This is a guest report from Mark Williams, who recently stayed at one of Norway’s best spotting hotels…I have recently returned from a one night stay at the Comfort Hotel RunWay at Oslo Airport.
The hotel is nicely situated next to the perimeter fence overlooking Runway 01L/19R. To get there from the airport you have a couple of options – the more expensive dedicated S44 hotel shuttle bus at 70NOK or the cheaper normal service bus 855 which involves a short 2 minute walk from the stop to the hotel.
I had emailed the hotel beforehand requesting a high floor room overlooking the airport and they replied very promptly saying a suitable room had been allocated. True to their word, they had reserved me such a room and with the minimal of fuss from an efficient front desk I was ready to spot. The fourth floor room (which is the top floor) contained a number of suitable rooms – 4015, 4017, 4019, 4021, 4023 and 4025 all being noted as among those suitable for our needs.
Runway 01L/19R is right in front of you and everything can be easily read off with binoculars. The hotel grounds actually end at the perimeter fence. There is an issue with trees in these grounds, and this will be to a greater or lesser extent from each individual room. However, there should be sufficient gaps from all to ensure nothing on this runway would be missed. Views over to the terminal are again affected by the trees, although the gaps will allow at least some sections of the piers to be seen. Where they are, reading the registrations off was no problem.
Cargo was parked opposite the hotel, and being tail-on could not be read off. Runway 01L/19R seemed to handle the majority of the domestic or short regional traffic, and while this is probably favoured at first, the repeats start after about 5 or 6 hours After about 24 hours, little lands that hasn’t already been seen. However, much of the long haul traffic seemed to depart (not land) from this runway – including Norwegian B787s, Thai B777s and a SAS A330. While this can’t of course be guaranteed (the Qatar B787 for instance went off Runway 01R on one day and 01L on the other), from your perch at the Comfort Hotel RunWay most of the wide-body movements were read off.
The other runway (01R/19L) is just out of range for reading with binoculars (particularly of course as it is through glass and at an angle). However, seeing everything land on Runway 01R was no problem, so identification with SBS would ensure nothing is missed. They landed on 01R/01L during my entire stay – I imagine trees would mean if they were landing on 19L it wouldn’t have been so easy to even see them, so runway use could affect your logging considerably.
One thing I must mention. While the rooms are more than adequate, they only have a long thin window, which is set quite low. Not only does this mean the room is quite dark, but at 6ft, I had to bend down to actually see out (if you are 5ft it would be about perfect). However, if you settle down for a long spotting session, you will no doubt be seated, and I could see out of the window from a chair.
The room was priced at 849NOK (roughly £84 / $135) which included a half-decent breakfast – not bad for this location. There is a restaurant and a small snack area, and although there are other hotels nearby and a large conference centre, there appeared to be no other local places to get provisions.
Apart from the excellent view of the near runway that the hotel affords, it is also well placed to reach the SAS museum, which contains a small spotter’s terrace that is permanently open.
The museum itself is only open on Tuesday and Sunday. It is around a 15 minute walk away. Head out of the hotel and turn right on Hans Gaarders Veg. Keep heading along this road (running virtually parallel with the perimeter fence) and you will come to the museum and the raised spotting terrace. A quick look at Google Maps will show the way.
The terrace is a wooden structure, accessed via a few stairs, and gives a good panoramic view of the airport. The parked West Air ATPs (out of sight from the hotel) are right in front of you, and I could also read off the inhabitants of the cargo area (as well as a couple of biz jets in the GA area). The view of runway 01L/19R is restricted to about half the runway at one end but is very close with an excellent view of traffic departing off 01L. I imagine the views of traffic landing on 19R would be equally as impressive.
When I was departing I met an extremely helpful lady from NSSF – The Norwegian Plane Spotter Association who kindly gave me a copy of their viewing guide and offered advice as to the best spots. Check them out and show your support – they clearly do some good work to ensure that such facilities exist for us all. It appears that the majority of spotting locations for Runway 01R/19L require a car. All the long-haul traffic landed on this runway during my stay (but, as previously mentioned, the majority departed off the near 01L/19R runway). Most of the international traffic from Europe (if not all) seemed to land on 01R/19L and much went out that way too, so, for a registration reader, expect to miss some frames. While my success rate out in the open air and side on from the viewing terrace of departing traffic from 01R improved, it is still quite a long way away so success is by no means guaranteed. However, if the weather is good (there is no shelter here), this would be an extremely nice place to spend a few hours and is highly recommended.
Movements wise, Oslo was actually busier than I had expected. Norwegian and SAS dominate as you would expect with their B737s, although there was a healthy number of Wideroe Dash 8s in action. Three different Norwegian Dreamliners were seen in the 24 hours, plus a daily Thai B777, Qatar B787, a SAS A330, Primera B737 and Novair A321. Cargo offered a UPS B767, Jet Time B737 and Air Contractors ATR42.
Overall, an extremely enjoyable 24 hours in Oslo which, like the hotel and spotting terrace, comes highly recommended.
You can book a room at the Comfort Hotel RunWay Oslo here: http://www.comfortinn.com/hotel-gardermoen-norway-NO113