Phuket Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

Phuket Airport (HKT/VTSP) is situated on the most north-east part of Phuket Island not far from the bridge connecting the island to the mainland. The airport has just finished a reconstruction/expansion of the International terminal also adding a larger apron in the west with open-air stands serviced by transfer buses instead of by air bridge.
HKT has seen a lot of changes over the last few years, both to be able to handle an ever-increasing passenger volume (16 Mio.) but also to bring security standards up to International levels. The airport is relatively short for space and buildings and infrastructure have grown very close to its perimeters.
This has in turn lead to erection of a rather obnoxious fence along the southernmost perimeter and thereby ruining some great places for spotters. The only remaining really good spot which is also accepted by police/airport security is the beach adjacent to the threshold of runway 09. But being a bit street smart you can also get some nice shots off the 27 end.

Notable airlines are Thai, AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Silk Air, Malaysian, Rossiya, Qatar, Emirates, Aeroflot, JetStar Asia, Thai Lion, Nok Air, Thai Smile, Finnair, Thomson/TUI and Thomas Cook using a types like A320, A330, B737, 747, 767, 777, 787, ATR72. BizJet activity can be plentiful at this airport, especially around the Chinese New Year. Global 6000, Hawker 800’s and and Gulfstreams are common. The land north of the runway sports a Thai military facility which occasionally sees visits by helicopters and aircraft of the Thai military forces.

Spotters are tolerated at 09 end but at 27 end you risk being ushered off. Be smart!

Written by Bengt Bergholm, Clive Grent (last update Feb 2017)

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Airline Variety
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Weather
Airport Information Runways 09/27
3.000m (9.843 ft)
Concrete
Terminals Terminal 1  Terminal 2
International Flights Domestic flights
Spotting Information Ladder Not required
Car If you chose to stay at Centara West Sands (see above) you do not have to worry about transport, you are already where you want to be.
If you are staying at Nai Yang Beach I would recommend renting a motorbike (moped) since it can be difficult to explain to a taxi driver where exactly you want to go, and when you want to come back. Some of the hotels will also offer bikes for guest use, just don’t tell them you will be gone all day
Restrooms Nothing, except at the hotels.
Drinks/Food Nothing, except at the hotels.
Hotels There are plenty of hotels both directly adjacent to the airport’s terminal side but also along the beach south of the airport called Nai Yang which is partly inside the Sirinat National Park which in turn stretches up to where runway 09 meets the beach.
If your wallet is deep, then you may consider the prime spotting hotel – 5 star resort “Centara West Sands” which is immediately to the north of the runway and which has direct access to the beach of your dreams. Beware though if you don’t like Russians, this seems to be their #1 spot to stay at Phuket.
On Nai Yang beach (south of airport) I can recommend any of the 3 hotels I have used, Proud Phuket, Nai Yang Beach Resort and Chill House.
Staying on Nai Yang will, depending on transport mode and route you chose put you at about 20min distance from runway 09 beach.
Season November-March
Runway Usage  09/27 During high season the winds are mostly easterly and thus 09 is used a lot. Runway in use may still vary during the course of the day as winds may change during the afternoon.

Spot #1 – The Beach
WHERE This spot is the only remaining prime spot for Phuket International Airport. It is also the spot where most spotters converge and are tolerated by airport security. There are plenty of opportunities to stay. Usually you will stay in the south where you have the sun behind you.

If the weather is not so good, the position in the north  has the highest elevation  where you can get aircraft lining up with minimal fence interference. If you bring a chair or ladder you might get over fence level but still far away enough not to pose any security concern.

Use the South Entrance:
You will most likely travel north some distance along the road following the beach (road 4027) until it makes a significant right turn heading towards the east and airport terminals. At this corner, leave your motorbike or taxi and walk the last bit along the beach. This walk does not look much on a satellite picture, but it will take you at least 10-15min and can be tiresome in the heat. Keep your camera ready, you can get nice panoramic shots of the whole area with aircraft approaching to land while you are walking. As you travel towards the corner you will pass a checkpoint entering the national park. During daytime, the gates will be manned by staff who want you to pay a small entrance fee. This fee is basically voluntary and I have never paid it, they cannot stop you and if they do you can always claim you are staying at a hotel inside the park. Or be a good sport and contribute to the maintenance of the park, your choice. Do not hesitate to leave the motor/bike there as theft is almost unheard of and I have left keys, helmets, shoes and other belongings both intentionally and by mistake and I have never lost anything.

