In May, a friend and I went planespotting to Helsinki Airport. We had borrowed a Canon L 70-200mm telelens from the Aalto Media Factory, so that we had one telelens for each of us.
Helsinki-Vantaa airport consists of two parallel runways oriented north-east south-west, and one runway almost orthogonal, north-west south-east. Runways are named with a number between 0 and 36, according to their orientation from the north: a runway 09 (=90°) heads to the east, runway 18 (=180°) heads south, and so on. Runway 360 (rather than 0) heads north. Depending on the direction you use, a runway can have two different names. Thus, runway 2 at Helsinki airport is called 15 (to the south) or 33 (to the north). These two numbers always differ by 18. Moreover, in the case of parallel runways, they get an additional letter to distinguish them. In Helsinki, runway 1 is called 04R/22L and runway 3 is called 04L/22R (L=left and R=right; C can be used for center, and it of course gets trickier with four runways or more, like in Dallas). For more information about runway use in Helsinki, Finavia has this very interesting page.
We were lucky, since runway 1 went under renovation on the 11th of May (and is still under renovation now, until the 2nd of August). We could then attend all landings on one runway, and almost all take-offs too. From a previous visit, we had noticed that the wide-bodies landed on runway 1 exclusively (provided the wind conditions were the same), with take-offs on runway 3. The day before, we had checked the timetable, to be there for both landings (at around 2pm) and take-offs (5 pm) of long-haul flights, as we wanted to spot these giants. We had also checked the best spot on the internet, including the page of the Finnish Aviation Photography association.
Here is the map of our afternoon. We took the bus to the Myllykyläntie stop (point A), then walked to the north-east following the blue path (road). Actually, we cut through uncropped fields and forest to get there faster (green path), but that is the idea. Our spotting point for landings was in the axis of both runways 2 and 3, and we were right under the planes landing on 22R. Unfortunately, we could not see the runway itself, there was a small hill. However, we could see the terminal in the distance, and the aircrafts going to take-off on runway 3. We spotted there a 787 from LOT Polish Airlines and a KLM 737 in retro livery. We arrived on spot right when a 787 from Japan Airlines landed, and witnessed the arrival of several A330 and A340, including the one in Marimekko livery (Marimekko is a Finnish fashion brand, famous for its flower patterns), as well as many A320-family aircrafts, 737, Embraers and ATRs.
Our second spot was along runway 3, for departures. It was situated right next to the Viinikankaari bus stop, and featured a beautiful tree that could accommodate two persons wanting to see over the fence. We were in the perfect location, as A330s took-off right in front of us. The A340s were slower, and took off further down the runway (they have a longer range, and were therefore probably heavier than A330s), which proved problematic when we had to rotate, perched on our branches. In the distance, we could see the planes landing, all of them running in front of us to exit the runway. We saw many Finnair planes, of course, some Flybe ATRs, Norwegian Boeings, a retro Lufthansa A321, and many others.
I wished the weather was sunny this day, since I had no opportunity to go again, but well… I’ll try to pay a visit to Lyon Saint-Exupéry airport before the end of July. That’s it for today, I hope you learnt a thing or two 😉