Bolzano is a regional airport in the northern Italian province of South Tyrol, a dual-language area in the Dolomites. Also named Dolomiti Airport after these mountains and often dubbed San Giacomo for the neighbouring village, it is nowadays marketed under the name of BZO Airport Südtirol Alto Adige, using the province's name in both German and Italian. The airport's scenic setting on the edge of the city and at the foot of the mountains is also its biggest challenge. These obstacles make operations here highly weather and daylight-dependent, aggravated by the absence of air traffic control (no separation from other traffic), which is a serious disadvantage to any scheduled service.
At this time, Sky Alps is the sole scheduled operator here, and this company was founded by the owners of the airport. Other traffic includes a nice amount of corporate flights, flying club activities and, last but not least, military helicopters. The Esercito (army), Guardia di Finanza and Polizia all have one or more rotorcraft based here.
The north-south runway, a bit over 1400m (4700ft) long since the latest extension to the south, is bordered on both sides by aprons, hangars and some taxiways. Everything on the west side is restricted to military use and this is where the Esercito and Guardia di Finanza operate from. The largest (civil) hangar is in the northeast corner, adjacent to the light aircraft parking on grass. Next are the main civilian apron and terminal. Further south is the flying club, the Carabinieri helicopters' facilities and another helicopter apron, all along the glider start area for the grass strip designated 01/19, like the main runway. The north and east of the field border built-up areas and the railway while the rest is surrounded by farmland, mainly vineyards and orchards.
Reaching the airport by car is easy as it lies just a few kilometers from the A22 motorway, running south from the Brenner Pass. Following the signs through the toll gates will lead you via a number of turns and overflies onto the SS12 that passes north of the field. The airport is signposted along major roads from all directions but be keen on the signs just consisting of a modest airport symbol, a black aircraft on white background. The nearest train station is Bolzano Sud/Fiera or Bozen Süd/Messe (trade fair) at a 20-minute walk from the terminal, and one can obviously also fly in.
Following the signs to the airport, you will reach this area just before the main parking lot. There are some benches and a medium high fence, offering a good view on the northern part of the runway, most of the main civil apron and the military area on the other side. There is ample free parking space available and small steps suffice to take photos from above the fence and below the concertina on top of it. This is generally the best spot if you are here for the numbers and the preserved AB206 can be seen across the runway.
Taking a look from inside the terminal, with another free parking lot right in front of it, may yield a few extra IDs of aircraft parked close to the building. Behind security, the business lounge on the first floor offers a panoramic view of the airport.
The gate of the police helicopter unit is just south of the terminal, past the flying club. Their preserved AB47 sits in the 'front garden' but chances are that taking out any form of camera, including a phone, will quickly have you be told by someone from the building that this is a military area and therefore photography is forbidden. With luck, you might spot an operational helicopter on the apron behind the building. The less troublesome option is to wait and hope for them to fly, while staying at a relaxed location.
4North view and approach 19 am
From the side walk of the Via Loris Musy the northern part of the field is visible, especially when using (small) steps to look over the shrubberies. This is also the spot to catch arrivals on runway 19 in the air. The light for the latter will be best in the morning, and generally not very good for photos looking towards the field of course. The spot lies in a no-stopping zone for vehicles but the main airport parking lot is just 600m away. Therefore, the best way to get here is to park near spot 1, walk towards the airport exit and go left at the crossroads.
5Runway 19 pm
This spot along the fence lies opposite the main civil hangar and overlooks the beginning of runway 19. There is little room to take position but you will be able to photograph anything in front of you, to which bringing steps will help. Take-offs from the beginning and landings will be fine, aircraft near or in the hangar are mostly doable as well. Larger aircraft landing from the other side might vacate at the end and also pass in front of you.
To get here from the previous spots, drive past spot 4 and then take first left onto the SS12, towards the autostrada/Autobahn. Continue until the first roundabout, take the third exit ('left') and do the same at the next roundabout. At the T junction turn left again and then right, onto the narrow road along a wall and fences. This ends at a somewhat open space where you can park and take position along the fence.
When leaving spot 5, turn left onto the Via Agruzzo/Grutzenweg and left again at the next crossroads, where a small sign points to the Aeroporto Militare/Militärflughafen. This will bring you to the military gate, behind which you can just see the preserved AB205 under the trees. Hanging around here is obviously not advised.
7Runway 01 pm
For a place to view activities on runway 01 and have the sun behind you in the afternoon, use this spot. Since the latest runway extension, the Via Alessandro Manzoni has been detoured along the new southern perimeter and the disused part has been closed off with fences with concertina on top. There is some room to park near this barricade but to look over it, larger steps are needed. Alternatively, you could walk south to obtain at least an unobstructed view on landings from this side. Getting here from the previous spots is easy: follow the fences and walls counter-clockwise around the field. The distance from spot 6 is 1.8km.
8Threshold 01 am
At this point, where the Via Alessandro Manzoni continues east on its original path as a restricted access road, you are abeam the beginning and turning pad of runway 01. If you park here where there is room to do so and bring steps, you will have a splendid view on landings on 01 and departures from the beginning. The light will of course be best in the morning. Just keep following the fence from the previous spot to get here.
9Runway 01 am
With northerly winds, this spot offers a very close view to the flying operations on both the main runway and the glider strip. The light for photos on the paved runway is best in the morning and even with runway 19 in use, you may have aircraft make a 180° turn after landing close to where you are. Additionally, this spot is at the end of a farm road where you are less likely to be in the way of other traffic while parking. Follow this farm road between the fence and vineyards to the end, some 300m from spot 8, to get here.
Peter Nieuwkamp photographed this Guardia di Finanza AB412, about to land from the north, several years ago from the vicinity of spot 5.
Piper Aerostar doing a full-power run down runway 19 during maintenance, as seen from spot 1. (Erik Sleutelberg)
|MM80464||AB47G at spot 3|
|nn||AB205 at spot 6|
|MM80620||AB206C between the two larger aprons on west side, visible from spot 1.|
|BZO Airport Südtirol Alto Adige||Official website|
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