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/

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 www.belgian-wings.be

Photo: Daniel Brackx www.belgian-wings.be


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.

It’s Heathrow! UK Airports Commission publishes recommendation

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Heathrow, Miscellaneous Spotting, UK, Western Europe | Posted on 01-07-2015


Heathrow R3 south west option

The UK Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, has given its recommendation that Heathrow be the London airport that gets an extra runway, it has been announced.

The Commission was given the task in 2012 of settling the decades-long argument over where extra capacity should be considered in the south east of England. The two primary airports in the region – Gatwick and Heathrow – are both close to capacity, with Gatwick being the busiest single-runway airport in the world.

However, Heathrow is the busiest hub in the country and has the most need for a new runway (its third), according to the report. It said that, whilst Gatwick’s proposal was plausible, not expanding Heathrow would put the UK at risk of losing out to continental Europe.

Airports at Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle are already way ahead in runway capacity and are attracting growth from airlines.

Whilst this is only the recommendation, the government will make a decision in 2016 on any expansion.

Davies said: “Heathrow … provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy,” adding “Further delay will be increasingly costly and will be seen nationally and internationally as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected, open trading economy,”

Heathrow has estimated that building could start in 2020 and the new runway would be ready in 2025, but that could be held up by the government’s decision and tough planning laws.

First A350 delivered to Vietnam Airlines

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



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.



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

Norwegian adding US – Caribbean flights

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Caribbean, North America, USA | Posted on 26-06-2015


Norwegian 737-800

Norwegian will introduce flights from the USA to Caribbean destinations this winter, expanding its Boeing 737 services away from Europe for the first time.

The airline, which offers Europe – USA long haul flights using its 787 Dreamliners, will now add flights from Boston Logan, New York JFK and Baltimore/Washington to Guadeloupe and Martinique.

All of the flights will be flown by Boeing 737-800 aircraft using its European crews.

Flights commence on 3 December, and make use of Open Skies treaties because of the French ownership of the two Caribbean islands.

Norwegian has stated that this will make good use of the slower Winter schedule in Europe, where carriers such as Ryanair often park aircraft for extended periods.

Another Dreamliner donated to a museum

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


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.


Paris Air Show Aircraft Orders Summary 2015

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 23-06-2015


Paris Air Show 2015

This year’s 2015 Paris Air Show was a great success for the various aircraft manufacturers, and was well attended.

Here’s a summary of the airliner orders each of the main manufacturers received this year.


Air Lease Corporation 1x A350-900
1x A321ceo
3x A320ceo
Alpha Star 1x ACJ319neo
Asian Airline 60x A320neo family
Eva Air 4x A330-300
Garuda Indonesia 30x A350XWB (LOI)
GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) 60x A320neo family
Korean Air 50x A321neo (30 + 20 options)
Peach Aviation 3x A320ceo
Saudia 20x A330-300 regional
30x A320ceo
Synergy Aerospace 62x A320neo family
VietJetAir 6x A321ceo
Wizz Air 110x A321neo


Air Madagascar 3x ATR 72-600
Air New Zealand 1x ATR 72-600
Bahamasair 3x ATR 42-600
2x ATR 72-600
Binter Canarias 6x ATR 72-600
Braathens Aviation 15x ATR 72-600 (5 + 10 options)
Cebu Pacific 26x ATR 72-600 (16 + 10 options)
Japan Air Commuter 23x ATR 42-600 (8 +15 options)


AerCap 100x 737 MAX 8,
Air Lease Corporation 8x 787-10 (for Vietnam Airlines, converted from 787-9)
Ethiopian Airlines 10x 787-8 (terrible teens)
Enter Air 2x 737-800
2x 737 MAX 8
Eva Air 5x 777 freighter
Garuda Indonesia 30x 737 MAX 8
30x 787-9
Korean Air 50x 737 MAX (30 +20 options)
2x 777-300ER
Minsheng Financial Leasing 30x 737/737 MAX
Qatar Airways 10x 777-8X
4x 777 freighter
Ruili Airlines 30x 737 MAX 8
SMBC Aviation Capital 10x 737 MAX 8
Sriwijaya Air 2x 737-900ER
Undisclosed 1x 737BBJ MAX 9
Volga-Dnepr Group 20x 747-8F (MoU)


Swiss 10x CS100 converted to CS300
Westjet Encore 6x Q400


Air Castle 15x E190-E2 (+15 purchase right)
10x E195-E2 (+10 purchase rights)
Guizhou 17x E190 (7 + 10 options)
Skywest 8x E175 (confirmed options)
United Airlines 28x E175 (10 + 18 options)


Yakutia 3x Sukhoi SSJ100
Ping An Leasing 50x Comac C919
Puren Airlines 7x Comac C919
7x ARJ21
Reignwood Aviation Group 50 Viking DHC-6-400 Twin Otter

Korean Air Airbus Order

3D imagery, 737 MAX, MAX, 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX8, 737 MAX 9; Enter Air; K66407

3D imagery, 737 MAX, MAX, 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX8, 737 MAX 9; Enter Air; K66407


Transaero Tiger 747 logojet revealed

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Eastern Europe, Russia | Posted on 23-06-2015





Transaero Airlines has painted one of its Boeing 747-400s in a striking tiger motif to promote the Amur Tiger Centre and promote the environmental and conservation issues surrounding rare species.

The Amur tiger has been chosen to symbolize the project as these subspecies rank among the biggest living cats and the most endangered big cats in the world. According to the surveys of 2015, the population of Amur tigers in Russia has stabilized to reach 510-540 individuals, and started to  increase sustainably. In the coming decade, the fate of Amur tigers and the wildlife in general will depend in significant part upon concerted actions by the international community.

The aircraft which has been painted is EI-XLN, which can be found on high density domestic and international routes from Moscow.

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!

Tunisair’s first Airbus A330 delivered

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Africa, Airline News, Tunisia | Posted on 12-06-2015



Tunisair has taken delivery of its first Airbus A330-200 airliner.

Named “Tunis”, the wide-body aircraft flew out from Toulouse and landed at Tunis-Carthage Airport in the evening, thus joining the airline’s existing fleet of Airbus aircraft comprising four A319s and seventeen A320s.

“I am extremely happy to welcome the A330-200 to our fleet, its unique profitability and unrivalled operating costs will allow us to develop our operations and win new market shares, thus supporting our country’s growth in the areas of tourism and economic development,” said Sara Rejeb, President and Chief Operating Officer of Tunisair, during this ceremony held at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse.

The aircraft is registered TF-IFM.