The main airport of the biggest of all emirates is virtually doubling itself by constructing a second runway, new terminal, new aprons and increased facilities for passengers and cargo. The airport is home to the Abu Dhabi Amiri Flight and to Etihad Airways, a relative newcomer that has grown to one of the first airlines to order the A380. Abu Dhabi is also big in cargo. Be aware, plane spotting is neither understood nor appreciated in Arab countries!
Until 2006, Abu Dhabi International consisted of a single 4100m runway with all facilities south of that. The expansion claims a large area north of the original one. Existing structures on the new grounds, including a small palace, are being relocated. The second runway is in operation and a new terminal is planned inbetween the two. Existing taxiways have been adapted for the A380.
The two aprons near the beginning of runway 13 are for maintenance with GAMCO among the companies. The Amiri VIP terminal is here too. The passenger aprons are near the terminal and furter southeast lies the cargo apron. The last one, abeam the beginning of 31, features helicopters, general aviation and more VIP flights.
Many passenger flights have this airport as destination or connection point and you could be on one of them. Otherwise, driving here is easy and takes about 10 minutes from the city. Driving time to Dubai is an hour and a half and to Al Ain one hour (approximately). Taxis to/from the city centre are also an option and the ride costs roughly the equivalent of $20.
From the viewing area (inside) annex cafe most of the passenger aprons and movements on the nearby runway can be seen. The satellite-like part behind customs and security does sometimes get in the way however. Photography is possible with care.
An interesting mix of freighters is handled here, including a lot of 747s, IL-76s and regular An-124s. There are walls and fences but with some going back and forth most registrations can be read. However, even taxi drivers get upset by seeing someone using binoculars. Photography is no option here.
Near the corner of roads, workers park their car on the wasteland south of the GA apron. These provide some shelter for the use of bins or cams over the low wall. It is still quite a distance to the aircraft. Construction seems on the way on the open land so the situation may change.
The road parallel to highway E-11 enables you to see aircraft on final or climbing out from either runway. The many heavies will be in reach of cameras here but the terrain is very open.
There happens to be a small rest area along the E-10 just south of the 13L centreline (plus two directly under it). Same conditions will apply as for spot 4.
Near the large roundabout, several roads make it possible to stand under the approach or climb-out of the first runway. Views on the field are very limited due to greenery planted near the perimeter and slightly sloping terrain. In other words, conditions like the previous two spots.
Christian Galliker shot this runway 31 departure of an Etihad A330. He did so from the cafe in the terminal, spot 1.
|119.200 / 121.750
|124.400 / 128.100
|Abu Dhabi Aviation
Bell 212, Bell 412
|Abu Dhabi Amiri Flight
|Al Jaber Aviation
+ A350, A380 on order
|Falcon Aviation Services
|Maximus Air Cargo
|Abu Dhabi International Airport