Updated January 2019.
Mackay Airport is approximately 6km from the city of Mackay and is served by most of Australia's major airlines. QantasLink operates primarily Dash-8-Q400 turboprop and Boeing B717-200 jet aircraft into Mackay, with some services operated by Alliance Airlines Fokker F-100 aircraft. Jetstar flys Airbus A320s into Mackay at least daily from Brisbane and Virgin Australia fly predominantly Boeing B737-800 aircraft several times a day to Mackay also from Brisbane.
The passenger terminal is located on the Western side of the airport, and features an observation area where unfortunately, photos are near impossible due to the many layers of glass. Virgin Australia and Qantas have opened dedicated lounge facilities inside the Mackay Airport terminal, and the terminal building has undergone significant redevelopments also in recent months.
Perhaps the best and certainly most convenient place for plane spotting at Mackay Airport is now from the Ibis Hotel Mackay which is situated right across the road from the Mackay Airport terminal building!
Rooms up on the sixth and seventh floors offers views across the whole Airport including most the main parking apron. Aircraft landing and taking-off of the main Runway 14/32 can be seen with ease, as well as aircraft taxing in and parking on this Western side of the Airport.
We have stayed at the Ibis Mackay several times and thoroughly enjoyed the meals and the convenience!
Also on the Western side of the Airport are the hangars of some small local operators and the Central Queensland (CQ) Rescue Helicopter Service. The Freight and Fly-in Fly-Out (FIFO) and other bizjet and charter flight parking areas are also located nearby.
Aside from the Ibis Mackay, closer photos on this side of the airport can be taken along the fence lines to the North and West of the terminal building (near the freight sheds) where Pel Air SAAB 340A freighters and larger visiting bizjets are usually parked, and near CQ Rescue where their helicopters, Toll Express Metros, and light charter aircraft are usually parked. The main Runway 14/32 can also be seen although afternoons are usually best with the sun behind you!
Another popular 'outside' location for photos of aircraft operating at Mackay Airport, is along the Northern perimeter of the Airport along Bridge Road. This road overlooks the entire airport and is directly under very short finals for Runway 14 (the most commonly used runway).
Departing aircraft can also be photographed lining up for Runway 14, or on the rare occasion airborne departing Runway 32.
When the nearby football stadium was being built and also during major road works, a new temporary access road off Bridge Road - named Leisure Court - was opened and still remains in place even today. Leisure Court hugs the fence-line at the touch-down zone of runway 14 and also leads to a carpark for the local Netball facilities. Photos like those below are possible from here but standing the roof of your car may be required to take photos over the fence!
There are also possibilities for photos of aircraft on final approach to Runway 14 from one of the various motels along Nebo Road. The photo below of a Surveillance Australia (Australian Customs Service) Dash-8-200 (VH-ZZP) is an example taken from the Comfort Inn The Rose Motel.
Back at Mackay Airport, most General Aviation (GA) operations occur on the Eastern side of the Airport which is accessible by driving down Casey Avenue or Leisure Court off Bridge Road, past the football stadium.
Locally-based Flyon Helicopters operates from around the 'back' of this side of the Airport with their Agusta A109E Power helicopters.
Continuing back on Casey Avenue into the GA Area is the large hangar where Chrisair Aircraft Maintenance operate and often park aircraft on the apron outside nearby to Gate 5.
Further around the road and heading back out of the Airport are the main operating hangars of Whitsunday Helicopters and another local light aircraft operator, Horizon Airways.
There is also a light aircraft parking apron for visiting aircraft which is actually part of the old domestic terminal from the days when Fokker F-27s and Douglas DC-9s flew into Mackay Airport.
The nearby fence lines and gates near these areas offer great views over the main runway 14/32, particularly in the morning with sun at your back.