Reykjavik Airport is Iceland`s main domestic airport and lies very close (approx 2 km) to the city centre. Scheduled flights within Iceland and to Greenland and the Faroe Islands operate from the airport plus a small number of international carriers drop in but Keflavik, about 50km away, which is much larger and has longer runways, serves as Iceland`s main gateway. Reykjavik can also accommodate diverted traffic when adverse weather affects landings at Keflavik.
Reykjavik airport can be a busy place during the peak summer season (Air Iceland and Eagle Air can operate up to 40 flights per day) but I mostly saw local light aircraft doing circuits and a just a few Icelandic biz-props. The hangars, one of which is used by the Icelandic Coastguard, all remained firmly closed apart from one morning when bright red Super Puma TF-GNA was pushed out and prepared for a mission. I drove round to the main terminal (above) but didn't venture inside so can't say if there are landside views over the adjacent apron which is used mostly by the local Air Iceland Dash 8s, but the immediate area outside seemed to offer little in the way of usable vantage points for photography.
The best place to stay if you're an aviation enthusiast would be the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura (formerly the Loftleidir Hotel) which is right next to the control tower with one of the ramps used by Eagle Air Services, planes being ferried across the Atlantic, and visiting biz jets, immediately in front. Runway 01/19 is only 150 metres beyond that.
Eagle Air was founded in 1970 by Hörður Guðmundsson with one of its main aims being to become a key transportation link to the Westfjords, one of the most remote parts of Iceland. The initial focus was on ambulance and mail services but adventure tourism now generates a significant part of the company`s income. In addition to its Jetstreams, the fleet includes a Cessna 207A Stationair 8 and Cessna 185F Skywagon.
There are airline offices adjacent to the Hotel Natura and Eagle Air`s own terminal with car parking spaces in front so, even if you're not staying at the hotel, it's worth driving in for a look as the ramp isn't visible from the main road.
When I checked for the first time on Thursday 5 May, I discovered a pair of US 'lights' and a Cayman Islands-registered Pilatus. All shots have to be taken through the mesh fence.
The first full day in Reykjavik was bright and breezy with excellent visibility, ideal for checking out the city's two best vantage points, the first being Reykjavik`s unmistakeable landmark Hallgrimskirkja, which is named after the renowned 17th century religious poet.
Work began on the striking structure, the largest church in the country, in 1945 just after the Second World War ended but the project took many years to complete. This was due to the contract being awarded to a local family firm of builders. The church, which was designed by state architect Guðjón Samúelsson, was consecrated in 1986.
The big advantage for tourists, is that the viewing deck near the top of the 73 metre-high steeple is accessed via a lift and not stairs! The panoramas over the city are stunning with long lines of permanently snow-capped peaks and stretches of ocean forming much of the horizon, but take a warm jacket - even on sunny days!
For alternative but just as striking panoramas even closer to the domestic airport head for the Perlan (The Pearl) which is less than a 10 minute drive away. The complex stands atop Öskjuhlíð hill where a modern structure has been built on renovated water storage tanks which once supplied the city. Geothermal heat is the most significant resource available to Icelanders, providing inexpensive, reliable, and environmentally safe energy.
The Pearl formally opened to the public on 21 June 1991. Hollow steel frames support the glass dome and walls that link six aluminium tanks, each of which can contain 4 million litres of water averaging 85°C (185°F). As part of The Pearl’s heating system, hot water is pumped through the metal framework in winter, while cold water flows during summer, thereby producing a comfortable year-round environment.
The Perlan has 10,000 cubic meters of exhibition space on the ground floor known as the Winter Garden which has hosted concerts by various Icelandic artists. There is an expensive (even by Icelandic standards) revolving restaurant on the top floor underneath the dome which takes 2 hours to complete a circuit plus a cafeteria on the fourth floor, on the same level as the open-air viewing deck. Entry to the Perlan including the viewing deck is free.
Öskjuhlíð reaches a height of 61 metres above sea level and during the Second World War the Allies fortified the strategically placed hill with bunkers and artillery positions, many traces of which still remain. More than 176,000 trees have been planted on the slopes and the paths and cycleways are well-used by local outdoor enthusiasts.
Yakolev Yak-18T TF-BCW (below) dates from 1972. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get a clear shot through the fence with a line of shrubs getting in the way. Apparently many of the members belonging to the airport's various flying clubs are friendly and have been known to grant enthusiasts hangar or ramp access but there was no one around on this occasion.
There are some good unofficial photo spots around the perimeter (most of which require shooting through the fence), including the picnic area at Nautholsvik which overlooks the threshold of Runway 01. Golden sand is rare in Iceland and the location of this man-made beach was chosen due to the addition of hundreds of gallons of geothermally heated sea water which keeps the sea temperature around 18-20C degrees. For close-ups when `01` is in use, this grassy mound (above right & below), just a few metres from the parking area at Nautholsvik is the best place to be,
Above: The top of the Perlan is visible above the tree-line just left of centre. There`s a track (not shown) running around the `01` threshold. Although it`s closed to vehicles it`s well used by cyclists and locals out for a stroll, and makes it easy for photographers to change position within a few minutes for an alternative angle on landing or departing traffic.
As can be seen here, views of the aprons and hangars from the mound are limited.
The view below, taken from Hallgrimskirkja, shows the control tower and hotel with a Dash 8 about to line-up for landing on Runway 01. The mound is to the left of the dark blue hut on the extreme left of the picture and the light blue hangar to the right of that is the one operated by the Icelandic Coastguard.
Reykjavík Airport is owned and operated by the state enterprise Isavia. Of the three runways, two are currently active all-year round; the shortest runway, 06/24, is usually used only in winter. Take-offs from 24 and landings on 24 and 06 are allowed, but take-offs from 06 are forbidden because of the proximity to houses and noise concerns.
Eurocopter AS 332L1 Super Pumas TF-GNA (pictured) and TF-SYN are on long term lease to the Icelandic Coastguard from Airlift AS of Sweden. These helicopters, equipped with the latest generation of U.S. night vision equipment, support the Coastguard`s only fixed-wing aircraft, Bombardier DHC-8-Q314 TF-SIF (right), which has been modified for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance. The extensive upgrade includes a modern sensor package, air operable door and communications/navigation equipment.
Above: Beechcraft 200 King Air TF-MYA of Myflug Air. This company specialises in air ambulance and charters including sightseeing flights from Reykjahlid airport by Lake Mývatn in Northern Iceland during the summer months. This is where the airline was founded in 1985. In recent years, Myflug aircraft have undertaken flight calibrations in Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, and have also conducted flights on behalf of the Icelandic Coastguard.
After Reykjavik, I passed a few smaller airstrips while touring the southwest corner of the country, although most locations didn`t have any aircraft present at all as it was still too early in the season for the demand for sight-seeing flights. This is the terminal / control tower building at Stykkishólmur, the main town on the Snæfellsnes peninsula!
Below: Only Cessna 173N TF-GJA was parked in the open at Selfoss airfield, southeast of the capital, close to the Golden Circle.
Cessna Skyhawk TF-JEG was doing circuits from this unidentified grass strip alongside Route 54 near Borgarnes.