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Brussels Airport spotting guide

About the airport

Brussels Airport (IATA: BRU, ICAO: EBBR) is Belgium's main airport. Approximately 19 million passengers make use of the airport each year, and numbers are rising every year. In 2000 a record number of passengers, 21.6 million, used the airport. Since the demise of Sabena in November 2001, traffic fell from more than 21 million a year to only 14 million passengers. However, a lot of new airlines came to Brussels or expanded, and that's why passenger levels are back on the level of the late nineties.

Brussels Airport recorded 223.000 movements in 2012 (against 326.000 in 2000). Brussels Airport is also an important destination for cargo operations, which often brings special traffic. However, since the move of the European Headquarters from DHL to Leipzig, cargo traffic fell from 24.700 cargo flights a year in 2007, to 16.600 in 2008. In 2012 the airport received 11.500 cargo flights.

A large variety of small and large airlines have Brussels in their network. Jet Airways established a hub at Brussels Airport back in 2007 and offers nowadays 4 flights a day to India, the US and Canada. In May 2013, Finnair Cargo established its second European hub at Brussels Airport. Flights are operated by Nordic Global MD-11F's. Also as from 2014 both Vueling and Ryanair based their aircraft in Brussels flying to Southern European destinations.

What you need to know about the weather

Weather at Brussels Airport is typical Western European weather. Being dominated by southwesterly winds, Brussels often has rain showers and cloudy skies. Clear and sunny skies are rather exceptional, although that some days can be great for spotting. Winters in Belgium are quite mild, with most of the time no snowfall and summers can be cool and rainy. Average temperature in winter is around 6 degrees Celsius.. In Summer, temperature averages 22 degreess Celsius

Radio scanners and frequencies

The use and the possession of radio scanners is illegal in Belgium, however, they are widely used among the planespotters. As long as you keep it out sight of police patrols, you won't encounter any problems while using your scanner. The following frequencies are used at Brussels Airport:

Brussels Delivery: 121.950
Brussels Ground (North): 121.875
Brussels Ground (South): 118.050
Brussels Tower (25L): 118.600
Brussels Tower (25R): 120.775
Brussels Tower (07R/02): 118.600
Brussels Departure: 126.625
Brussels Arrival: 118.250
Brussels Control: 128.200, 128.800, 131.100
Brussels ATIS: 132.475

Traffic at Brussels Airport

Passenger airlines
Adria Airways
Aegean Airlines
Aer Lingus
Aeroflot
Air Algerie
Air Arabia
Air Baltic
Air Canada
Air Europe
Air Lituanica
Air Malta
Air Serbia
Air Transat (summer only)
Alitalia
Austrian Airlines
BlueAir
bmi Regional
Brussels Airlines
Bulgaria Air
British Airways
Corendon Airlines
Croatia Airlines
CSA Czech Airlines
Delta Airlines
easyJet
easyJet Switzerland
Egyptair
El Al Israel Airlines
Estonian Air
Ethiopian Airlines
Etihad Airways
Finnair
FlyGeorgia
Freebird
Germanwings
Hainan Airlines
HOP!
Iberia
Icelandair
Jet Airways
Jetairfly
KLM
LOT
Lufthansa
Montenegro Airlines
Middle East Airlines
Onur Air (seasonal)
Pegasus
Qatar Airways
Royal Air Maroc
Scandinavian Airlines
Sun Air of Scandinavia
Sun Express
Swiss
Syrian Arab Airlines
Tailwind
TAP Portugal
Tarom
THAI Airways
Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium
Tunisair
Turkish Airlines
Ukraine International Airlines
United Airlines
US Airways
Vueling
Cargo airlines
Aerologic (B777)
Asiana Airlines Cargo (B744)
Cathay Pacific (B744)
DHL (A300, B757 and B767)
Egyptair Cargo (A300)
Finnair Cargo (MD11)
Iberia Cargo, operated by Gestair or Layonair (B737)
Kalitta Air (B742, B744)
Korean Air Cargo (B744, B777)
Magma Aviation (B747)
Royal Air Maroc Cargo (B737 classic)
Royal Jordanian Cargo (A310)
Saudi Arabian Cargo (MD11, B744, B748)
Singapore Airlines Cargo (B744)
TNT Airways (BAe 146, B737 classic)

