Zurich Airport

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Continent: Europe Country: Switzerland
Zurich Airport
Location Zurich, Switzerland
Airport type Commercial
Website http://www.flughafen-zuerich.ch
Overview map [ ]
Tower 118.1
Ground 121.850 (North) 121.750 (South)
Clearance 121.800
Approach 118.000 (West via GIPOL)
120.750 (North/East) via AMIKI/RILAX
125.325 Final (rarely used):
ATIS 128.525 (phone: +41438162294)
Plane Spotting Hotels guide

Zurich airport is the only airport of the city of Zurich, the Swiss centre of finance and economy. The airport is located about 10 kilometers northeast of the city and can easily be reached by car, bus or train.

Today there are about 100 airlines offering almost 150 connections to every continent in the world except Australia. 17.3 million passengers were handled in 2004. In 2003 the new terminal, terminal E, also called "Midfield", was opened. Three runways, most of which are equipped with an ILS-system are providing a smoothly running service.

Runways, Terminals and their usage


Runway:Length:Equipment:Usage:In use:Diagram:
102500m-Departing runway with winds from the east. No landingsrareZurich diag.jpg
143300mILSMain landing runway, no takeoffsalways
163700mILSMain departing runway for heavies, rarely a landingfrequently
282500mVORDMEMain departing runway, landings in the eveningalways
323300m-Departing runway in the morning, no landingsrare
343700mILSLanding rwy morning, sometimes heavy-TOsmedium

Because of many people living around the airport are complaining about the noise, the airport authority had to make a detailed concept of runway usage. It is listed in the following table. Of course changes can be made because of reasons like weather, so I recommend listening to the ATIS (128.525) before going spotting.

Weekdays (Mo-Fr)Weekend, public holidays in southern Germany
06.00-07.00Landing Rwy34
Departure Rwy32
07.00-21.00Landing Rwy14
Departure Rwys 16&28
21.00-00.30Landing Rwy28
Departure Rwys32&34
06.00-09.00Landing Rwy34
Departure Rwy32
09.00-20.00Landing Rwy14
Departure Rwys 16&28
20.00-00.30Landing Rwy28
Departure Rwys32&34

Terminals and parking stands

The terminal area. Cutout of Spotting-Points graphic below

At Zurich airport there are three Terminals, Terminal 1 (former A), Terminal 2 (former B), Terminal E (former Midfield).

In the table below is listed which airplanes can be seen in which area.

Terminal 1 (A) This terminal is mostly used by Swiss for its European destinations using A32X and ARJ. All longhaul flights by Swiss (A332/A343) have moved to Terminal E. Some other European carriers can be found here, for example British Airways.
Best view from: Spotting Points 1 and 2

Terminal 2 (B) Terminal 2 was closed when Terminal E was opened and the finger docks were demounted. In recent years the interior was used for events, but a complete reconstruction is starting in order to meet criteria for Schengen/non-Schengen traffic. As of Summer 2008, no more longhaul aircraft are being parked at Terminal 2 during the day. Due to a new fence erected for the construction work, only regional aircraft from LX, LH and AF are being parked next to Terminal 2; those longhaul aircraft that used to be parked here throughout the morning now use the cargo apron on the opposite side of runway 16/34.

Terminal 2 will be shortened in order to make space for a dual taxiway and will receive an additional level in order to seperate arriving from departing passengers.

Note, that from end of October 2008 onwards, the observation deck on Terminal 2 is scheduled to be closed for the time of reconstruction. The airport is said to provide enhanced access to the observation deck on Terminal E by bus (details to follow in time). From what was disclosed by local staff, a observation deck will be part of the remodelled Terminal 2, but likely it will be enclosed in glass.

Best view from: Spotting Point 1

Terminal E (Midfield) The terminal opened in 2003 is the point where all longhaul flights are handled. (Swiss, Emirates, Singapore, Malaysian, United, American, Delta, Continental, Air Canada, Korean, JAL). Gates are also used by charter airlines (Edelweiss, Belair, Air Berlin, ...).
Best view from: Spotting Point 2, but only the aircraft on the western side of the terminal which is about 1/3 of all aircrafts.

Mike-Stands South of Terminal 2 there are the Mike-Stands (designated C and D but served by Taxiway Mike). These are stands served by bus. On these stands mostly medium airliners (A32X, B737, MD8X) from Lufthansa, SAS, Austrian and Iberia can be spotted.
Best view from: Spotting Point 1 (a little far away) and 5


Using an airband receiver can be very helpful to know what's going on. Luckily using airband receivers in Switzerland is allowed and police ignores it. I have never had any problems and there are many enthusiasts using airband receivers here. I recommend listening to the tower because it is the most used frequency and you know about every landing and takeoff that is being performed. Frequencies are listed at the beginning of this article.

There are different streams of Zurich-ATC at LiveATC.net

Stereo-Feed of Lower/Upper-Radar
Feed of Tower, Arrival, Departure

Spotting Locations


In Zurich there are plenty of spotting positions some of which are really excellent. I designed a layer with all spotting-points for "Google Earth". Download (1,3KB)

The spotting-tips below refer to the numbers shown on the graphic on the right.

