Since the demise of national airline SABENA in 2001, Brussels airport has been working hard to regain its position in Europe. Nowadays, it is a much more modern place than around the turn of the century with new terminals, new ATC facilities and a lot of passenger traffic. The amont of cargo traffic was significantly reduced with the move of the DHL hub to Leipzig, but still freighters can be seen here. The presence of both NATO and EU headquarters in Brussels guarantees frequent visits by many government and military airplanes. The Belgain military transport fleet in the 15 Wing, as well as police aircraft, are based at Melsbroek, the air base on the north side of the field. Runway direction 25 is prevailing in use and the airport IATA code is BRU.
There are three runways with several terminal buildings in the middle of the pattern. The north is lined by cargo facilities and the military base. In the southwest, the village of Zaventem presses against the airport perimeter and the road situation over there can be confusing. Ongoing extensive construction works keep the situation changing. Current projects are a railway connection to the north, reconstruction of the R0-A201 motorway junction and 'Brucargo West'. This guide will be updated again in the future.
Brussels airport is obviously easy to reach by car, although some of the spots have to be accessed via backroads. There is a railway station under the central terminal, plus two at 1.5 km from certain spots (see below). Local buses pass most other spots on their routes and the central terminal features a bus station as well. Be advised though that bus services are interrupted during weekends, see the airport website for details. The field lies north east of the city, along the outer ring R0 and the E19 to Antwerpen.
Around the Airport
Inside the terminal, several views of aprons and the northern runway are available. Noteworthy are the 'Café de Bruxelles' and 'Wing Tips' restaurants, at the 'Promenade'. These can be found by following the signs once inside. The other terminals are accessible only for passengers, and offer the usual views of the outside for such facilities. The top levels of the outermost parkings in front of the central terminal are also suitable as a lookout. Especially P3 overlooks the southern aprons towards 07R and 02, and good taxi shots can be made from here. The light is best (late) in the afternoon.
When driving towards the terminal from the motorway, keep to the right to get to the service road that turns all the way back, and leads to the overfly between spots 2 and 3. Before the overfly, a stop-and-go can be made near the taxi waiting area for a short walk to the fence. This is next to the Sabena Technics hangars (one was destroyed by fire in May 2006) and a an apron regularly used for stored aircraft. Various smaller airliners and commuters park near the fence.
Continue past spot 2 and drive over the main access road to the other side. The gate to the (former) DHL area is at the end of this road and usually, a number of the freighters can be read off. This is not a photo spot, nor one for a longer stay.
This, for most spotters, was the best location, because the more exotic planes park here. Additionally, cargo planes could be seen from here and sometimes photographed, as well as aircraft behind the maintenance hangar. Unfortunately, things have changed in 2013.
The two best viewing points used to be at the VIP centre gate, and at a closed road/parking lot on the other side of the Abelag hangar. Usually, no-one will object to the use of bins or even cameras at the gate as long as regular traffic is not obstructed. However, the new hangar is blocking much of the view. On the other side of the old hangar a dead-end street slopes down, next to a parking lot. At the bottom of the slope, photography on ther Abelag apron was fine with the aid of steps, but here a mound and a wall have been erected, leaving only parts of tail fins to be seen except for a limited part of the apron. Still a part of the parked aircraft can be seen and photographed with 100-200 mm, depending on the aircraft size. You will need some steps however. An alternative may be to walk behind the Jetairfly building and make photos more side on. Take care when parking, as many areas are private or business only.
To get here directly from the motorway, take the exit at Zaventem (the last one before the terminal) and circle the roundabout for three quarters. Signs help in following the best route. From spot 3, enter the main road to leave the airport but stay right and take the first exit again, followed by a right at the roundabout.
On a sound barrier behind the staff car park and bus stop you have a good view of the finals 07L and can even take pictures of aircraft lining up on this runway. Park your car in the Dreststraat and walk around the fence to the barrier.
From spot 4 continue west and take the first road left, then first right and at the end a shallow left turn again. The staff car park will be on right right then.
To reach this spot from the E19, follow the signs to 'Cargo'. After crossing the N21, turn right at the roundabout and continue southwest as far as possible (see the map). From spot 4, continue towards the beginning of 07L but turn left before the gate. Follow this road along the perimeter and eventually enter the N21 or Haachtsesteenweg towards Melsbroek. Turn right at 'Cargo' and proceed as above. Behind the Brucargo buildings, aircraft on the ramp can be seen. Traffic landing on either 07L or departing from 25R can be polled here too, but there are more convenient spots to do so as there is no space for parking.
This has however become a good spot for photos now Brucargo has expanded its facilities towards the ring road in project 'Brucargo West'. The aircraft on the first spot at cargo ramp can be photographed easily from a sound barrier.
This spot used to be accessible by car via a road parallel to the N21, either from the roundabout described under spot 6, or at its connection with the N21 between spots 7 and 8. However, the fence can now only be reached on foot through a very narrow entrance via the soccer field. Various aircraft may be parked on the former Teamco ramp. The closest airplanes at Brucargo can usually be read off from here, and a number of those parked at the terminals beyond the runway. Departures from 25R can be photographed, with great light in the evening, but they appear from behind the building at your left with no other warning than the noise.
Two locations here for some number hunting on the south western part of the military apron, on either side of the Haachtsesteenweg. Coming from spot 7 and entering this N21 between 7 and 8, the third set of buildings at your right has an open parking. Its corner can be used to read some Melsbroek numbers, and also has a view on traffic near 07L/25R. Another 100m towards the base, short stops can be made in front of the car dealers' at the other side of the road for some more scope use. To drive here, one has to approach from the other side.