Brussels Airport Runway usage procedures

This table shows the official regulations concerning runway usage at Brussels Airport. However, deviations from this scheme occur often. During weekends, only traffic for the South will be departing from runway 19. All other traffic will make use of the regular runway 25R.

05.00 - 21.59 LT 21.59 - 05.00 LT
05.00 - 14.59 LT 15.00 - 04.59 LT
Monday to Friday DEP: 25R
ARR: 25L* / 25R
DEP: 25R
ARR: 25L / 25R
Saturday DEP: 25R
ARR: 25L* / 25R
DEP: 25R / 19
ARR: 25L / 25R*
DEP: 25L
ARR: 25L / 25R
Sunday DEP: 25R / 19
ARR: 25L / 25R
DEP: 25R
ARR: 25L / 25R
DEP: 19
ARR: 19

Spot locations

Runway 25L arrivals, spot A

In normal runway configuration, as standard for Brussels Airport when western, southwestern or northwestern winds are present, runway 25L will be used for landing for most aircraft except for military and cargo aircraft. Cargo aircraft, government aircraft, VIP & private aircraft and sometimes other passenger aircraft (upon tower request) land on runway 25R.

In the afternoon and evening, as it's getting calmer, there is some chance more aircraft will land on runway 25R (upon request of the pilots), but this will normally be limited. In most situations runway 25R is used exclusively as departing runway. Runway 20 can as well be used as additional departing runway if the wind requires this or in addition of runway 25R (see runway usage procedures).

Runway 25L departures are possible but are considered very rare as aircraft have to backtrack a few hundred meters of the runway so that the landing traffic has to take about 5 or 7 minutes of departing time into account, stretching separation up to 10 minutes.

Spot A is located near the end of the runway and offers a nice opportunity to photograph the landing aircraft on runway 25L in the air. The normal approach altitude is not too high, between approximately 150 and 200ft. Sunlight in the middle of the summer is not very good in the morning as the sun sets, but nice approach shots in the early morning with the rising sun are possible. Sun position gets better as the day advances and is generally starting to get good at around 9:00 or 10:00. At 12:00 the sun should be almost at an angle of 90° with the aircraft landing on runway 25L. In the afternoon, the sun continues to enlighten the aircraft in a good way. Later on the day (starting at about 16:00 or 17:00) the sun starts to shine in the approaching aircraft's engines which gives new photo opportunities if you would like to photograph more from the side/front of the aircraft.

How to get there?
Street: Kortenbergsesteenweg (Village: Kortenberg).

Parking is available on the road and only permitted in the zone starting at the beginning of the trees. If you are by train, you will have to go to the station of Kortenberg. There you have to exit the station to the left and always continue straight ahead (also on the roundabout). The map left shows you how to walk, walking time is around 10 minutes. You can look up train timetables on www.b-rail.be. There are trains to Kortenberg from Leuven and Brussels (North, Central and South).

Runway 25L arrivals, spot B

This place has the same characteristics as spot A. Spot B is just located at the other side of the approach line of runway 25L. Especially during Summer evenings you might have to use this spot after 18:00-19:00. When the sun turns across the other side of the runway (North side), near sunset, the lighting on spot A gets bad.

On how to reach this spot, have a look at the description for spot A.

Runway 25L arrivals, 07R departures

Runway 25L arrivals, touch-down zone. This spot is located a bit behind the TDZ (Touch-Down-Zone) of runway 25L. Aircraft will have already touched down at this spot but might have the nose gear still aloft and deployment of spoilers & thrust reversers takes place when passing this spot.

