Ponta Delgada Airport
|Continent: Europe||Country: Portugal|
|Ponta Delgada Airport|
|Overview map||Google Maps|
With 1.3 million passengers in 2015, the João Paulo II Airport located in Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel is the busiest airport of the Azores archipelago. Ponta Delgada is not a busy airport, but is very spotter friendly and with good timing and knowledge of the flight schedules, you can certainly spend a great afternoon here.
João Paulo II Airport is a hub for Azores Airlines that operate both wide-bodies and narrow-bodies and represent a vast majority of flights at PDL. They are slowly retiring their fleet of A310s which you can still see here (as of autumn 2016) and replacing them with A330s. Azores Airlines additionally feature a fleet of A320s and its parent company, SATA Air Açores, also a couple of Bombardier Dash 8s. For a long time, TAP Air Portugal was the only other carrier operating flights to the Azores, even with their A330s. However, in the last years they only fly an A320 to Ponta Delgada, presumably as a result of the competition from low-cost carriers like EasyJet and Ryanair that entered the Azorean market in 2015.
Official Spotting Locations
Other Spotting Locations
The EN1-1A road runs along the entire length of the airport and given the hilly terrain is placed well above the terminal and also above the western part of the runway. Coming in the direction from the city, you can stop near the roundabout and get pretty good, unobstructed views of the runway and aprons, as well as the terminal from the north-eastern direction
You can also continue past the terminal on your left (actually below you) and there is a small free public parking lot with a view of the terminal and aprons from the north-western direction. Any lens is good here as you are really close to the airport. The downside of the spots along the EN1-1A road is that for most of the year you are facing the sun. There are three solutions to this: (1) Come early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is actually behind you (sample photo 1 - morning landing on RWY12). (2) Take photos of aircraft on the apron (sample photo 2 and sample photo 3). (3) If you come at the time of year (June) when days are longest, you should be fine (sample photo 4).
Arrivals/Departures and Terminal
There is no jetways in Ponta Delgada so you end up walking between the aircraft and terminal both upon arrival and departure, so that gives you some good views, naturally (sample photo 5). Also, from inside the terminal at departures you get a decent view of the apron (sample photo 6).
Relva Football Field
This is probably the best spot at PDL. At the western side of the airport in the village of Relva there is a football field (which I have never seen used) located at the one-way Travessa do Beco street (or "Tv. do beco"). There is a small free public parking lot right next to it. To get to the spot, you need to walk through the gate from the parking lot to the football field, walk straight for about 200 meters pass the field and a tennis court. You get to a fence directly at the western end of the airport at an elevated spot with excellent views of the apron and the runway (sample photo 7, sample photo 8, sample photo 9, sample photo 10, sample photo 11). This spot is only good in the afternoon when the sun is behind you. Any lens will get you good photos.
Locations to Avoid
- Azores Airlines - A330, A310, A320
- SATA Air Acores - ATP
- TAP Air Portugal - A320
- Easyjet - A319
- Ryanair - B737
- Air Berlin - A320
Facilities and Transportation
Except for the airport facilities, there aren't any around the airport fence.
The best way to get around is of course a car that you can rent at the airport. However, all spots described here are easy to get to on foot if you have time.