Zürich is the biggest airport in Switzerland and home of Swiss International Air Lines (both the European and international divisions) plus a handful of other operators of airliners. Additionally, an impressive number of bizjet operators has chosen Zürich as their home. In line with that, the airport is famous for the yearly VIP invasion for the World Economic Forum. The WEF normally takes place in late January. On average, the local authorities are very open towards plane spotting. However, this can change during the WEF when people are obviously more nervous in order to run things smoothly. Still usually bus tours over the aprons are organised by local spotters.
Zurich has two primary terminals. Terminal A is mostly used by Swiss and other smaller aircraft. Terminal B is mostly used for the wide body aircraft and by most international airlines. Zurich has a beautiful background which is great for taking pictures.
The airport is north of the city in the fork of highways 1/4 and 51. The latter runs straight to the terminal area.
By public transport
Zürich airport has excellent public transport connections. Swiss Federal Railways link the airport directly to Switzerland's railway network. Furthermore, a tram operates frequently to and from the town, this is called the Glattalbahn. Lastly, bus routes to major Swiss towns are also operated.
1Observation deck B
The primary place to watch planes is obviously this official viewing area on the roof of terminal 2. From this place you can see all aircraft parked at the terminal. Also the taxiing aircraft can be seen and photographed and you have a good view of the take-off traffic on runway 16/34. Also nice to know is that on Saturday and Sunday the landings will take place on runway 34 til 9 a.m. There is however a lot of movement on the ramps normally which sometimes makes it difficult to get a clean shot. Entry costs 5 Swiss Francs (about 3.5 euros).
From this location there is also the possibility to go on a bus tour. This tour will take you throughout the airport. The highlight of the tour is the fact that the bus will stop for a short period at the crossing of runway 16/34 and 10/28. You will be here normally for about 10 minutes. The total length of the tour is about 45 minutes.
An alternative for the observation deck - before it opens - is one of the top levels of Parkhaus 3.
2Observation deck E
There is also an observation area on top of the mid-field terminal, as a replacement for the old one when the terminal was being rebuilt. This location with the name 'observation deck E' can only be reached via shuttle bus. This bus leaves from the official spotter's location (observation deck B). It costs about 4 Swiss Francs to go here (about 3 euros). It is important to know when this bus is in operation because it does not run every day. Deck E is open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday about 12.00-17.00 in the period March-October, but check the official site for latest opening hours. Also, bring some drink and foord because that is not available on the observation deck itself! The advantage of this location is that you are even closer to the action.
3Parkhaus 6 - runway 10/28
If you are interested in photographing the smaller planes on runway 10/28, then there is also an option to go into Parkhaus 6. From the top level you have an excellent view of that runway. Normally, the light is at its best between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
4Heliport - runway 16/34
This is the location of the heliport and is one of the better places to go in the afternoon. This is because you will have the sun in the back. In the summer it is best to move to this location around 2 p.m. while in the winter you can go here from noon onwards. For the larger planes leaving from runway 16, you really do not need more than 80 mm for pictures, so it is just a perfect spot to enjoy your hobby!
Unfortunately, the fences are fairly high so a small staircase is advisable. If you do not have one, then look for some holes in the fence to put your camera through. If you did not come to Zurich by car then take the bus with number 510 that leaves from Parkhaus 6 and exit at the train station Rümlang. Follow the underground path beneath the station and follow the footpath after that. Go over the pedestrian bridge and walk towards the small 'forrest' and then follow the fence and it will get you to this location.
5West side approach - runway 10
There is a track running along the canal. If you go back towards Rümlang from spot 4, make a right just before the residential area east of the canal. This small road runs along the perimeter fence and underneath the approach to runway 10. You are now opposite and between observation decks B and E.
6Northwest side approach - p.m.
At the north side threshold there are two parking areas where you can make some excellent pictures. To reach this place, go from the heliport back to the main road and drive in the direction of 'Oberglatt', at the T-junction take a right. The northwest side parking is better in the afternoon starting around 1 p.m.
7Northeast side approach - a.m.
The northeastern parking spot is best in the morning, because you will have the sun in the back. Go back to the Oberglatterstrasse and make a right. After passing the threshold, go right again to reach this spot.
8East side - runway 14/32
All along this runway one can take position to log numbers. Bringing steps high enough to aim over the fence enables you to take photos, with fine conditions in the morning. When leaving the parking lot at spot 7, go right. Go right again at the crossroads. After about 1 km, go right towards a crash gate. The small road runs parallel to the fence, so you can adjust your position to suit your needs. Do not block the gate!
9Southeast side - runway 14/32
Because the track follows the fence running parallel to the runway, you can go all the way to the south. Halfway along the runway, the fence is low enough to be OK with small steps.
10GA parking lot
At the general aviation area there is a parking lot outside the fence that gives a good view of the aircraft parked in that corner.
Spot 3 is nice for take off shots in the afternoons (Pieter Taris)
|Apron (N of rwy 10/28)
|Apron (s of rwy 10/28)
|Tower (except rwy 14/32), Ground
|Tower (rwy 14/32)
|Ground / Tower / Approach
|118.000 / 120.750
merged into Air-Berlin Group
|BAe125, Falcon 7X
|Jet Aviation Business Jets
|Lions Air (TimeJet)
|Swiss Air Lines
|A319, A320, A321
Bell 430, Bo105,
|Swiss Private Aviation
|Zürich's official page
|This link is aimed at enthusiasts with all the hot spots listed!
|Switzerland - Schweizer Luftwaffe