Visible from here are two hulks of former Brussels Airlines BAe146s, that are now in use for training the fire brigade.
No useful view onto the field but on the other side, north of the road, three relics can be seen: a C-119, with a Pembroke under its wing, and a C-47. These are a part of a museum, open on Mondays and Thursdays, form 14:00 until 18:00 hours.
The main police station for the Steenokkerzeel area is situated at the Tervuursesteenweg, some 200m from the N21. A small road to its right ends in the open field with a view on the Melsbroek flight line. An elevated view can be obtained at the children's play ground here. The holding of runways 19 and 25R is nearby, making it good foto afternoon and evening photography on runway 25R, and less ideal runway 19. This spot is even advised by the local police!
11Approach 19 a.m.
When runway 19 is in use, the Keistraat offers an unobstructed view on the finals. The aircraft may be a bit too high for photos though, depending on what you like.
While 25L takes the most landings, the majority of military and cargo planes land on 25R. From the previous spots, leave the main road at the first roundabout and drive into Steenokkerzeel. Parking is possible near the cemetary entrance (signposted 'Begraafplaats'), which is a good location to take photos of the landing aircraft.
Bear in mind that local inhabitants have complained about spotters climbing on the wall (that provides an overview of the runways) are not respecting their privacy. Therefore this wall was closed by October 2009.
13Runway 25L evening
When light at spot 14 and 15 is not good (early morning and evening in summer), the Wijngaardstraat is an alternative to photo graph aircraft on finals runway 25L. If you are just here for the numbers, the road immediately to the north (Weg naar Nederokkerzeel) give you a view on runways 25L and 25R.
Easy to find along the Kortenbergsesteenweg and great for photos nearly all day, with modest lenses. Traffic landing on 25R can usually be read off as well, and large planes on that runway may even be photographed from here with long lenses, weather permitting. Please observe the 'no stopping' zone and park outside it. Be advised that police can be more strict in their view of where parking is permitted than the innocent spotter. The safest bet is to park within the edge of Kortenberg village, and walk the 200-300m to the spot. A path through the fields, away form the airport, ascends a small hill from which aircraft can be watched until touch-down on 25L. This spot is only 1.5km from the Kortenberg railway station, just outside our map on the right.
On the south side of the runway a road leads up the embankment to the fence, behind the detention centre. From there, one looks onto the 25L touch-down zone. While there, the photo opportunities are good and if 07R is used, these flights can be pictured as well. Do not park up here and do not be surprised if asked to leave. The small road between spots 14 and 15 is closed to general traffic.
16South side near soccer fields
Coming from spot 15, take the first right and park near the soccer fields of Nossegem, or even drive onto the sandy area at the fence. This is a good photo spot for traffic on 07R, and heavies on 19. All traffic on 01 can be seen as well but appears a bit late for photos.
17Threshold 01 am plus 07R
Several options exist near the threshold of 01. By car, these spots can be approached from Nossegem but the small roads between spots 16 and 19 are off-limits for general traffic. Driving to spots 18 and 19 is possible though, see there. With morning light, one can simply cross the centreline and the railroad from spot 19 on foot, to shoot the landings. Alternatively, follow the fence along the runway after doing so, to a clearing behind some shrubberies. The fence is low enough here to look over it for a view onto the beginning of 01, great for departure shots. Take-offs from 07R can also be framed from here, albeit more distant.
18Approach 01 a.m.
If you just want to photograph aircraft approaching runway 01, then this is an alternative to spot 17. From spot 15 initially follow the directions to spot 19. However, turn right just after the Q8 gas station, which is before the Sterrebeekstraat. Turn left at the next roundabout and park your car around there. Then walk back to the roundabout and take a left into the field.
19Runway 01 pm
From spot 15, drive into Nossegem and turn right onto the N2/Leuvensesteenweg. At the next traffic lights, turn right into the Sterrebeekstraat. Where this is turning sharp left (the second bend), turn sharp right yourself and cross underneath the railway. You are now at the '7 Tommen', spot 19. Alternatively, drive here from the roundabout mentioned at spot 4. Leave that away from the field, into Zaventem. At the next roundabout stay on the N262 and then turn left-right for the Steenokkerzeelstraat. Where this meets the railway, turn left and follow it to the end. You may have to park just before the spot. The bridge over the first railway is an excellent location with 01 in use.
Belgiums current premier passenger airline is shown on this photo, taken at spot 12 by Giovanni Verbeeck.
Great evening light on Burkina Faso government 727 XT-BFA. The aircraft is parked near the Abelag VIP terminal, spot 4. (Arjen Sleeuwenhoek)
|118.050 / 121.875||Ground|
|118.600 / 120.775||Tower|
|388.525 / 257.800||Tower|
|118.250||Arrival (S, N and W)|
|389.375 / 362.300||Arrival|
|131.875 / 367.950||Melsbroek Ops|
|Brussels Airlines||A319, A320|
|Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium||A319, A320|
|21sq & royal flight||A321|
|Ops & Training Squadron||above aircraft|
|Federal Police||Ce182, MD520N, MD900|
|CP10||C-119G, spot 8|
|RM7||Pembroke C51, spot 8|
|LX-DKT||C-47, at spot 8, as "K-1/OT-CWA"|
|OO-DJE||BAe146, near spot 7, used by fire brigade|
|OO-LCM||Ce500, used by fire brigade in between rwy 25L/25R|
Order of Battle Belgium
|Belgian Air Component|
|Antwerpen - Deurne|
|Brussels - National (Zaventem) & Melsbroek|
|Brussels South (Charleroi)   subscribers only|
|Kortrijk - Wevelgem   subscribers only|
|Zoersel - Oostmalle|
|Zutendaal   subscribers only|