Frankfurt is the busiest airport of Germany and the third busiest of Europe. Most major airlines to be seen anywhere in Europe, can be seen here. For many years, part of this airport was Rhein-Main Air Base, the main USAF transport base in Europe. Nowadays, military aircraft occasionally visit and a couple of former USAF aprons are being used as a cargo terminal. As is the case with most airports, Frankfurt is constantly expanding so parts of the field are now obscured by terminals and piers. However, there are still plenty of good places to spot and to take pictures. On 21 October 2011, the fourth runway, north of motorway A3, was put into operation.
Since August 2007, the airport offers airside tours departing by bus from Terminal 1, for a few euros. The bus tours operate daily every hour from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the hour. There are additional tours on weekends and holidays at 11 a.m. and 12 noon. The ticket box is on the transfer bridge between Terminal 1 and Frankfurt Airport Center.
Frankfurt's layout used to be rather straightforward for such a massive airport. The recent obvious change was the addition of the third parallel runway, north of motorway A3. The terminal area is north of the old parallel runway system. Bizjets and cargo ramps are on the southern part, which is the former USAF area. Still rather prominent is the north-south runway on the west-side of the airport, used for departures in direction 18 only.
The airport can easily be reached from a lot of stations in the city by means of the S-Bahn (local train). The airport has two stations, one for the S-Bahn and one for the intercity trains to the rest of Germany and Europe. Many bus lines also connect the airport with the neighbouring villages and other parts of Frankfurt.
An easy alternative is to take bus OF-64 which usually runs every 30 minutes from Terminal 1 (when in you are in Terminal 2 get on the bus at "Hugo-Eckener-Ring" - a bus station at the big road in front of T2). Bus no. OF-51 runs from Terminal 1 and 2 every 60 minutes. In both cases you have to exit at the US-Air-Base and walk back a few meters along the airport fence.
Around the Airport
The oldest of the two terminals, terminal one handles the brunt of the Lufthansa traffic. Especially piers A and B are loaded with examples of this carrier's extensive fleet, intercontinental as well as European- bound aircraft. A mixture of A320s to Boeing 747-400s can be seen. On top of one of the piers used to be the visitor's terrace with a nice view of the airport and the parallel runways. This terrace was closed in December 2005, however, and so far it does not look like it will re-open in the future. Note for the photographers among us: this place had backlight for most of the day.
To the west lies the facility of Lufthansa Maintenance, and one of the cargo areas. The hardstands here are often used for parking airliners that stay during the day, arriving in the morning and leaving in the afternoon or evening. Opposite (across the runways 07C/25C and 07R/25L) is the former Rhein-Main Air Base which has been converted to more cargo aprons and a new maintenance facility for the Lufthansa A380s. To the east, Terminal Two can be seen, with a lot of visiting airliners from across the Atlantic in the morning and Asians in the late afternoon and evening. In the basement of this terminal is a McDonald's, among some other restaurants, and a supermarket worth a visit before going upstairs.
Linked to Terminal One by a train, Terminal Two is a modern-looking building, with a spacious design. The terrace was closed in the autumn of 2001 but re-opened early in August 2007. Adults are charged 4 euros to enter, with reductions for the disabled, children and students. However, opening times are 10:00 - 18:00 daily and strict security measures are in force. It is not allowed to bring drinks or food outside. Re-entrance is free once the initial fee has been paid. From the McDonald's, the view on landings and departures on runways 25C/L is good.
Note: the viewing terrace is planned to be closed from 1 September 2014 until spring 2015!
After exiting the A5 (exit Cargo/ Zeppelinheim), this spot can easily be found: just take the first left to the former recreation area of Rhein Main AB, and park your car near the gate. From here you walk towards the highway and the airfield, crossing the highway with a bridge. From here you have an excellent view of the traffic landing on 25L and 25C. This vantage point can also be reached by train, but not directly from the airport. You have to travel to Sportfeld with S8 or S9 first, and change there for Zeppelinheim on line S7. The thing with changing lenses mentioned at the 18W-spot is also applicable to this vantage point. Close to this point is the Berlin Luftbrücke Denkmal (Berlin Airlift Memorial) where a C-54 and a C-47 are preserved. It is at your left when facing the field, with the entrance on the other side.