Use the North Entrance:
This route has 2 advantages. 1) You do not have to do the long beach walk. 2) You will pass spot #2 on the way so you can always stop for some take-off shots on the way. The main disadvantage that is obvious is that it is longer and will take slightly more time depending on your driving skills in left hand traffic. Going this way also offers more flexibility to alternate between spots #1 & #2 for capturing your favorite target both arriving and departing. Calculate 20min for this drive.

Written driving instructions: At the corner, continue onwards up to the main road (traffic lights). Take note of how it looks to aid your return. There is a 7-eleven at this crossing. Turn left and go straight on, past the airport terminals. The road will veer to the right and get quite narrow between the fence and the foot of the hill. Continue until it ends, you will pass Phuket ATC on the right and you will pass spot #2 just before this road ends. At the traffic light where the road meets the highway, turn left. Go on for about 500m until the first possibility to turn left appears. Follow this road, it is winding and lots of up and down in the beginning. Follow it to the end, turn left, yet another 7-eleven at this crossing. Follow the road almost to the end and turn right. You will end up at the entrance to Centara West Sands but just before the entrance is a small road to the left. Go down that road until it ends and you have arrived.

WHAT All arrivals on rwy09 from this spot and line up (backlit!).  It is also possible to take departure shots from Runway 27, although fast climbing traffic is likely to be too high by this point. Taking pictures from the line-up on rwy 09 from the mound over the fence is no longer possible due to a new,very high fence. 
TIME All day all year round (during the Thai winter no arrivals from the beachside in the normal case)
MISC. Bring water and sunblocker if you are planning to be all day. Bathing trousers are also recommended.

The area closest to the fence was remodeled during 2016 to block prevent people from approaching it. There are also loudspeakers that repeat a message in Thai, Chinese and English with 1,5min pauses. The message in English goes as follows: “Phuket International Airport kindly request do not use laser pointers into the sky. Such actions are considered dangerous and a violation of Act on Certain Offenses Against Air Navigations 1978. Violators will face execution, or a life sentence, or a sentence of 5-20 years in prison.”

FOCAL LENGTH 10-300mm

Spot #2 – RWY 27 threshold
WHERE This spot is not really the best location but an area that you can use with some discretion and flexibility. Its location is at the beginning of runway 27. How to get there read the description above.

Pulling over at the west side of the road 4031 and taking pictures works fine here, especially for take-offs 09.

For 09 arrivals there is a service road that leads around the approach. It is not blocked, no signs are prohibiting access but spotters have been ushered away from there by police. The fence carries signs prohibiting photo, but so does 09 end… Do not use this spot unnecessarily and always comply with any instructions given by authorities you encounter. The people you meet here will not be the smiling kind if you challenge them.
There is a surveillance camera. You can likely dodge this camera by keeping to the north along the road and not advancing beyond the fence end.

WHAT All arrivals on RWY27 and wide-body take-offs from 09.
TIME All day all year round, except in the summer months when the northern Spot No.2 can be used for early morning and late evening arrival shots. (during the Thai winter no arrivals from the beachside in the normal case)
MISC. Spot must be used with discretion for short periods of time. A car is really needed to get to this spot as it’s at the opposite end of the runway from the terminal, hotels and beach. Also, bring anything you need as there is no shade and there are no facilities here
FOCAL LENGTH 10-200mm


Spot #3 – International Terminal (airside)
WHERE After the renovation/expansion of the International terminal there is now a large open-air terrace for smokers with unobstructed view of the final approach and threshold 09 but not as far as the touch-down zone. Unfortunately, this terrace is on airside and accessible only for checked-in and security cleared passengers.
WHAT All arrivals on rwy09 and taxi+line-up for take-off.
TIME Runway all day all year round, taxiway/line up depends on motive but mainly during afternoon
MISC. Everything you need within the Terminal.
FOCAL LENGTH 10-500mm, depends on motive


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