The spot offers a bit higher located view upon the landing aircraft when they are already on the runway. Be warned, there is a fence which you can look over but it is most probable that there will be a bit of the fence in your pictures. Therefore you might have to take your picture a bit earlier than you would wish to avoid the fences. Especially in the early morning this is a problem, as the sun is a bit of a problem with (not that bad) backlight.

Nevertheless this is a very nice spot and is considered as one of the best ones at Brussels Airport. The spot is at it best when the sun has risen and the sun starts to get in such a position that she does not give any backlit anymore. Mind 'heat-haze' in the summer during hot days, although at Brussels there is only a minor effect of the heat and it stays OK to photograph even in mid-Summer.

Since 2012 a similar spot (new refuge center) is available right of this spot. It's also on a hill and offers the same view on the runway, but closer to the beginning of the runway. It's up to the photographer which hill is the best one.

Runway 07R, take-off: It is possible that due to strong easterly winds the runway varies from the normal 25R/25L arrival/departure configuration. In that case, airplanes will take-off from runway 07R (except for cargo aircraft, who takes 07L) and land on runway 01. Aircraft will likely rotate (take-off) a bit before spot C but it's still possible to take good shots of the departing aircraft, especially from the heavies.
The smaller aircraft often line up the runway from a closer intersection, which results in an almost equal rotation place as the heavies do.

How to get there?
Street: Mechelsesteenweg (Village: Steenokkerzeel).

You will pass a refugee centre (127 bis) on your left/right hand side (depending on which direction you come from). Follow this road on foot or by car, and you'll be able to see the hills for photographing on your left and right hand side at the end of this road, near the airport fence. With the opening of the new transit center, a parking spot has been created just next to this spot, however, officially this parking spot is for visitors only. Parking you're car there is therefore at your own risk! However, experience learns us that most of the time parking your car over there won't pose any problem, but some police officers can be very strict on that. An other legal option, is to park your car near the local Nossegem football club. When on the Mechelsesteenweg driving North (heading airport), turn left or right into the 'Namenstraat'. Further down this road there is a possibility to park your car just next to this street.

If you are by train, you will have to go to the station of Nossegem. There you'll have to exit the station to the left and continue straight ahead until you reach the refugee centre on your right. You can look up train timetables on http://www.b-rail.be/. There are trains to Nossegem from Leuven and Brussels (North, Central and South).

Runway 25L arrivals, 07R and 20 departures

Attention: at the moment (January 2014) construction works are going on at this spot. It is therefore illegal to enter this area. However, if you approach the area from the forest in the west, no sign indicates it's forbidden to enter the area. Spotting from there is at the moment on your own risk. The future of this spot is unknown.

This spot offers a panoramic view upon the runway intersection of runway 01/19 and runway 25L/07R and you can also see the beginning of runway 25R/07L about 1,5 miles further to the north. You can spot landing aircraft on runway 25L as well as departing aircraft on runway 07R. To take photos a qualitative 200mm or 300mm lens is needed.

Another nice photo opportunity at this spot is that you can take nice shots of runway 19 departures from this higher located sand hill. You will be able to photograph the rotations from runway 19, which can be in use on Saturdays and / or Sundays. Here you will also need 200 up to 300mm of zoom on your camera lens and even 400+mm for smaller aircraft. That's why this spot is not so good if you don't have such a big lens.

Runway 25L landings and runway 07R departures are generally fine what concerns sun lighting until the evening. You can only photograph runway 19 departures with decent light till about 12:00 or 13:00 as later on the day you get more and more backlit otherwise.

How to get there?
You can't reach this spot by car and you will have to go by foot from spot C. You can park your car near the Nossegem football club, as mentionned in the description for spot C. From there (parking lot transit center), walk to the south. You will pass four houses on your right and you have to take the first street to the right, called 'Namenstraat'. Then continue straight ahead while passing the Nossegem football club. Just continue there and you will see a sandy field. Go on it and you will have the view on the airport runways and tarmac. Another possibility is when you're coming from spot E. From this spot, proceed eastwards through the forest. There is a pedestrian route through the forest. It will take around 10 minutes to reach this spot from spot E.

Runway 01 arrivals, spot A

This spot is a bit hidden near the corner of the airport fence and offers a great opportunity for photographing landing aircraft on runway 01. The big advantage is that all aircraft land on this runway, including cargo and military aircraft.

It is also possible to shoot the line-up and the start of the take-off-roll of departing aircraft on runway 07R and runway 01, although 01 departures don't occur often. For this you need a 400mm lens. You will be able to shoot the landing aircraft on runway 01 when they are on very final approach/flaring and with a ladder you can also photograph them while touching down from behind. Light is good at this spot until about 13:00 for runway 01 movements, and for 07R departures till about 15:00-16:00. A ladder is recommended but is not deemed necessary. The following photos are taken without a ladder.

How to get there?
Street: Zeven Tommen (Village: Zaventem).

There are designated parking places available on the west side of the approach path of runway 01. Continue down the road by foot and walk under the approach path of 02. Then you will have to go off the road and always follow the airport fence until you reach those bushes on the right side of runway 01 (NOT the big forest more to the right). Please note that since 2013, most of these bushes have been removed, improving the view on approach while spotting from this spot. However on Google Earth, they can still be seen.

Please mind that you have to walk over the field of a farmer so please walk as close to the airport fence as possible so to not damage his field. When it has rained there is a lot of mud and you will be very dirty when you reach spot E, but a very great view is worth the effort.

By train:Take a train to the station of Nossegem. Leave the platform to the west. From there, you have stairs leading you to the bridge of the railway. Go north and take immediately the grassy pedestrian road on your left. If you follow this road it will bring you to the approach path of runway 01 in about 15 minutes.
By bus: There are a lot of buses that connect the city of Zaventem and Brussels Airport. The bus station is right in front of the train station. Bus numbers from the airport to Zaventem are: nearly all busses that depart on platform A. Ask the driver to be sure! Ask if he has a stop at Zaventem station. From Zaventem station, proceed eastwards and walk via 'Zeven Tommer' street to the approach path.

Runway 02 arrivals, spot B

This spot is located next to a small concrete road for agricultural vehicles. It is prohibited to enter this road by car! You can shoot runway 01 arrivals till about noon. Later on the day the light gets worse until eventually you will get backlit on the aircraft. What you should do is continue on the road in the direction of a pedestrian crossing over the railway (small bridge) which will lead you to the beginning of a street at the other side of the runway axis of runway 02 from which you can take good pictures between 14:00 or 15:00 until sunset (spot G).

On how to reach this spot, have a look at the description for spot E.

Runway 02 arrivals, spot C

Spot C is on the other side of the runway 02 axis for arriving aircraft on runway 02. This spot and its accessibility is discussed above and directions are explained at Spot E.

Runway 07R arrivals

NOTE: very rarely used! Landings on runway 07R normally don't occur. However, once in a few years when runway works are in progress, like during the summer of 2009, runway 07R or 07L can be used for arrivals, where the chance that 07L will be in use is bigger.

Normally runway 07R is only used as a departing runway. There is, like on runway 07L, no ILS available for the aircraft. But, in case this happens, you have only a limited series of possibilities to take pictures. Spot H is the first spot along the runway 07R axis to take side shots of the landing aircraft. When starting from spot G, you'll have to walk along the airport perimeter fences and you will find a spot behind a small sport arena or the nearby cemetery.

You can take side shots of landing aircraft as they come in to land on runway 07R. You can only look a bit above the fences. You have some trees at the left and you have to take your shot as soon as the aircraft has passed the trees before it dives down behind the fences. Light is considered to be good until approximately 17:00-18:00 in summer time. But, as said earlier, 07R arrivals is a very rare occurrence!

