In early May 2019, I took a short break to Düsseldorf, checking out the city as well as spending some time photographing planes at the airport which is the third busiest in Germany after Frankfurt and Munich, having handled handled 24.3 million passengers in 2018. Dusseldorf Airport is located about 4 miles (7 kilometres) north of the city centre.
Dusseldorf Airport is served by two railway stations: The mainline Düsseldorf Airport train station for Intercity Express trains (ICE) is located on the east side of the complex and easily reached by a fully automatic cabin railway system from the terminal. Over 350 trains per day pass through enabling passengers to reach numerous destinations within Germany and neighbouring countries.
Düsseldorf Airport also has an S-Bahn (urban line) train station which is located below Terminal C and can be reached via a moving walkway from the Arrivals area. From here, the S11 takes about 15 minutes to reach Düsseldorf Central Station where there are underground connections for onward travel across the city.
Düsseldorf Airport has the reputation of being one of the spotter-friendliest airports in Germany and in addition to an excellent viewing terrace, a selection of apron tours are on offer, including a photo tour where visitors can alight from the vehicle at certain locations to snap the action. This is the one I’d have chosen but at present they only run late afternoon on Fridays and Mondays which didn't tie in with my schedule.
Above: Part of the western apron seen from the Viewing Terrace. A TAP Portugal Airbus is about to land on Runway 05R.
Another accepted vantage point for watching the planes is the top of Car Park 7 which is only a two-minute walk from the terminal building. Take the lift to the top deck, level 8, which is open-air, and there is an excellent view over the Eurowings apron and sections of the runways and taxiways. The wire fence surrounding the car park roof area is low enough at one end to enable you to shoot over, rather than through it. There are supposedly some decent spotting / photo locations dotted around the airport perimeter but they're hard to reach without a car, and with the excellent facilities at the terminal I’d imagine it’s mainly just locals that make use of them.
Image © Sheraton Hotels
Base in the city was the Das Carls Hotel in the Altstadt, or Old Town, with the Rhine only a short stroll away, and I`d booked a two-night stay at the airport to finish up. There are two excellent hotels just a few minutes from the terminal, both connected to it by a walkway. The Sheraton Düsseldorf Airport Hotel has some high-level rooms offering limited views of the domestic apron and lead-off taxiway albeit at a distance, however, acceptable photos are supposedly very difficult to achieve. The hotel car park`s upper levels may offer an improvement but the viewing terrace, or even car park 7 are far better options. The above image on the Sheraton website shows the unusual design of the hotel and includes the western apron, the Runway 05L threshold and part of the terminal. Although all under one roof, Terminal C occupies the left hand side of the building, Terminal B the middle and Terminal A on the right, although the latter part is not included in the above view.
I’d booked the alternative Maritim Hotel, another large 4* establishment, and had emailed in advance asking if I could have a high room with a view of the aircraft. Some of the rooms on the side furthest from reception look onto the western apron and executive park beyond.
Staff were only too happy to oblige but due to a misunderstanding, I was allocated a room at the front of the hotel which looked onto the control tower.
The terminal building totally obscured any view of the airfield and planes could only be seen for a few seconds, whether in the distance on approach or climb-out if they had taken-off from Runway 23L or 23R. The following shots and the one above were taken from this room which was on the top (6th) floor.
Following another visit to reception, the first room was swapped for one on the desired side and although all are at an angle to the apron, the windows open sufficiently for guests to stick their head out and snap away. There is a fair bit of ground clutter including lamp posts but reasonable shots of the activity in this small corner of the airfield can be had from the comfort of your room. The biz-jet area is quite far off and these aircraft tend to park tail-end on.
In the left-hand view, the hotel reception is on the left beyond the opening in shadow which leads downstairs to the front entrance. The central pillar behind the tree holds the lifts. The centre shot shows part of the walkway that connects with the airport terminal while the right-hand image looks out in the opposite direction to the walkway from the hotel.
The runways can`t be seen from the Maritim Hotel but planes lifting-off from 23L / 23R can be photographed with a long telephoto. If they are landing in the opposite direction (05L/05R), they approach at an angle and are very distant but record shots are possible. On sunny afternoons and evenings you’ll be facing into the sun though and heat distortion, even in photos taken from the viewing terrace, is often a problem.
There were only around a dozen biz-jets visible at any one time during my stay although many more would no doubt be hangared. Jet Aviation operates the small Executive Terminal here (right) solely for private and corporate customers.
The rooms on this side of the hotel looks toward the distant Rhine and although the river itself is hidden from view, the Rheinturm (Rhine Tower) and a nearby bridge mark its location. The concrete telecommunications tower which was completed in 1981 carries aerials for directional radio, FM and TV transmitters. At a height of 240.5 metres (789 ft) it is by far the tallest building in Dusseldorf. It houses a revolving restaurant and an observation deck at a height of 170 metres, both of which are open to the public daily from 10:00 hrs to 23:30 hrs. A light sculpture on the shaft works as a clock making it the largest digital clock in the world.
