Zurich Airport, also known as Kloten, is Switzerland’s largest international airport & the
principal hub of Swiss International Air Lines.
A weekend spotting in Zurich – what can you expect?
A recent visit to Zurich was undertaken by the editorial team to see what this wonderful airport has to offer (& to fill the gaps in our Swiss fleets!). We had heard what superb facilities were on offer to the ‘spotter’ & wanted to see them for ourselves. It has to be said, we were not disappointed!
The airport closes between midnight & 6am so an early (but not too early) start will allow you to log the first long-haul arrivals before having a quick breakfast at the hotel. A short trip on the shuttle bus gets you to the terminal where it is time to stock up on supplies for the day. The viewing facilities, whilst great for viewing, are very limited in food/drink with just three food dispenser machines, coins required & they are not always full. Make sure you visit the supermarket in the terminal, rolls/sandwiches, snacks & most importantly, drinks are available at very reasonable prices. The weather can vary greatly as we found out over the weekend & when it gets hot, it gets hot! Plenty of water is advisable. Equally, when it rains, it rains hard, so the cover is most welcome.
Once stocked up, it is time to move to the viewing facility on Pier E. This is located ‘airside’ & can only be reached by airport bus. To get to the departure area for the bus, when leaving the terminal food court, turn left & follow the signs for the waving platform. Walk along the path under an elevated roadway until you reach a small building on the right hand side. Ticket machines are inside, purchase a ticket for CHF2, then pass through security & wait for the bus. Whilst this is a full security check/x-ray, you are allowed to take food/drink with you. Lockers are available should you wish to leave any bags behind. The first bus leaves at 7.45am & are then half-hourly. The viewing area closes at 8pm & return buses depart on the hour & half hour. The journey takes you past several stands before passing through a tunnel which brings you out at Terminal E. When leaving the bus, take the lift to the top-floor & then enjoy the view!
There is a large outside viewing area which allows for views overlooking a vast part of the airport. Views across to the bizjet park near the Heligrill, the regional jet parking stands and across to some of the other bizjet stands to the far end of runway …. Fantastic views of the runways can be had with photos of departing/landing aircraft easily taken. Cover is available inside should the weather take a turn for the worse, as it did for us with heavy rain on the Saturday.
For those interested in registrations, you need to keep alert, movements occur on all three runways but with a keen eye, most, if not all movements can be seen with the majority of landing aircraft passing close by Pier E.
What can be seen here? Plenty of Swiss obviously. Swiss International Airlines, we managed to see all of the fleet bar 1 A340 (which we hear was hiding in one of the hangers), all of the A330’s bar one, all medium haul except 2 A319’s & 1 A320, & approx 2/3’s of the Avro fleet. Other Swiss airlines seen included all bar 1 of the Belair (now Air Berlin) fleet, all of the Edelweiss fleet, plus Hello A320’s, Helvetic Fokker 100’s & Darwin Saab 2000’s.
Plenty of other European airlines visit, such as Lufthansa with a mix of types, KLM with 737’s & E190’s, Iberia & TAP Portugal with Airbus’s. Among the different airlines/types seen are Air Baltic, Croatia Airlines with Dash 8’s, Adria CRJ’s, Cirrus Dorniers, BH Airlines ATR 72’s, several different Turkish airlines; Tailwind, Sun Express, Pegasus among them.
Long-haul carriers include from North America, US Air with a 767, American Airlines with 767’s, Delta 757/767, United 767’s & Air Canada also with 767’s. The Far East is serviced by daily Singapore A380’s which conveniently park right in front of you for some great photos, Thai A346/747 & three times a week, a Hainan A330.
Movements are fairly constant & interspersed between the airliners are lots of bizjet/turbo flights. Over 75 different frames were noted over the three days. You can tire of the constant Swiss Airlines flights but the views & opportunities for some fantastic photos should definitely keep you interested.
A bonus for the spotter are the airside tours. A must if you want to see the various biz jets parked up in the hangers that are not visible from the viewing area. Tours are available on Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays, with the weekend tours starting at 11am & running half hourly until 4pm. Tours last approx 75 minutes and cost CHF8 although you are able to leave the tour at the viewing deck at Pier E thus saving the CHF2 admittance fee. Highlight of the tour has to be stopping at the junction of the 2 main departure runways and being able to get off the bus for some amazing close-up shots as the planes pass no more than 50 metres away! A word of warning, check the timetables as you may be unlucky & not have any departures at all whilst you stand there for 10 minutes or so. The 12.00, 12.30 & 13.00 tours seemed to be the ones that caught the majority of the long-haul departures. Cameras are encouraged, these tours are a credit to the airport authorities. Tours are conducted in the Swiss language & rarely in English. However, this does not stop the enthusiasts amongst us.
For those staying at the Park Inn or with a car, the Heli-Grill is also a must. Located on the far-side of the airport adjacent to a Biz jet parking area, a dedicated area is available which is well used by the locals. Photos can be taken of runway action using the purpose-built camera-holes in the fence. A ten minute walk along the fence-line allows all planes in this area to be logged. Best for photography in the evening when the sun is behind you, this is a great place to while away a few hours. Refreshments are available in a small café with toilet facilities nearby.
Good views can be had from the Radisson Blu, located at the airport. Some of the high floor rooms have views across towards the midfield observation deck. Room rates are considerably higher than the Park Inn, but nevertheless the hotel offers good facilities. Room rates avaialble upon request.
Overall, a reasonably busy airport with superb viewing facilities for both the number cruncher & the photographer. Well worth a visit. If any further details are required, feel free to contact us & we will be happy to try & answer any questions you may have.
Report provided courtesy of Dan.
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