Tue, Apr 9 2013 10:19 AM
Spotting in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah & Fujariah.
Abu Dhabi is located approx 1hr 40 mins drive from Dubai. The best time to visit Abu Dhbai is between 7-9am. This is the best time to catch the early morning Etihad departures including all the based A319/A320's. The airport is quite spread out. We drove around for almost an hour to try and find a decent spot to park up where the movements could be monitored. We eventually found two areas. One was right under the approach on a slip road, but we figured we would soon be spotted and moved on. We did in the end find a decent spot round by the Cargo Village. To find this area head towards the Terminal and you will see signs for the Executive/Cargo Freight. You will see the big cargo village centre when you come to it and some parking areas and a Mosque. From this point those departing could easily be read off. Those landing could only be seen if they didnt vacate early off the runway. Also in this area was the GA Apron. This was only a two minute walk away. Here is the view taken facing the cargo village.
And here is the view taken from outside the GA Apron. I wouldn't recommend at all hanging around here for too long, and I would strongly advise against having your scope/bins and camera in your hand also while walking around. I managed to get a couple of photos to give you an idea of the views. Those parked up could easily be read off without the need to get my scope out.
My favourite destination. I've been visiting here for over 12 years now and I visit at least three times a year. Dubai isn't the busiest airport in the world, but it's the quality of the movements and the constant new deliveries of Emirates aircraft an other local airliners serving DXB that always makes the visit worthwhile as well as the perfect weather.
Sheraton Deira Hotel. http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/search/hotel_detail.html?propertyID=724 Prices range between £125-£175+ between Nov-May and between £45-£85+ between June-October. Prices are per room, per night.
To get to the Sheraton Deira from the airport there's a large taxi area located as you walk outside from the terminal building. Expect to wait around 10 minutes, sometimes less sometimes more for your taxi. You wil see small taxis and large mini-vans. The min-vans are more expensive than the smaller taxis. The journey from the airport takes just over 10 minutes and costs between 33-35 Dirhams (around £7.50 depending on the exchange rate) the mini-vans carry an additional 5 dirhams more charge!
The Sheraton Deira hotel has a roof top swimming pool which gives excellent views looking out towards the airport.
Here is the view taken from the roof top swimming pool area.
Some excellent landing and departure shots can be taken from the roof top pool area. Aircraft usualy land over the hotel anytime from 9pm onwards or before, right through the night until around Lunchtime. Ops then switch to departing over the hotel. Here is landing shot over the hotel on short finals to runway 12L.
And when operations switch to departing off 30R over the hotel, These shots are possible.
You can also monitor via your SBS Sharjah departures and arrivals from the roof top pool area, here's the views looking out towards SHJ.
Dubai is mainly busy of a night time. From 4pm onwards carriers from the Far East arrive such as Singapore Airlines, Thai and Cathay Pacific etc. During the day it's mainly dominated by local carriers such as Gulf Air, Oman Air, Iran Asseman, Air India Express and Qatar Airways as well as Emirates. On the roof of the hotel are shaded areas with sun loungers and next to two of the tables is an English plug socket, which is useful for your Laptop/SBS. SBS is needed when the sun goes down to tie up those movements (landing towards the hotel). On a clear morning with a good scope you can expect to read off those taxiing out for departure when ops are (departing away from the hotel). And of a night time when aircraft are departing over the hotel some of these are also easy to read off under the wing due to well lit lights from the street below reflecting on the aircraft above. The roof top swimming pool area is open from 6.30am through till 10.30pm daily 7 days a week.
The best room numbers to stay in that offer views of the airport are rooms 455 / 454 on the 4th floor and on the 5th floor 555 or 554. From these rooms you can see aircraft landing either past your window, or departing towards you, Note:- You can only read off those either landing or departing past the bedroom window. Those seen over on the airport are impossible to read off due to the tinted dark windows and the heat haze over on the field. Again this is when an SBS or AirNav box is essential, especially once it goes dark.
Places to eat and shop around the hotel
There is a small 24hr supermarket called Happy Land located a minute walk from the hotel which sells cheap soft drinks and snacks as well as toiletries etc. A 10 minute walk past the shop on the same road is a Chicken Diner similar to KFC called Al Farouj. On the opposite side of the road from the hotel is a Department store called the Lu Lu centre. this place sells everything, and is an excellent place to pick up some cheap gifts. On the same side of this road is an Indian restaurant called the Red Table which is very nice and very cheap. The Creek is only a 5 minute taxi ride. The fare is around 20 DHS (less than £5) Here you will find all the well known department stores as well as places to dine out etc. If you wish to have a night out then I suggest the Irish Village. This area is only 7-10 minutes by taxi from the hotel (around 25 DHS, less than £8) There is an excellent area which has a large pub with a large outside seating area.
