Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Spotting Guide

Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, formerly Sahar International Airport, is the second busiest airport in India and handled almost 43. Mio passengers in 2015. This airport has two cross runways and is reaching its full saturation point. The main airlines in Mumbai are Jet Airways, Indigo, Air India, Go Air, Spicejet, Vistara. By far, Jet Airways has the most number of schedules followed by Indigo.

Mumbai Airport overflows with A320s from Indigo, Air India, Go Air, Vistara and 737s from Jet Airways, Spicejet. In widebodies, there are a many 777s, mostly from Jet Airways, Air India, Emirates, Singapore Airlines. Major Cargo Airlines are Etihad Cargo, UPS, FedEX, Blue Dart. Mumbai has 3 daily A380 schedules. Two of the A380s (21:30 Singapore Airlines and 02:30 Emirates) that come to Mumbai are night schedules and the best location to spot them is Spot #1, Jari Mari Hill where long exposures are easily possible when the Aircraft wait for their takeoff turn. The third A380 is from Etihad Airways which comes everyday at 19:00. Along with this, there is also a lot of Private Jet traffic.

Rare and/or Notable Aircraft include:

Iran Air 747SP (Tuesday, Friday Afternoon) ; Uzbekistan 767 Freighter (Saturday Afternoon) ; Hawker Siddeley HS 748 Indian Air Force (not scheduled) ; Mil Mi-17 (usually seen parked near Corporate Aviation Terminal and Takeoffs can be seen often) ; Air India 747s (In their last years of service) ; Fits Air MD-82 Cargo (Once-Twice a week) ; Blue Dart 757 ; FedEX MD-11F ; Lufthansa MD-11F ; Various Cargo 747-200s and 747-400s.

Please remember to carry proper IDs as police will question you. They will only allow you to carry out your task if you have a proper ID. Do not act rudely with any policemen when you don’t have an ID; you may land up in Jail. Please refer to Rule 13 of DGCA before photographing. You have the right to photograph only if you are not inside the airport  perimeter. If you are inside the perimeter, you need to be a passenger to photograph legally.

Take some snacks and water as facilities are not exactly world class. Travel Light and carry a sunscreen with a cap/hat. Mumbai can be very hot and highly humid. It is recommended that you have a smartphone with GPS services (Google Maps) and Flight Tracking (FlightRadar24) installed. You may carry a laptop too; but carrying it around can be a nightmare.

Note: Please contact local spotters before actually spotting in Mumbai because you may not know the airport rules and regulations.

Written by Chinmay Shetye (local spotter, feel free to get in touch with him by Email or on Facebook if you need assistance or further contacts to other spotters in India)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Informations Runways 09/27 14/32
2.990 m (9.760 ft) 3.660 (12.008 ft)
Terminals Terminal 1 Terminal 2
GoAir, IndiGo and SpiceJet  (Domestic flights only) All other carriers. (All International flights and domestic flights of Air India, Jet Airways, Vistara)
Spotting Informations Ladder On some spots. It may attract suspicious looks and police attraction.
Car No parking space at location for a Car. A rental Bike/Scooter can help in traffic and parking is possible. If not a bike, Economical Auto Rickshaws are available approx 1 $ (converted from INR) for 3-4 Kilometres (2-3 miles). Also, Taxis are economical but a comparatively comfortable choice for approx 1 $ (converted from INR) for 2-3 kilometres (1-2 miles). Buses & Trains can be tedious for you.
Restrooms Restrooms available only in nearby refreshment spots (restaurants).
Drinks/Food Food can be quite tricky for people who don’t prefer Indian cuisine. Most of the people prefer that and for them, food will be no problem as it is available at a very economical rate near any restaurant near the airport. Also, a lot of fancy restaurants with most of us would prefer have good food. For those who would prefer something other than Indian, they have plenty of options too, but they are not as close as the previous one, nor are they economical. Loads of luxury hotels are located near the airport which have restaurants for almost all cuisines.
Hotels Mumbai has hotels suited for all the price bands. This is a link to Mumbai hotels. Good luxury options include ITC Maratha and Taj Santacruz, Sahara Star near the airport. Also, other luxury hotel chains are also present in plenty.

Orchid is a 4 star hotel near the airport whose terrace provides airport view, but recently, the hotel banned photography and the terrace was closed. You can try for it anyways, but better hotels exist.

Taj Santacruz provides a Runway view if a proper room is selected. By far is the best hotel if you need an Airport view.

Season All around the year, plane spotting is possible.

Summers: March to May;
Monsoons: June to September;
Winters: November to February (October, November, March are transition month).

Approx.Sunrise: 6:45 in Winters & 6:00 in Summers.
Approx. Sunset: 18:00-18:30 in Winters & 19:00-19:30 in Summers.