4Cargo City Süd
The former Rhein-Main AB has given way to a huge air cargo facility under development. Double fences hinder photography here, but a stop-and-go is likely worthwhile for some number logging.
5The South Side
Continuing the road that led you to the spotter's corner of runway 18 (see spot 6), and turning left, gives you a chance to identify some of the visitors on the cargo aprons on the north side of Frankfurt Main. It is quite a distance, with a lot of concrete and asphalt (the two parallel runways) in between, often resulting in a lot of heat haze. Taking pictures is difficult: a fence ensures no clear pictures can be taken. To get to point 4 by bus, take line 5514 from Terminal 1. It usually runs every 30 minutes. Get off the bus at "Tor 31", just a few meters from this vantage point.
When in your car, follow the signs to the Cargo Area. Some entry gates in the Cargo Area gives you the possibility to read off some parked aircraft at Lufthansa Maintenance and on the Cargo Apron. After passing the cargo area, continue driving on this road. Before crossing the runway (by means of a tunnel) there is a small car park to your right-hand side. From here, a short walk reveals a somewhat elevated platform that enables visitors to get close to the runway, and very nice shots can be made from here. From mid day on, the spot gets better and better, the sun turning more and more behind your back. It is also possible to walk back here from the bus stop at spot 5, but be prepared for a 20-30-minute walk. A third possibility to get to 18W is to exit bus 5514 at "Tor 26" and walk past the threshold of 07C and 07R. This takes also about 20-30 minutes.
There are no facilities here whatsoever, but during hot summer days an ice-cream van is present at the parking most of the time. This spot can also be used to get hold of aircraft landing on 07C or 07L, but beware: they come in view late, and changing lenses (a Boeing 747 on 07R takes a lot less millimetres than an A319 on 07C!) is something you should practice before going here... A little bit further down the road is another parking spot, from where you can take landing shots, but this also takes some practice.
The new runway has a nice viewing point, suitable for runway use in both directions. To get there, take the Okrifteler Strasse (K152) towards Kelsterbach and Raunheim from its connection with the Airportring, near Tor 27. After crossing the motorway and the railway, this road passes by the new fire station. There is a small parking lot that can be used, from which one can see the runway. A five minute walk to the east along the fence leads to a few hills, giving unobstructed views for photos without the need for steps. Furthermore, walking and cycling tracks run around most of the runway along the fence, offering many observation and photo spots (though steps are needed for photography in most cases).
From spot 7, continue on the Okrifteler Strasse through the tunnel under the new runway. Just before this passes under the next railway, turn left onto the Stockstrasse that parallels the tracks. This leads to an industrial estate with suitable locations to watch and photograph aircraft landing on 07L.
The view at the popular spot 3 near Zeppelinheim, photographed by Leo Hoogerbrugge.
Simon Pascal framed this Triple Seven on runway 07L from spot 7.
|121.700||Apron - west|
|121.850||Apron - centre & south|
|121.950||Apron - east|
|119.900 / 378.350||Tower|
|124.850||Tower - runway 18|
|120.150||Langen Radar - dep N, NW|
|136.125||Langen Radar - dep W, S|
|126.550 / 372.850||Langen Radar - dep (alt)|
|120.800||Langen Radar - arr N|
|118.450||Langen Radar - arr S|
|127.275 / 277.800||Langen Radar - arr (alt)|
|118.025||ATIS - arr|
|118.725||ATIS - dep|
|D-ABJI||Boeing 737-500, used for ground training by Lufthansa|
|44-09063||This C-54 is part of the Berlin Luftbrücken Denkmal.|
|43-49081||This C-47 is also part of the memorial site.|
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