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Plane Spotting in Singapore

by Matt Falcus

Singapore’s Changi Airport is one of the world’s largest aviation hubs, and a major transit point for travellers heading between Europe and Asia. It is home to Singapore Airlines and its cargo division, plus its Scoot and SilkAir low-cost offshoots.  The airport is never quiet and offers a really interesting mix for the enthusiast, with many smaller regional Asian carriers coming and going regularly among the big international traffic.

The airport layout is based around two parallel runways, with all of the terminals located in the central area. After undergoing plenty of transformation recently, there are now four terminals in use, with the amazing new Jewel multi-use interconnecting structure recently added, offering retail, entertainment and dining options for both passengers and visitors. The amenities and quality of the facilities here have ensured Changi is consistently voted the best in the world by passengers.

On the north western side of the airport is a small site used by the Singapore Air Force, largely hidden by trees. You can often see its Fokker 50 and KC-130 aircraft arriving and departing, however.

In addition to being one of the busiest airports in the world for passengers, Changi is also a busy cargo hub, using a large complex of facilities to the north of the terminals, as well as Singapore Airlines’ engineering hangars.

A large new terminal complex is due to be built on the eastern side of the airport in the 2020s.

Thankfully there are a number of good spotting opportunities at the airport and enthusiasts can often be seen using them.


Main Airlines at Singapore Changi

  • FedEx Express
  • Jetstar Asia Airways
  • Republic of Singapore Air Force
  • Scoot
  • SilkAir
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines Cargo



Singapore Airport Layout


Spotting Locations

1. Terminal 1 Viewing Mall


Nicely air-conditioned, you can enjoy some good views of movements from this indoor area inside Terminal 1. It has views of the central apron and more distant views of aircraft on the runways. Singapore Airlines aircraft don’t usually park here. Photography is acceptable, but through glass, and better on the afternoon. To reach the area, go up the escalators from the check-in hall.

2. Terminal 2 Viewing Mall

A330-343 | Singapore Airlines | 9V-STC | SIN

Smaller than the Terminal 1 Mall, this is another indoor room which looks out over parking stands used by Singapore Airlines and some other airlines, plus runway 02C/20C. You can reach this area by heading up the escalators to the floor above departures, following the signs. Again, photography is possible through glass.

3. Terminal 3 Viewing Mall

Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

This indoor area looks out over runway 02L/20R, which is usually the arrivals runway. Photography is not good here, but you can still log movements with ease. Reach the area from the check-in area via escalators, following the signs.

4. Changi Beach Park

Changi Beach

If aircraft are arriving on runway 20R, head to the beach area north of the airport for great approach shots. You can move further down depending on the position of the sun. You can park at the ferry terminal, and there are bus stops here (take the 34 or 53 bus from the airport to Tampines Ave, then 9 bus to the ferry terminal).


If you have any other suggestions of good places to plane spot in Singapore, leave a comment below!


Singapore Spotting Hotels

Crowne Plaza
75 Airport Boulevard #01-01, Singapore 819664 | +65 6823 5354 | www.crowneplaza.com
The best hotel for spotting at Singapore Changi, but can be expensive. Views from the even numbered rooms are excellent if you get one on floors 7, 8 or 9 facing the airport (ask for a runway view). You will have views of some Terminal 3 gates and runway 02L/20R. Corridors can also be used for views of the central terminal area.

Changi Village Hotel
1 Netheravon Road, Singapore 508502 | +65 6379 7111 | www.villagehotelchangi.com.sg
If you ask for a room facing the sea, you will be able to read off arriving aircraft landing on runway 20R and see aircraft using 20L, or 02L/R. You’ll need flight tracking websites for night-time movements.


Other Singapore Spotting Highlights

Singapore is a small country and there are a couple of other aviation highlights you may wish to check out when visiting. They are:


Seletar Airport

9H-VJG Bombardier Global Express

Much smaller and more historic than Changi, Seletar only recently restarted passenger flights when Firefly moved its turboprop regional operations there from the larger airport.

Seletar is mainly a general aviation facility, but many executive jets use it also and are scattered around the aprons on either side of the runway. There are maintenance companies based here usually working on turboprop types, biz jets, and occasionally larger airliners.

You’ll find Seletar Airport around 10 miles north-west of Changi. With a car, some views are possible from the road leading to the terminal. You can also walk along both sides and see many of the parked aircraft through the fence, but don’t loiter for too long.


Paya Lebar Airbase

Paya Lebar operated as Singapore International Airport between 1954-1980, when Changi opened. Today it is a base of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, and home to the Air Force Museum (see https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/portal/rsaf/about-the-rsaf/air-force-museum). Various squadrons of fighter jets and C-130 Hercules operate from here. Enthusiasts of a civil nature will be interested in regular VIP movements, plus large aircraft coming in for maintenance and cargo conversions. It is anticipated that Paya Lebar will close around 2030.

Due to the military nature of the airport, you are best spotting from the museum, which has views of some parts of the airfield and maintenance hangars.


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King F HUi December 16, 2019 - 10:03 pm

The Crown Plaza Changi now (2019) charges extra SGD$75 per night per room for airport facing rooms. The best rooms are at the top floor 9/F room number 902-913 (sequential numbers). The best rooms for photography are room 918-911 as the boarding gate in front is usually not occupied. Photography from inside the room si good but some area of glass will give more distortion than other. Find a good spot.

However, in the hallway (outdoor, covered, no air conditioning) there are 2 openings that you can see directly to the runway 02L/20R and apron without obstacle. The viewing angle is small, so I use FR24 to watching for arriving/landing/departing aircrafts. However, many planes taxi in front at slow speed. You can just book the cheapest room and go to the 9/F hallway to spot.

Only registered guest with key cards can get to the room floors. So nobody will border you. Say hi to the housekeeping staff.

King F Hui December 16, 2019 - 10:07 pm

Terminal 1 viewing mall:

This is the oldest terminal and the glasses are darkly tinted. However, at this spot there are a few panes (emergency??) that are less tinted. You can tell when you approach the windows. I take photos from these less tinted panes and colour correction is a lot easier.

King F Hui December 16, 2019 - 10:26 pm

Terminal 4 air side:

The glasses here are the least tinted compared to other SIN terminals. Anywhere is good for 02C departure. At the far left corner, near gate G18/19, also a good view of T2. One can see planes taxing over from the “other” side to T2.

MERVYN CROWE December 19, 2019 - 6:14 am

First flew into Paya Lebar in May 1970 in a BOAC B707…remember it well.
Have had many trips to and through SIN/Changi since and yes a great place to take photos is on one of the roof gardens. Last time there, we taxied past the Fokker 50s at the small air force unit there.
Airport staff always friendly, but do read the signage where it states ”out of bounds” very important.


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