Aberdeen Airport, also known as Dyce, is an interesting airport for the aviation enthusiast to visit as, apart from the usual commuter and holiday traffic, it is a hub of aerial activity connected with the offshore oil industry with a large percentage of movements made up by helicopters ferrying workers to and from North Sea rigs.
Associated businesses, many of which are based in Scandinavia, mean that airliners not usually seen elsewhere in Scotland visit, some on a daily basis. A link has also opened up recently with Air Iceland flying Dash 8s between Aberdeen and Reykjavik. A good mix of biz-jets and corporate props visit.
A short break in Aberdeen back in the summer of 2017 enabled me to check out the newly built Crowne Plaza Aberdeen Airport Hotel which is now regarded as the best ‘spotting hotel’ at Dyce, surpassing its neighbour, the Holiday Inn Express for views. The cost of a two-night Dinner, B&B weekend stay was reasonable and our room on the 5th floor had a tremendous panoramic view across more than 90 percent of the airfield.
(Aberdeen Airport; Tuesday 3 August 2021)
My next visit to the airport was on the above date when I spent all of my time on the grass mound on the opposite side of the airfield, next to the Gama Aviation hangar. This location is highly recommended, especially as roads on the terminal side have no roadside parking whatsoever. It`s possible to park at Dyce Railway Station, cross the footbridge and walk to the mound in 5-10 minutes.
A dedicated page covering my latest visit including a selection of photos, has been created and can be viewed here.
Back in 2017, I only spent a couple of hours each day photographing the action and, as the view from the hotel room was so good, and the weather was mixed, I didn`t bother to check out any of the other, reportedly excellent vantage points dotted around the airfield, including the mound.
The large double-glazed floor-to-ceiling window of the Crowne Plaza Hotel was very clean but the thickness of the glass resulted in some photos taken at an angle being slightly blurred. Also, being Aberdeen rain is never far away and anything other than a light shower could spoil or prevent shots taken from the room. Not a real problem if you don`t mind getting wet though as the track running along the outside of the perimeter fence is only 2-3 minutes away from the hotel entrance.
The end of each corridor is fully glazed too which gives a different, side-on aspect of the only section of the runway that wasn’t visible from my room. The accommodation was of a high standard, clean and comfy with a fridge, tea and coffee, mini safe and free Wi-fi.
These shots show the view of the runway from the end of the 5th floor corridor. The lift areas on each floor look out the front of the hotel towards the terminal and are also fully glazed.
Images were all taken between Saturday 16 and Monday 18 September 2017.
The room was originally booked on a Dinner, B&B basis but the meal on the first night was so poor that we cancelled dinner for the second. Staff were very apologetic, refunded the main course and reduced the tariff for the next day accordingly. Breakfast, with a reasonable selection of hot and cold food was okay. Guests may be better off walking the short distance to the terminal or trying the Dyce Farm Restaurant behind the hotel for dinner. I chose the latter and although the food was nothing special, it was far better than the hotel`s and half price compared to the Crown Plaza’s standard menu.
One of the reasons for our break in Aberdeen was the chance to go on a Dolphin Cruise from the harbour. Conditions were good on Sunday around midday when a full boat set off with 27 passengers on board. On leaving the shelter of the breakwater, the chop increased which was only to be expected with a breeze blowing. We headed north apparently with the intention of checking out the mouth of the River Don but after 10 minutes, the guide asked if anyone wanted to go back. Twenty-five passengers were happy to continue but two said they would rather head in, so the skipper about-turned and converted the wildlife cruise into a harbour tour!
Conditions weren't that bad and it seemed strange that anyone would venture out into the North Sea with a wind blowing and not expect the boat to roll about a bit. It wasn’t scheduled to be a lengthy cruise and it was clear that most people, myself included, weren’t too impressed with the decision.
As a result the only Dolphins spotted on this trip to Aberdeen were two at Aberdeen airport! They were on either side of the road leading to our hotel.
Fifty brightly-painted Bottlenose Dolphin sculptures have been placed at various locations around the city as part of an arts project.
The Wild Dolphins project has been organised by Wild in Art with the Archie foundation at the Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).