Spotting from the Terminal.
If your flying Emirates. You should arrive and depart from T3. You can see aircraft airside from T3 but only from your actual departure gate. For the best views, you need to walk through to T1. This will take you about 10 minutes. On the upper level above the Duty Free shops is a food court which has a Pizza Hut and McDonald's etc. From this point you get a good view of the runways and the taxiways, and with a good scope you can expect to read off all arrivals and those taxiing out in front of you for departure. Of a night time, you will only read off those taxiing out past the windows, those landing will be missed unless you have your SBS/ AirNav box on. If your planning on spotting in this area I would suggest you exercise caution. Try and not attract attention to yourself. Have your scope/bins out of sight and only pull these out when needed. Same applies if you wish to take photos. Take your photo and again put your camera out of sight. Remember you are in the Middle East and your actions will not be understood by the airport police. Be careful and discreet. I've spotted for up to three hours without problems in this area by being sensible!
Top Tip! if you need currency, don't change your money at the hotel! the hotels rate is very poor. For example at the airport you will get around 5.6 dhs to our £1. The hotel is always between 4.8 or 4.9 dhs to the £1meaning if your changing a large amount of money you will loose out by quite a bit. I've found the best rates over at the Lulu Centre (see above under places to eat and shop around the hotel) next door to the Lulu Centre is a currency exchange, their rates are excellent! I got almost 5.9 to the £1 which is a big difference to the rates at the airport and at the hotel.
Sharjah is only a 25-30 minute drive (traffic permitting) from Dubai. From the Sheraton Diera Hotel arrivals and departures can be seen on a clear day and with the help of SBS these can be tied up. Some Air Arabia A320's however do fly directly over the top of the hotel. These can be read off under the wing with a good scope/bins. Once at Sharjah if you head towards the passenger Terminal you will see signs for the Cargo terminal. Follow these signs and on your left you will come to a petrol station. By driving in you can see what's parked up on the main ramp. I would advise not spending too much time here as Sharjah are very touchy when it comes to spotting. Ideally stay in the car and read off what you can and head off again. Here is the view from the petrol station.
Umm Al Quwain
Once you have took the exit from Sharjah Airport you will see signs for Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah etc, Follow these signs. Located a 35-40 minute drive from Sharjah is a small airfield called Umm Al Quwain. It's no longer active. However it houses a few small light aircraft and a couple of AN-2's. The main feature is an IL-76 which over-ran the runway a few years ago is still stored here today where it came to rest of the side of the dessert. And here she is.
Ras Al Khaimah
Once your back on the road from Umm Al Quwain heading in the same direction around 35-40 minutes later you come to Ras Al Khaimah. The airfiled is sign posted once you reach Ras Al Khaimah. On arrival you will see the the main storage and maintenance area. Here is the view as you reach the airport.
Once you've read off what's around. Carry on driving back on the same side of the road until you reach the passenger terminal. On your left you will see a carpark. It's free to use. Park up and head inside the terminal. Once inside, head to your far right and you will see some steps which leads up to a small cafe area. From Inside you expect to read off what's parked on the terminal. They seem alot more relaxed to people spotting here, however I would take only a small pair of bins or scope in with you. keep them out of sight and just order a drink and sit by one of the tables facing the ramp in front of you and discreetly read off what you can. I would suggest spending no longer than 15 minutes here. Here is the view available from inside the cafe.
Once you've relaxed and enjoyed a drink and read off what you can from the terminal. Head out of the carpark back on to the same road and carry on heading in the same direction. You will see as you drive a long the perimeter fence the other side of the storage ramps in the distance. You will reach a sign displaying a flying club. Exit here and drive down towards the flying club and you will reach the other main storage area. Again don't spend all day here. Read off and photograph what you have too and move on. Here is the view.
Fujairah is located a further 1hr drive on from Ras Al Khaimah and is the furthest airport away from Dubai located over 200km away. FJR isn't as accesible as Ras Al Khaimah. There is a small cafe located on the uper level of the terminal which does a give a view looking out across the active ramp. Reading off in this area should be done with caution. I would recommend if in a party only one of you taking a small pair of bins/scope in with you. All movements are parked very close to the windows and therefore can easily be read off. There are signs located in the cafe advising photography is prohibited.
To see what's stored or parked around the airfield you can drive around the perimeter fence. Again only make very quick stops to read off and continue on. The airport perimeter is monitored and if seen you will be questioned about your activities. There are two hill mounds located at the far end of the airfield which overlook a couple of ramps. Again climbing these mounds should be done with extreme caution. I took a couple of photos during my visit in June 2010 to give you an idea of the views.