As Mumbai gets heavy rains, the lawn is at its best shade of green and the runway is wet, black giving a beautiful view when the aircraft engines spray water. Also, there are a lot of touch and go scenarios as landing in the rain is very tricky. In winter the sun is above the runway around noon so the best time for spotting is in the morning and afternoon.

Runway Usage  09/27 Runway 27 is the Main Runway.

Runway 09 is used for 3-4 hour periods, once or twice a week during winters when winds change.

14/32 As of April 2016 Runway 14/32 is used every Monday and Thursday from 2pm to 4pm when the Main runway is being maintained.

Spot #1 & #2 – Jari Mari Hill (Taxi and Takeoff hold shots)
WHERE The most popular plane spotting destination in Mumbai is Jari Mari Hill. This can be accessed through the busy Andheri-Kurla road. On the main road ahead of the Mobile Com shop in the map, you will see a Illegal Movie CD shop and a restaurant. Turn right ahead of the restaurant and follow the small gap in the slums. Do not turn anywhere, remember to keep right where a T junction comes. In a minute, you will reach the steps for climbing the hillock. Climb the steps and pass the houses into the open to get a view of the taxiway. If you wish to go on the upperside of the hill (Spot #2), keep walking sideways and climb the second hillock. Spot #2 is straight in front of the taxiway on a higher level (see EK and EY 777 sample pics below).
WHAT This is amazing for spotting as the taxiing aircraft to runway 27 head straight towards you at a 180 degree angle. The planes are only very close, only 90 metres from your position.
TIME Approximately, the time between Sunrise and 11:00 is the best for spotting. Evenings can be good for silhouettes. This is a good spot for night photography as the planes wait here for their takeoff turn and long exposures can be taken.
MISC. The area on top of the hill is very dirty because it has a public toilet. It is wise for the people who can’t bear smelly places to remain on the lower part of the hill, but at the cost of some amazing shots. Do not interact with the local people at this location as it may cause problems.
FOCAL LENGTH 35mm to 75mm for Widebodies and 65mm to 125mm for Single-aisles.
 Spot #3 – Pipeline Road Garbage Bin (Runway 27 Approach)
WHERE This spot is located just on the Pipeline road. No one will object to any photographic and/or observational activity here. There is a garbage dumping patch here, walk away from it for about a 100 metres to get right under the approach path.You can freely stand with you camera and/or other equipment on the footpath.
WHAT This Location is an amazing place for getting shots of the plane, standing right below it. Beautiful shots of the plane’s belly can be taken. (The shots are usually backlit)
TIME Mornings (before 10:30am) and evenings (After 3pm) get good lighting under the plane. For getting silhoutte-type images (Backlit), the time around 11:30am to 1:00pm can be preferred.
MISC. It is only fit for under the plane spots and there is hardly any cover or shade to camp. This shot is not recommended for long spotting sessions as Mumbai is very, very sunny and the heat can make you sick. For refreshment spots, you can use the refreshment spot for Spot #1 and Spot #2.
FOCAL LENGTH 15mm to 25mm for widebodies and 30mm to 55mm for narrowbodies.
  Spot #4 – Residential Building (Runway 27 Approach)
WHERE This spot is located in a residential building. After getting off the main road, follow the lane straight inside and turn right. Go to the northern building and get to the terrace. Here, you need to ask the permission from any house on the last floor. Go to any house on the last floor and ask show them a valid ID. If they find you a genuine plane spotter, they may allow you to go and spot. WARNING: This location is a residential location. Please do not cause any trouble.
WHAT This location is a nice one for approaches for Runway 27.
TIME From 09:00 to 17:00. This timing usually avoids backlit shots.
MISC. You may want to visit this because compared to other locations, is very clean. Carry a hat/cap here. There is enough space on the terrace for Tripods and other equipment. Just remember to behave politely with the residents. You can use the refreshment spots for Spot #1 and Spot #2.
FOCAL LENGTH The required focal length is 120mm to 210mm for A320s and 737s and 90mm to 160mm for widebodies.
  Spot #5 – Kranti Nagar (Runway 27 Approach & Touchdown, Takeoff Start)
WHERE The path on the map is right up to the main road, but a taxi or rickshaw can get in. The last stretch of the distance needs to be covered by foot as there is no road there. After reaching the location, there is a small concrete wall on which you can climb and stand. (Not for people who are not capable to climb). This location is very close to the runway. But please do understand that most of the people are not going to like the location as the slum children defecate just near the river alongside the location. Plus, the smell of the river is horrible.
WHAT You are very close, just 150 metres (490 feet) from the aircraft.  This location is one of the best to get the photos of the planes that enter the runway for departure on 27 through the second runway entrance (N3) that is right in front of the location. You can also get approaches for Runway 27 here.
TIME Approximately, from 11:00 to sunset. Keep in mind that hot days and high humidity raise the chance of heat haze for ground shots.