The life-sized eye-catching fibreglass models will be on display in the city’s parks, beach and city centre over the summer, after which they will be auctioned to raise vital funds for these two charities. Each dolphin bears unique artwork and they include designs based on Aberdeen football team colours, a pirate, the oil industry, the Northern Lights, and this striking WW2 fighter plane by artist Mandii Pope. The plinth is illustrated with dolphin versions of famous aircraft from the era that were flown by either Great Britain, New Zealand or the USA, including Spitfire, Mosquito, Harvard, Whitley and Mustang.
It was probably a good idea to site the Doric dolphin at the airport as arriving passengers from other parts of Scotland or elsewhere in the UK could familiarise themselves with the local lingo before jumping in a taxi!
FGS Sachsen (F219), lead ship of the German Navy`s Sachsen-class air defence Frigates, was berthed at Aberdeen Harbour on Sunday 17 September. The Sachsen class are as large and just as capable as many destroyers and at €2.1 Billion for just three vessels, their construction is the most expensive shipbuilding project ever undertaken for the German Navy. Soon after this shot was taken, the warship sailed for Faslane on the Clyde prior to its participation in Exercise Formidable Shield 17 which will run between 24 September and 18 October at the U.K. Ministry of Defence's Hebrides Range located on the Western Isles. The purpose of Formidable Shield is to test NATO's theatre ballistic missile defence (BMD) capabilities and improve allied interoperability in a live-fire integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) environment. Assets from Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States are also scheduled to take part.
The waters to the northeast, north and northwest of Scotland will see even more military activity with the second of this year`s Joint Warrior exercises (JW 172) due to take place between 30th September and 12th October 2017. It will comprise of a programme of exercises conducted by land forces, warships, submarines and aircraft, not only in Scotland but at various locations across the UK. Many of the participating aircraft are temporarily based at RAF Lossiemouth and Prestwick Airport usually hosts Royal Navy Hawks and Cobham Aviation Falcons which make simulated attacks upon the fleet.
Parking at the Crowne Plaza costs £5 per day with an open air car park directly in front of the hotel. There’s no ticket involved and guests give Reception their vehicle registration number on arrival and pay the appropriate fee on check-out. The car park is surrounded by a raised embankment on three sides which acts as a ground-level vantage point although the perimeter fence enabling very close shots is far better and only a few metres away.
The top floor of the car park opposite the terminal building is another good vantage point for photography.
The hotel, and Airport for that matter, are busiest on weekdays and it could become a bit like watching paint dry if you were waiting to photograph planes on a Sunday morning. Also, the hotel was very quiet as the majority of rooms are more likely to be filled Monday to Friday with professionals connected with the oil industry or associated businesses. Aircrew also use the hotel as a stopover. Movement-wise Monday morning was far busier, particularly first thing, with a constant procession of helicopters departing for the rigs between 06:30 - 08:00 hrs. Most returned within 90 minutes or so.
Turboprops rather than jet airliners are the order of the day here, with Saabs, Dash 8s and ATRs of Loganair, Eastern, Flybe and Stobart Air amongst others performing the largest percentage of passenger flights. Widerøe, with a fleet of 41 Bombardier Dash 8s, is the largest regional airline operating throughout the Nordic countries and Aberdeen Airport is one of the airline`s six international destinations.
Biz-Jets & General Aviation
Aberdeen Airport usually sees an interesting selection of corporate jets visiting each month but only three were noted during my stay: French-registered Citation Mustang F-HEND and Gulfstream IV N427MM were parked up when I arrived on Saturday 16th and Bombardier CRJ-200LR D-AGRA of Global Reach Aviation called in on Monday morning.
With bases in Billund and Esbjerg, Denmark, Global Reach Aviation offers charters world-wide, and specialises in high security governmental flights and sports team transportation. On this occasion, D-AGRA was on the ground at Aberdeen for just under an hour.
En route to Aberdeen, I made brief stop at Dundee Airport which had a couple of interesting visitors including ATR 42-300 LY-ARI (right). Click here to view.
There was no activity at Aboyne on the Monday morning, however, with the one visible prop-driven tug and any gliders present all under wraps. I take it the action here mainly occurs at weekends but there is a parking area and several other spots which would be excellent for photography which I`ll bear in mind if I`m ever up that way again.
Additional images relating to Aberdeen can also be found in my Stock Photography Archive.