The distant telephoto views of the airport below were taken from the viewing gallery at the top of the Rheinturm. The control tower can be seen directly above the left-hand pillar of the nearest bridge in the wide-angle shot above.
The weather during the trip was mixed and although it was cold, most days saw some sunshine with decent visibility, despite an occasional hail or snow shower, the heaviest of which started just after I arrived in the new room...
There’s a well-stocked supermarket in the terminal at ground level, right beside the exit from Arrivals. The Maritim Hotel walkway is outside, just a few metres away. For anyone not wishing to dine in their hotel it’s easy to put together a decent meal, complete with wine and eat in the room for a fraction of the cost charged in the hotel restaurants, or there are of course numerous eating options dotted throughout the terminal.
The viewing gallery is reached via the central escalator in the middle of Check-in hall B. Tickets are only a couple of Euros each and re-entry is permitted. Visitors have to pass through a security checkpoint and with only one scanner and belt in operation, queues can quickly build at busy periods. Small rucksacks and bags, drinks and suntan creams are permitted but large cases have to be stored in Left Luggage.
Once out on the terrace, there are toilets and a small kiosk selling snacks and drinks opens at peak times. The only shelter when the rain comes on is under the control tower-like structure (below right) but the ‘roof’ slopes and it's open to the elements on all sides.
Although I never succeeded, Car Park 7 is the best place from which to capture dramatic telephoto shots of landing and departing aircraft overlapping in a single frame, especially during peak periods when both Runway 23L and 23R are brought into use for prolonged periods.
Vogel, a cartoon bird looks after one of the adjacent airport car parks. The aviation fuel farm is nearby.
I have to say I was disappointed by the number and variety of ‘heavies’ at Dusseldorf, with Eurowings A330s making up the bulk of the movements. I believe Munich or Frankfurt airports are far better options in this regard, and see a far greater number of large cargo aircraft.
Turkish Airlines has a noticeable presence at Dusseldorf with several of its airliners visiting each day. Just a few weeks prior to my visit, Turkish Airlines successfully transferred its operations to Istanbul Airport from the city`s Ataturk facility which remains open for cargo, maintenance, corporate and general aviation flights. The carrier had been based at Ataturk Airport since it began operations in 1933, initially with just two Curtiss Kingbirds, a pair of Junkers F13s, and a ten-seat Tupolev ANT-9. Currently Turkish Airlines` fleet comprises 292 aircraft including 91 Boeing 737s, 73 Airbus A321s, and 65 A330s, including TC-JNO seen here.
Between 02:00 and 14:00 hrs on Saturday 6 April 2019, following the last departure from Ataturk, both major airports were closed to all passenger flights while more than 100 of the carrier`s airliners flew north to the new site. The distance between Istanbul Airport and Atatürk Airport is approximately 22 miles (35 km). Meanwhile, around 700 trucks transported 47,000 tons of ground handling equipment to the new base. Turkish Airlines Airbus A321 TC-JSY had the distinction of making the first scheduled flight out of the new facility when it took off bang-on 2 o`clock for Ankara. Prior to the move, Ataturk Airport was one of the busiest in Europe but the rising volume of traffic was increasingly causing problems, hence the construction of the new facility.
American carriers were disappointingly few and far between. This is Delta Boeing 767-432(ER) N827MH taxiing to the terminal on Sunday 5 May. The following slideshow features a general selection of aircraft photographed during my weekend visit…
Below: I snapped a couple aircraft operated by ADAC from the hotel room, namely King Air 350 D-CUTE and Learjet 60XR D-CURE. Performing a similar role to the UK`s AA and RAC, the German Automobile Club, or ADAC, also operates a large fleet of mobile mechanics in yellow cars, the Yellow Angels, that assist motorists in trouble. In addition to this, the ADAC provides numerous air ambulance helicopters for urgent medical rescues in Germany, strategically placed so that most locations can be reached within 15 minutes.
Bright yellow air ambulance jets and King Air props are used by the ADAC to rescue their members with a `PLUS` membership or customers who own an ADAC international travel insurance from any location worldwide in the case of accident or extreme sickness. Aero-Dienst operate the fixed-wing fleet on behalf of ADAC with the largest aircraft being a pair of Dornier Fairchild 328-300s. They can accommodate up to 10 patients/attendants and their interior cabin height allows the medical crew to work standing up. Cabin pressure can be adjusted to the patients’ medical requirements. Although I didn`t see any of the type at Dusseldorf, I`d photographed D-BADA at Palma Airport a couple of years ago...
The only A380s seen over the weekend were a few Emirates examples. This one had conveniently been allocated the stand right next to the departure lounge where I was waiting to board my return Loganair flight on 6 May which was served by Embraer ERJ-145EP G-RJXE...