The Springleaf Aviator’s Spotting Adventure
As someone who had been spotting in Singapore ever since the start of the pandemic, travelling overseas offered a unique opportunity to try my hand at plane spotting at overseas airports for the first time. Disclaimer: this should not be taken as a hard-and-fast guide to plane spotting at Zurich, Munich and Doha. Do refer to spotting guide websites for a more accurate and detailed guide on spotting locations at these airports!
Spotting at Zurich Airport
Zurich Airport offers some pretty fantastic views for plane spotter and aviation enthusiasts alike. A particular spot I visited outside of the airport grounds was the viewing point near the end of Runway 14 along Im Hell Road. The location offers a brilliant view in the morning arrivals for Runway 14, and an unobstructed view of the touchdown zone. For this location, lens up to 600m or a 300mm with a magnifier will suffice. At its closest point, 120mm will allow for the full body length capture without parts of the aircraft being cropped out of frame. This location has a large (free) carpark, and there is food/cafe stand with a portable bathroom. However, the cafe seems to be open seasonally, so do bring some food with you if you plan to spot the whole morning.
Another location that I passed was another developed spotting point at the foot of Runway 14 along Bülachstrasse, complete with shelters, a parking lot, two cafes and toilets, as well as a plaque that shows the aircraft and airlines that visit Zurich frequently. While I did not personally spot this location, the angle favors front, belly and rear-end shots, which can make for some rather unique and interesting angles.
At the airport itself, the main viewing platform at Terminal B is accessible to the general public (though non-travellers are subjected to a 5 Swiss Francs entry free). Open from 8am till 8pm, all visitors are subjected to a security check similar to the check in security, before you’re allowed to enter the view platform, which offers and amazing panoramic view of Runways 16/34 and 10/28, as well as the main aprons at Terminal B, the maintenance hangar and the Southern parking area. This location is extremely ideal for watching afternoon takeoffs from Runway 16 and 28 (see photos below), though 28 will be subjected to a lot of heat haze from all the APUs on the ground. For this location, having a range of camera lenses, or having a lens kit with a good spread of focal lengths would be great as some of the takeoff rolls will require lenses with longer focal length, while taxi shots often necessitate the use of wide angle lenses.
Spotting at Doha Airport
Due to the layout at Doha Airport, spotting from within the terminals is extremely challenging, not to mention that there are no viewing galleries or open air platforms to spot from. However that being said, if you happen to get a window seat facing the apron, you may be blessed with some decent taxi action at Doha. For instance, I had good shots of aircraft bearing the FIFA World Cup sticker (before they became mainstream), as well as the albino Qatar Boeing 777 as she prepared for her takeoff roll. And of course, if you’re lucky, you might just be able to snap the special liveries like the FIFA World Cup livery or the retro livery.
Spotting at Munich
Unfortunately, due to the tight schedule I had in Munich, I was only able to squeeze an hour of spotting on my last day at Munich, and unfortunately, it happened to be in the evening, when traffic was winding down for the day. Nevertheless, I did manage to snap some airport action from the viewing platform in the terminal. This location is accessible to the public and easy to get to from the main train station that services Munich Airport. However, a major drawback to this location is the presence of glass panels that tends of cast reflections that can be hard to mitigate without a lens skirt. For those of you who are familiar with Changi Airport Terminal 3’s Viewing Gallery, the reflections will be somewhat similar.
Spotting in Europe definitely was an interesting experience, with spotting in Zurich’s viewing platform being a major highlight of the experience. While Munich Airport was a slight letdown, I’m sure that there are much better spotting locations to capture aircraft from.
About the Writer:
Gavin graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2019 with a honours degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and a 2nd Major in Food Science and Technology. He now works in GSK, a major pharmaceutical company in Singapore as a process engineer, where he supports the research and development of production of new medicines.
As a COVID-spotter, Gavin began planespotting in July 2020 using his trusty Olympus EM10 camera. Over the course of the many months of spotting, he has honed his photography and editing skills, drawing inspiration from many other seasoned spotters. In September 2021, Gavin joined the APP team as a writer, capturing aviation news and developments, from Starlux’s inaugural arrival in Singapore, to the 2022 Singapore Airshow.