Brussels Airport (BRU | EBBR ) is the largest and busiest airport in Belgium as well as being a major cargo hub for the country and the rest of Europe.
Spencer Bennett provides this guide to viewing aircraft from the airport’s two dedicated spotting platforms.
Brussels airport is situated around 6 to 7 miles north east of the city centre and is the base for Brussels Airlines and TUI Belgium.
Despite aircraft spotting being a popular hobby in Belgium, Brussels Airport did not offer any official viewing areas for many years. However, in early 2017 the airport consulted with local enthusiasts with a view to creating an official viewing area.
The terrorist atrocities at the airport in March 2016 meant the project was put on hold, but resumed several months later and in February 2017 the airport announced plans to provide not one, but two official viewing areas for enthusiasts and the general public.
Work started in 2017 and in May 2018 Brussels Airport officially opened the two spotting platforms.
Brussels Spotting Platform 1
The first platform is situated in Steenokkerzeel near the threshold of runway 07R and 25L.
The platform is a wooden structure with two levels so enthusiasts have an unobstructed view at the point of aircraft touching down on runway 25L. Photographers will find that a 100-150mm lens is needed for a 737 / A320 size aircraft or 50-70mm required for larger aircraft such as Boeing 787 or Airbus A330.
The main runway configuration generally used at Brussels sees landings on 25L and 25R and departures on 25R. Most aircraft use 25L for landings although cargo and military flights will usually land on 25R due to the cargo and military parking area’s being closer to that runway. Some passenger flights will occasionally also land on 25R at quieter times if the allotted stand is closer to that runway.
With a 300mm lens or larger it is possible to photograph larger aircraft landing on runway 25R from the viewing platform although on sunny days heat haze could affect the quality of the image.
Photographers will find that the position of the viewing platform makes for good photographs from morning till evening as the sun remains behind you throughout the day.
It is worth noting that there is a small free car park with limited number of spaces but no toilet or food / drink facilities.
Brussels Spotting Platform 2
The second platform is situated in Zaventem, close to runway 01/19. This platform is popular with families with small children due its close proximity to Vliegbos woods. There is no official car park but there are plenty of areas to park for free next to a children’s football pitch or on the road leading in, although again no toilets or food / drink facilities. The platform is around a 7 or 8 minute walk through some woods with signposts to guide you.
The airport has done an excellent job in making this area family friendly by creating activities through the woods for children and also signs displaying wildlife of interest that can be seen.
There is a play area for children plus a reduced scale replica of the Brussels runways. The viewing platform itself is in the shape of an aircraft.
When aircraft are landing on runway 01 this viewing area provides a great view of aircraft at point of touchdown. All aircraft, including cargo and military, will land on runway 01 when this runway is in use. From a photography point of view, the area is good up till early afternoon. By late afternoon the sun will have moved round to directly in front of the platform.
Even when runway 01 is not in use, the area is still worth a visit as some aircraft landing on 25R will taxi in front of the viewing area, and with a 300mm lens aircraft taxying to and from stands on the non-Schengen pier can be photographed.
The Brussels Airlines hanger and ramp is also visible and some aircraft are photographable from here also.
All movements can be seen from both viewing platforms although non photographers may find the 01 viewing platform gives an overall better view of the whole airport.
How to Get to the Brussels Viewing Platforms
Both viewing areas are signposted from the N227 road from Nossegem to Steenokkerzeel although the sign for the Zaventem area is a little harder to spot as it is amongst a number of other signposts.
For those without a car,it is possible to take a train to Nossegem station and the viewing platforms are around a 15 -20 minute walk from the station. Or alternatively take bus no 830 to Groenendaal and get off at Zaventem Imbroekstraat and then around a 15-20 minute walk.
What You’ll See at Brussels Airport
In terms of what can be seen, Brussels has regular flights from most European flag carriers and low-cost airlines. There are links to USA with Brussels Airlines, United and Delta and Hainan Airlines and ANA offer links to China and Japan respectively. With Belgium having strong connections to Africa there are various routes to Africa with Brussels Airlines but also some African airlines including Ethiopian and Rwandair. One rare airline for European spotters to look out for is Qeshm Air who operate to and from Tehran.
The airport is also a major cargo hub and cargo flights should be seen on any day from airlines such as Ethiopian Cargo, Asiana Cargo, DHL Aviation, Singapore Airlines Cargo and Saudia Cargo.
Due to Brussels political position as the headquarters of the main EU institutions, the airport often sees visits from governmental aircraft for summit meetings which can result in some interesting visitors.
Brussels Airport should be commended for providing two excellent facilities for both enthusiasts and families and the author can strongly recommend visits to both.
For information on spotting at Brussels Airport and hundreds of other airports around the world, our book World Airports Spotting Guides is the perfect companion. It includes descriptions of spotting locations, with maps, plus information on what you’ll see and other aviation attractions.