The first points (point 1 - point 5) are located at the airport. You can get there by car, by bus or by train. Public transport is very well organised around the airport, the train station is located right in the airport, the bus terminal in front of the building. There are trains from Zurich Main station (Zurich HB) to the airport about every 15 minutes. The airport is an important bus-hub for the whole region.
Check PT-Timetable

Position 1: Observation Deck Terminal 2

The observation deck which is located on the roof of the whole terminal 2 is probably the most famous spotting point, because it is easy to reach, you have a great view on the planes as well as a restaurant. Since terminal 2 has been shut down there isn't so much action anymore - nevertheless the observation deck remains an excellent spotting point, for example to watch the outbounds on rwy16. The entrance fee is 2 francs, the location is open from 08.00-21.00 in the summer (27.3.-31.10) and 09.00-18.00 in the winter (1.11.-26.3.) At the entrance to the observation desk there is a safety check like for normal passengers, but there are no restrictions for liquids. Tickets can be bought in the kiosk right beside the entrance. Official homepage of the observation deck

Getting there: In the airport: Follow the signs to terminal 2 or "observation desk"
Equipment: Large observation desk with a shop, a restaurant, toilets, children's playground. Ticket shop for bus tours
Visible: Departures Rwy16, landings&departures Rwy34, aircraft taxiing on Echo, aircraft parked at terminal 2
Zoom: Je nach Perspektive. 100-300mm für Rwy16-TOs und Rwy34-Landungen, 50-150mm für E-taxiing, 17-100 für Flugzeuge am Terminal
Time: early morning until 1-2 pm
Example shots:

Landing Rwy34
Acfts in front of the deck and at HP Rwy16
Takeoffs Rwy16
Acft parked at Term.2
Acft taxiing on Echo

Position 2: Observation Deck Terminal E (Midfield)

When planning the new terminal they seem to have thought of the visitors and included an observation desk. This one is located on the western end of the roof, and you have access to about 1/3 of the terminal.
This observation desk can only be reached by bus departing from the obs-deck terminal 2 (Point 1) on Wednesdays (13.15-16.45) and on the weekend (11.45-16.45) every 30 minutes. Adolescents (6-16 years) have to pay 2 franks for a ticket, adults 4 franks. Tickets can be bought at the ticket office on the observation deck Terminal 2 (point 1)
On this observation deck you have a great view on foreign heavies and you are nearer to departures on Rwy28, although you might be facing into the sun. Furthermore, you have an excellent view onto Rwy16/34!
Official Homepage

Getting there: Get to point 1, buy a ticket and do a bus-ride.
Equipment: Quite a large area, equipped with vending machines and toilets
Visible: Aircrafts at terminal E, Takeoffs Rwy28, 16, 34, aircrafts taxiing to Rwy16
Zoom: Depending on the target. 100-300mm for TOs, 17-100mm for parked aircraft
Time: early morning until 3pm
Example shots:

Regular Traffic

Because of Zurich being quite an important international HUB there are some interesting planes around waiting to be spotted. Besides the big European carriers which usually send their standard medium equipment to Zurich, many big carriers from other continents can be seen here arriving with their heavies. Some of these are: American, Continental, Delta, Emirates, JAL, Malaysian, Singapore, Thai, United. In addition to that you have the Swiss lognhaul-fleet (9 A332 + 9 A343) as well as the heavies of local charter airlines Edelweiss (1 A332) and Belair (1 B763) which you don't see that often in Europe. To be up to date in terms of traffic the best thing is to have a look at the official online timetable which even displays the registrations!


[2]Arrivals next day (avail. from 1900LT)


[4]Departures next day (avail. from 1900LT)

Download Winter-Timetable 05/06 as PDF

The following table covers the heavies of the Summer flightplan 2005. It is not accurate anymore and simply intended to give you an impression of what's going on at Zurich.

AirlineCallsignFrom/ToArrival:Departure:AircraftDays: (1=Monday)
Air CanadaACA787/879Toronto10.0511.40B7631234567
AmericanAAL64/65NY JFK10.4513.00B7631234567
EmiratesUAE087/088Dubai13.2015.45A345/A3431234567 (A343: 1+3)
JALJAL451/452Tokyo NRT15.5517.50B7441--4-6-
MalaysianMAS10/9Kuala Lumpur06.1512.50B772-2-4-6-
South AfricanSAA274/275Johannesbourg07.0720.25A3421234567
SwissSWR16/17NY JFK08.1510.00A332/A3431234567
SwissSWR40/41Los Angeles15.5512.50A343dep: 1-3456- arr: -2-4567
SwissSWR96/97São Paulo11.0522.30A343dep: -234-67 arr: 1-3456-
SwissSWR272/273Duala via Malabo06.1509.45A332dep: -2-4- arr: -3-5-
SwissSWR276/277Yaounde via Malabo06.2512.15A332dep: -6- arr: -7-
SwissSWR288/289Johannesbourg06.1022.20A343dep: 123-567 arr: 1234-67
SwissSWR292/293Dar es Salam via Nairobi06.2509.45A332dep: 1-3-5 arr: -2-4-6
SwissSWR254/255Tel Aviv19.1509.50A3431234567
SwissSWR228/229Jeddah via Riyadh06.2012.40A332dep: 2-4-7 arr: 3-5-1
SwissSWR242/243Muscat via Dubai06.251240A3321234567
SwissSWR168/169Tokyo NRT15.5513.05A343dep: 12-4567 arr: 123-567
SwissSWR138/139Hong Kong06.2022.20A3431234567
SwissSWR182/183Singapore via Bangkok06.2522.20A343dep: -234567 arr: 12-4567
ThaiTHA970/971Bangkok07.1013.30A346/A3431234567 (A346: 2-4-6)
UnitedUAL936/937Wash. D.C.08.1011.45B7631234567

Facilities and Transportation


Until this article is finished, please take a look at the detailed spotting-description on www.planepics.org