Friday, May 22, 2015

Rockhampton Airport Spotting Locations - UPDATED!!

Updated May 2015.

Rockhampton Airport is situated about 5km west of the City of Rockhampton with Hunter Street being the main access road into the airport. Scheduled passenger services to Rockhampton are operated by Qantas (QantasLink) and Virgin Australia / Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA).

QantasLink flights are mostly operated by Dash-8-Q400 turbo-prop and Cobham Aviation-operated Boeing B717-200 jet aircraft.

Virgin Australia services are mostly operated by their Embraer E-190 and Boeing B737 jet aircraft, or VARA ATR 72-500/600 turbo-prop aircraft.

Alliance Airlines Fokker 70 and Fokker 100 also operate some QantasLink and Virgin Australia services from and back to Brisbane.

Freight services are usually flown on weeknights by Pel-Air Express with SAAB 340A Freighters and Toll Freight Express Metros.

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 terminal has an observation area, however photography is hampered by a fine wire mesh that has been placed over the glass. Views are also blocked 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 included a recently installed viewing platform that has been constructed by the Rockhampton Regional Council from a donated set of aircraft stairs.

The platform allows 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 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).

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