Image above: Viewing a Runway 34 Arrival of a Singapore Cargo Boeing 747-400F)
Some of you reading this might be able to remember the viewing deck up stairs where you could watch the arrivals and departures and admire the comings and goings of wonderful airlines like, TAA, Ansett, East-West, Alitalia, Continental, KLM, British Airways and sleek polished aircraft like Boeing 727’s, DC-9s, DC-8s DC-10s and many many more.
Well like most things in life they don’t last for ever and today spotting at the airport is a very different game. Gone is access to the viewing deck, security patrols and high fences in place. However all is not lost. This brief is a short spotting guide on how to achieve so nice photos of the coming and goings of aircraft around Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne Australia.
Firstly you need a few things to do the hobby justice, a good Digtal SLR Camera, a radio frequency scanner, fold out chair, a phone, with a flight tracking app, and in the case of Melbourne a hat, sunscreen, jacket, water and or a coffee. I say this as it is Melbourne your sure to get four seasons in a couple of hours!
Now your all set but where do you go, where do you park? A good idea is to firstly check your flight tracker app and identify which runways are the aircraft landing and departing from. Once this is established picking your style of photos, do you want landing photos or would you prefer nose up and climbing photos. I prefer to mix it up and try to get a variety of both otherwise you run the risk of shooting the same style of photo over and over thus it becomes a little boring.
Back to the flight checker app, there are several of these available your author has three on his phone and all are used for the various capabilities of them. At Tullamarine the North/South runway is 16/34 and the East/West runway is 09/27. If you have runway 16 arrivals in the morning or afternoon the best place to park and spot is on Uniting Lane opposite the old Uniting Church. There is ample parking off the road and even some tree shading for the summer months (don’t forget that cool drink).
There is a designated viewing area right under the flightpath off Sunbury Road. Its not the best for photographing aircraft as you are directly under them as they pass over you. There is however a Food vendor with snacks and drinks if your in need of something. If your photograph here you’ll need to make some adjustment to your lens to compensate for the sunlight.
A change of scenery and a change of style in photography or viewing leads you on a bit of a road trip. Operations Road which is on the opposite side of the airfield will take you through the airport and around to the maintenance side of the airfield. Passing the Hangars you’ll catch Virgin Australia aircraft in for maintenance and also the Crown Casino Biz-jets frequent the hard standings. Moving on to the Runway 34 approach there is plenty of places to park and view aircraft. Again you can park directly under the flightpath, however if you proceed further along and park on the grass area opposite the golf course there are plenty of places and different angles to photograph the arrivals or departures depending on the days operations.
If your really into your photography and like a different angle on your pictures there is one other viewing point at the end of runway 27. Loemans Road, Bulla will put you in the unique view for head on departures. This spot is further away from the airfield its self and is also an area to watch on the rare occasion that Runway 09 is in operation. To get to this spot a drive along Sunbury Road heading towards Sunbury descend down Bulla Hill and up to the roundabout at the top of the hill turn left and proceed along approximately 200 odd meters and when the road comes to a fork go left. You’ll come to a point where you can see straight down the runway.
Now an important part, of any hobby the rules. Respect peoples property and don’t trespass on private land to get a shot. Also please adhere to the airports no standing areas, take your shot at the fence then go back to your car. Remember to be friendly too security and airport staff they are just doing their job, don’t get snappy when they talk to you. It might seem simple but don’t litter. Then there is the most vital part enjoy yourself. And see you out there everyone! This article is only a guide to spotting at Tullamarine, and like all hobbies you’ll find the area and style that suits your photography.
By Dave Soderstrom