) – ZK-KOH
Note: along the airport road going towards Cambridge from the main airport about 1 mile is the home of Pacific Aerospace who build crop sprayers and parachute drop aircraft. On my one attempt to gain entry I found that spotters are NOT welcome due to business security issues. But you can get good photos of anything outside the hangars from the public road outside.
Home to a small band of aircraft and some turbo-props and a biz jet. Plenty of good views from around and inside the terminal and adjacent public highway.
Lower North Island
A busy pseudo international airport which often has biz jets and Air New Zealand / Jetstar airliners present.
Good views of aircraft parked on the apron from main terminal.
Spotting also possible from west side of runway.
Sounds Air have PC12 and Cessna Caravans that operate from here too.
No real spotting from main terminal unless you are flying.
Views of military apron are possible from the bus station and rental car car park.
Easy access to flying club on south side of airfield by car, off Macleans Island Road.
A small heliport is also situated off Memorial Avenue with views for photos if on foot.
The junction of Grays Road and Avonhead Road has great views of the Christchurch runway and taxiway – I have not parked there myself but have noticed people there when flying in and out of the airport.
An airfield situated about an hour south of Christchurch.
Quite a large general aviation field which has a small but interesting museum [website] which is worth a visit.
A large and busy central Otago airfield about an hour and a half north of Queenstown by road. It has lots of hangars that have views between them and across the central grass area to any parked aircraft.
Worth a visit just because of the stunning location – forget the aircraft!
Queenstown has many scenic flight helicopters based here and usually has biz jet visitors, especially in the summer months.
The airport is close to a shopping centre which gives road access to views across the airfield and behind some of the hangars.
Good photos can be had from public areas in terminal too.
Plenty of car parking (paid) in the central area by the terminal, but also free parking in the shopping centre next door.
Up to date details on visitors and aircraft movements in New Zealand can be found on various blogs. The best two that I follow are: