QantasLink flights are mostly operated by Dash-8-Q400 turbo-prop aircraft with the occasional Cobham Aviation-operated Boeing B717-200 jet aircraft.
Virgin Australia services are operated by a mix of Boeing B737 jet aircraft and Alliance Airlines Fokker F-70 and F-100 jet aircraft. Alliance Airlines took over operating some services for Virgin Australia into Rocky in 2017.
Freight services usually fly into Rockhampton Airport in the evening and early morning by Pel-Air Express SAAB 340A Freighters and Toll Freight Express Metros. General Aviation Maintenance (GAM) Dornier DO 228-202s often call in from Emerald Airport before departing to Brisbane.
Rockhampton Airport also sees a lot of ad-hoc and heavy-lift charter arrivals, particularly in association with various Australian, Singaporean, and American military exercises, where various military fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft can also be seen.
The Rockhampton Airport terminal no longer has a designated observation area. Photography from the terminal building is severely hampered by a covered walkway, and also by ground equipment.
Exiting the terminal on foot and heading south past the Qantas Freight and Virgin Australia Freight sheds, spotters will find a nice area for watching aircraft which includes two recently installed viewing platform that has been constructed by the Rockhampton Regional Council from donated sets of aircraft stairs.
The platforms allow for excellent photographs from a raised position over the main apron and out to taxiway ‘Juliette’ with the main runway 15/33 beyond this. All traffic using the main runway can be seen with Runway 15 departures rotating pretty much in front you. The video below shows a Virgin Australia E-190 taxiing on ‘Juliette’ and parking at its gate after arrival on runway 15 prior to the installation of the stairs.
Moving towards the main apron access gate can allow for further unobstructed views at ground-level either through or over the fence. Heavy aircraft also park in front of this area – at very close quarters.
Another area, shown below, that is popular with spotters, particularly for morning photos, is on the General Aviation side of the airport, which is north of the main terminal building, at Gate 21, adjacent to the Peace Aviation hangar. All traffic for runway 15, either arriving or departing, pass this point, while most traffic on runway 33 can also be seen. The older video below shows a Tiger Airways A320 departing runway 15.
To get to this spot, turn right into Canoona Road (as you approach the airport entrance on Hunter Street) and continue on Canoona Road past the northern end of the terminal, the Capricorn Rescue Service (and past the threshold of Runway 22 – also shown below), and the Defence Force camp.
The GA area is accessed by a well-signed access road to the left. Gate 21 is at the end of this access road.
As you drive along the access road towards Peace Aviation, spotters pass by the General Aviation apron and light aircraft parking area. As shown below, views over the GA apron and the cross-runway 04/22, and further to the main terminal apron can be had from these fencelines adjacent to the Peace Aviation hangar and also in front of the Rockhampton Aero Club building.
Note that the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RDFS) has finished construction of their new patient transfer facilities on the GA side of the Airport and spotters should be aware that limited car-parking is available.
For afternoon photos, some travelling to the other side of the airport is required if you would like the sun at your back. Exiting the GA area back onto Canoona Road, continue away from the terminal to the intersection with Rockhampton-Ridgelands Road. Turn left onto this road and then left again into Nine Mile Road and left again into Edwards Road. Edwards Road leads to Gate 15 which has an excellent view over the threshold area of Runway 15. As shown below there are also distant views to the terminal.
For afternoon views over Runway 33, continue back on Nine Mile Road, and turn left onto Old Nine Mile Road, past the threshold of Rwy 04. Continue until this road turns to gravel and becomes the continuation of Canoona Road, and you can see the runway and further to terminal as in the photo below.
These are just some of the spots available that I have been to over the years. Local spotters can also be found watching the goings on at Rockhampton Airport at Osborne Road (on the East side of the airport off Rockhampton-Ridgelands Road) and at the Rockhampton Golf Club (also on the East side).