On how to reach this spot, have a look at the description for spot E.

Departures 25R - Airport parking 1 (P1)

This parking lot offers a view on runway 25R, probably the best spot for photographing departing aircraft. The runway is in front of you, but at some distance. That's why we advise to photograph with a lens with at least 200-300mm for heavies and 400mm for smaller aircraft. There are some obstacles obstructing the view (lights etc.) but it is possible to photograph traffic without any of these on your photos. Light is good from morning till evening.

Airport parking 3 (P3)

As the name already says, this spot is located on top of car parking P3. It offers a panoramic view of about 7 stories high above the airport, right in front of the satellite building (out of use for flights), which is now the main office for the Brussels Airport Company. You can photograph landing aircraft vacating the runway 25L, landing aircraft on runway 01 or departing aircraft runway 19 (only in the afternoon, as the sunlight is good then). Aircraft landing on 01 can be photographed, although a 400mm lens is advised.

Aircraft taking off/landing on runway 07R are visible as well, although taking pictures of this is a bit more difficult as most of the day you will encounter serious backlit, except maybe in the evening. Therefore, on Summer evenings this spot is very nice when 07R is in use for departures. It is then possible to photograph the aircraft on taxi to runway 01 or 07R for take-off as they pass the P3 spot.

How to get there?
To reach this spot you can drive by car, but then you'll have to take in mind that parking your care here is expensive. The best solution is to take the bus from other spots, like the ones at Zaventem or Kortenberg.

Once at the airport, just follow the markers that lead to parking 'P3'. Then take the elevator to floor 6, which is the top of the parking. Brussels Airport also has a train station with direct trains connecting to main cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Leuven, Ghent and Bruges.

Panoramic viewing restaurant 'wingtips'

Brussels Airport has few restaurants/pubs with panoramic view, the most well-known of this is the restaurant 'wingtips', which offers almost a 180 degrees panoramic view with large windows upon the terminal A & B and the taxiway in between.

You can take pictures of the line-up of airliners standing in front of their gates. The photo opportunities are the best a bit after noon (12:00) as you might not have any more backlit. However, to have the most spectacular line-up it is advisable to pay it a visit at between 08:00 and 11:00, as the last heavies should have arrived around 09:00 and the first heavies depart back around 10:00.

In the morning, you will see airliners like Delta, United Airlines, Etihad Airways, Hainan Airlines and Jet Airways. Brussels Airlines' 330's only use the B-pier for arrivals (which are very early at around 06:00), as since a couple of years Brussels Airlines moved their Africa operations to the back end of the A concourse to free up spaces at the overcrowded B-concourse in the morning. Only the evening Washington Brussels Airlines flight (and sometimes the afternoon Africa flights) depart from the B-pier.

Please take in mind that sometimes the windows can be dirty, so other spots are more advisable.

How to get there?
When in the departure area, walk to the left and take the stairs to the top, then walk to the end of the corridor until you see the 'Wingtips' restaurant.

Abelag Aviation park

Abelag Aviation park: Abelag is the main private & VIP aircraft handler & flight operator of Brussels Airport. The apron(s) is used for private (jets) and VIP & Government. You can find aircraft like Cessna Citation Jets, Gulfstreams, King Air's, other private jets, some military transport aircraft like C-17 (if they visit BRU) and governmental aircraft.

When there is an EU (European Union) meeting in Brussels (happens quite often as the headquarters are located in downtown Brussels) the aircraft bringing participants will park over here. There are two parts. One small apron is mainly used for business jets, one bigger apron generally being used for VIP/governmental aircraft. Usually these are the bigger aircraft in the 'airliner' category. The bigger apron is located more to the west of the smaller one and is located behind the Abelag car parking (staff). The smaller apron is about 200m more to the East and is located behind an entrance gate to the apron.