MISC. CAUTION: Please watch your step near the spot as there is a lot of garbage and faeces here. This location is only for the people who would trade amazing shots for the ugly surroundings. This is by far the worst surrounding in Mumbai. I would recommend to use deo and/or perfume before going here. You can use the refreshment spots for Spot #1 and Spot #2 as they are closeby.
FOCAL LENGTH 30mm to 80mm for widebodies whereas 50mm to 100mm for Single-Aisles.
  Spot #6 – Air India Road (Runway 32 Approach, Runway 14 Takeoff)
WHERE  This spot is located just beside the road, so you can easily carry a copy of a map, or much better use your phone to navigate to this location. Google maps can navigate you here as this spot is just on the main road.
WHAT This spot is ideal to photograph the arrivals on Runway 32. You can also see the takeoffs from Runway 14.
TIME According to the current schedule (2016), 2pm to 4pm on Mondays and Thursdays, Runway 14/32 is in use.
MISC. Runway 14/32 is used when the main runway is being maintained. Every week, on Mondays and Thursdays, from 2pm to 4pm, this runway is used. (As of 2016). The runway use timings may change next year. There is no tree shade here, so spotting for more than an hour is not advisable.
FOCAL LENGTH 70mm to 190mm
  Spot #7 – Vakola (Runway 27 Takeoff, Rapid Exit Taxiway, Runway 09 Touchdown)
WHERE A straight road, named pipeline road leads to the entrance for the location. After you reach the Dead End of Pipeline Road, head left. As you turn left, you will find 2 alleys leading in the slums, go in the alley which has a temple. Follow the alley without taking any turns and that’s all. Now, all you have to do is just cross the garbage area and ask someone for the use of their balcony. To get in the balcony of any house, all you have to do is ask them and show them your ID. If they don’t allow, we pay them a small amount. They are happy even with 100 or 200 Rupees (1.5 to 3 dollars !!). Well, but please don’t offer them more than this as they may see you as a potential target to loot. Do not pay more than 7 or 8 dollars, that is approx. 400 or 500 rupees. If you pay more than this, you are inviting trouble.
WHAT This location gives you a view of almost the whole runway. Is best for take offs on RWY27 (09 occasionally in use). You can get the takeoffs of wide-bodies easily and also the narrow bodies, but with a bit high focal length. Ideal location in Mumbai for takeoff and runway exit shots. The corporate aviation terminal is located beside this location and you can see private jets take off close by here. On rare occasions, when the military planes visit Mumbai for govt. purposes, you can also get the military planes taking off close by as the helicopter and military aircraft parking is close by.
TIME Spotting can be done anytime. The best time however, is approximately after 13:00 and before 17:00. This varies in winters and summers due to early sunsets/sunrises. Keep in mind that hot days and high humidity raise the chance of heat haze when shooting aircraft on the ground.
MISC. Again, even if this is a great location, do not expect cleanliness around. Carry a water bottle and snacks. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and get a insect repellant cream, just to be on the safer side. The people are quite friendly only and only if you treat them properly and with respect. Grand Hyatt is a good hotel, which will suit the needs of people around the globe. An quick auto rickshaw can get you here for no more than 20 rupees (0.3 $).
FOCAL LENGTH Focal Length needed for Widebodies is 60mm for frontal shots while 250mm for close ups during takeoff. For Narrowbodies, 110mm for frontal and 375mm for close ups during takeoffs.
  Spot #8 – Western Express Highway (Runway 27 Takeoff, Runway 09 Approach)
WHERE You can get here by driving along the Western Express Highway and taking the service road exit. Park or stop at a location from where you wish to take photos. No one will object photography here.
WHAT You can get takeoffs from Runway 27 at this spot, but I won’t recommend this spot for photography as there are better locations to get takeoff photos. But, for the fun of spotting, you can head here to get nice views of planes taking off or head to the Milan Bridge right behind you to get a view of the Runway. This location can also be used for Approaches for Runway 09 (Used on rare occasions).
TIME Any time of the day. You can change your position (move ahead or go backwards) to get different angles and lightings.
MISC. This is a location located just on the service road of the highway; so if any policeman does not like what you are doing, it is wise to leave ASAP. But, the objections here are very low.
FOCAL LENGTH More than 100mm

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4 thoughts on “Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Spotting Guide

  1. Geoff

    I am visiting Mumbai Airport on 7 November to do some plane spotting – how much would it cost to hire a taxi for 3-4 hours, and to have a fellow plane spotter accompany me during that time?

  2. janwillemvanlier@hotmail.com

    and what does rule 13 says then ? ore where can i find these rules ?

    to make it more easy, is it oke and safe to take pictures at these locations in Mumbai ?

    does the orchid hotel still allow to take pictures from the roof top?

    1. JulianJulian

      Please contact our author via email or Facebook if you are going to visit Mumbai. You will find his addresses at the the beginning of the guide.

      -Julian

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