How to get there?
Take a bus (all buses operating around the airport perimeter are FREE!) and get off at the B.House (Brussels Airlines headquarters). That is the third bus stop. Then walk back to the direction you came from till you see the Abelag building. From this parking lot you can photograph the aircraft, however as construction works are going on, the future of this spot is unknown. Another spot would be from the Brussels Airlines parking lot, or the Jetairfly parking lot (5min walking further down the road). It's up to the photographer.

Runway 07L departures

Runway 07L departures: This spot offers a view upon the line-up of runway 07L departures, although this is a very rare occasion. 07L for landing or departures has maybe been used less than 10 times since the airport opened back in 1958. Although nowadays this can happen a few times a year, but only for a very limited period (1 or 2 hours).

The spot is located across the new big Brussels Airlines crew parking. You can enter it for free but you cannot park your car as the parking is only for crew/staff of the aircrafts and in special Brussels Airlines. . You can enter it free but you cannot park your car as the parking is only for crews/staff of the aircraft and in special Brussels Airlines. You can neither park a bit further on the road. You will have to park quite an end further back to the airport or on the small road about 20m lower located than the parking which is basically located on a small hill/slope. You can also take a free bus from the main airport building, and get off at the third stop (Brussels Airlines headquarters).

The spot is located a bit behind a bus stop at a fire gate entrance to the taxiway and runway. You can either take pictures over the fence with a stair (high enough, about 1m50 at least.) or trough the bars of the fence which are about 15cm spaced from each other. You will have a great opportunity to take pictures of departing aircraft on the ground on the taxiway. Good chance to take close-up's. A 200mm-lens will be enough for the smaller aircraft, larger aircraft will only require about 150mm zoom or less.

Runway 07L approach/arrivals: Aircraft approaching to runway 07L will have to perform a VOR/DME approach or a visual approach if the weather permits and in accordance to tower permission. As runway 07L is not fitted with an ILS landing system in that direction, aircraft will have to approach partly on instruments (VOR/DME) till a certain point and then have to take over manual control and will only establish on the runway quite late, resulting in nice bank maneuvers as sometimes approaching airplanes have to avoid the city center of Brussels and especially the Royal Palace at Laken.

Approach shots are possible starting from sunrise till about 18:00 before you will get too much backlit on sunny days.

Runway 25R arrivals

Most of the time only the cargo or military aircraft use 25R for landing. However, also some other aircraft can request to land there, although this does not happen too often so that you don't miss a lot of specials. During weekends it's common practice for aircraft also to land on 25R instead of 25L.

This spot is located in the town of Steenokkerzeel near the new control tower of Brussels airport and behind the stone sound wall. The spot is at the small cemetery of Steenokkerzeel. There is a small road to the cemetery starting from the old road through the town center. There are some parking spots in front of the cemetery where the spot is located. You can stand on the small grass field at the parking. It is prohibited to make a lot of noise or to enter the cemetery with your camera or whenever you don't need to be there. Please keep in mind this is still a cemetery and show the necessary respect please. Sunlight conditions are the same as mentioned for 25L arrivals.

How to get there?
Street: Coenenstraat (Village: Steenokkerzeel).

Parking is available at the cemetery. The street itself is not 'Coenenstraat' but when you enter that street, follow the signs to the cemetery, which is the first street to the right. You cannot reach this spot by train, nor directly by bus. There is a bus line running through the village coming from the airport, but you'll have to use Google Earth or Google maps to find your directions.

Any remarks/feedback/tips?

We appreciate all your remarks, feedback or tips on our forum: http://www.flightlevel.be/forum/viewforum.php?f=62

Brussels Airport Spotting Guide written and published: Original by Yannick Van Praag. Edited by Yannick De Bel, Sam Derdeyn and David Spinnael. Photos are made by David Spinnael, Pieter-Jan Van de Vijver, Yannick De Bel and Yannick Van Praag.