Funchal Madeira Airport Spotting Guide

The one and only airport on the Portuguese island of Madeira is located 15 km northeast of the capital, Funchal. The ‘Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport’ is known for its increddible approach and is called one of the most dangerous airports. The runway is surrounded by the ocean on the south side and the mountains on the north.

Due to the mild and steady climate, its a popular place for European tourist, followed by a reasonable amount of charter flights, mainly from  United Kingdom, Germany and France. TAP is one of the main carriers serving FNC, followed by Easyjet. Aero VIP offers a daily shuttle to the sister island Porto Santo on their Jetstream 32. In 2016, 2,9 Mio passengers used the airport.

Check the airport website for the flight schedule.

Written by Julian Mittnacht and Stefan Bratner / All positions checked 2017

Rating Movements Visitor Rating
How was your spotting trip?
Rate this airport now.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(7 votes, average: 4.86 out of 5)

Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Airport Informations    Runways 05/23
2.781 m (9.124 ft)
Spotting Informations  Ladder Not required
Car Not required, spots are reachable by public transportation too or by foot from the terminal.
Restrooms Next to the spots
Drinks/Food Inside terminal buildings and at some other locations (mentioned below).
Hotels There is one south of the terminal.
Season The climate on Madeira is quite constant and its not too hot nor too cold. More charter traffic during the summer season.
Runway Usage  05/23 Used in all directions, mainly 05 is in use. 23 departures seems to be rare.

Spot #1 – Observation Deck – Runway and apron movements
WHERE The visitor terrace is located on the top level and extends across the entire width of the terminal. Its separated in the middle with a big wall. One part is landside whilst the other part is behind the security checks and for passengers only. When you enter the terminal, use the stairs or elevators on the far left side to get upstairs to the public part. If you have a boarding card, pass the security and walk up the stairs just next to you to get back on the airside terrace. On the landside position the terrace is partly behind glass now . You can climb up the small wall where the flowers are to shoot over the glass. At the southernmost corner you have still a free sight withouth glass. Airside postion is still without glass.
WHAT Runway movements as well as the apron action. You don’t miss a single plane at this spot.
TIME Good location from morning until noon (approximate 3 pm in the summer)
MISC. A Snack bar and restrooms are just next to the entrance.
FOCAL LENGTH 50-300 mm

Spot #2 – Hill at the Rua Santa Catarina – all runway movements
WHERE This spot is located on the opposite site of the terminal. Walking from the terminal is possible and should take 30 minutes. If you have a car, take the exit 21 from the VR1 and use the signs leading to Aqua de Pena and not Santa Cruz. You have to drive up a hill along the runway. After a couple of hundred meters you see a big parking area on your right. Park your car here and walk back the street a few meters until you see a bus stop station. There is a small footpath up the hill and on the top there is the spot you are looking for.
WHAT You get all the runway movements. Best spot when 05 is in use with great touchdown pictures and the ocean as a background. You will get the 23 arrivals too because the runways exit is within your reach. 23 departures are rare but possible from this spot too.
TIME In the summer a good from the afternoon until sunset.
In winter be careful because of the low sun elevation in there is shadow from the mountains behind you on the runway.
MISC. There is a small snack bar along the road. You can also see the ramp action from this facility.
FOCAL LENGTH 50-300 mm

Spot #3 – Footbridge Agua de Pena – Runway 23 movements
WHERE The spot is situated on a footbridge over the VR1 which is leading to Machico. You can´t park directly next to the road and have to exit the VR1 before the tunnel to Machico. Drive on the R101 to the next roundabout and then use the exit back to the VR1. After a few meters there are some parking lots when you are directly above the tunnel. Park there and you will see the stairs of the footbridge too.
WHAT You see all RWY 23 arrivals and the departures as you are next to the turning area. If you wanna make touch down pictures just follow the R101 a few hundreds meters along the runway until the road is on a higher level then the runway.
TIME Begins to be a good spot in the afternoon.
MISC. No facilities nearby.
FOCAL LENGTH approximate 20-100mm, very close to the runway

We are sorry to have no sample pics for you but we made just a short stop and no movements taken place at this moment. Here is a photo to see how it looks like there.

Spot #4 – Hill at the Rua de S. Sebastião – 05 movements
WHERE This spot is located on the opposite site of the terminal. By car take the exit 21 from the VR1 and use the signs leading to Aqua de Pena and not Santa Cruz (same direction as #2). Turn the first left into the Rua de S. Sebastião. Continue for a few meters until you see the ruwnay to your left. Park along the road. But be careful as its pretty narrow there. If you don´t find a parking lot park as marked on the map, next to #2.
There is a small wall where you can climb up. Otherwise some power lines may disturb the view. But be careful when its wet!
WHAT You have a total different perspecitve from here like from #2. You are on the same level as the runway and the spot is perfect for 05 departures. Arrivals are still in the air from here but possible too. The sight to the approach path is blocked and you see the planes very late so you need to be alert. Use FR24 and you don´t miss them.
TIME In the summer a good from the afternoon until sunset.
In winter be careful because of the low sun elevation in there is shadow from the mountains behind you on the runway.
MISC. Nothing nearby only the gas station at spot #2. Heat haze is an issue on hot days.
FOCAL LENGTH 100-300 mm

Don´t miss our newest guides!

10 thoughts on “Funchal Madeira Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Robert

    Thanks for the guide. I also wrote one on my blog – – which focuses a bit more on spots where a lot of zoom lens is needed, and on logistics for visitors in Madeira.

    One thing I’m curious about: On Tripadvisor, an old forum post suggests that it’s possible to book flights around the island at the airport. Is there a website? Does anyone know more? I saw a Cessna Skymaster (I think) fly around the airport a lot, and wonder whether that’s something tourists can book onto…

  2. Pingback: 9 Airports in Portugal (+4 new) – Blog |

  3. John

    Thank you so much for posting this very useful spotting guide. It’s my third attempt at googling for information

    My wife is treating me (birthday) to a week here November 16. We have just returned from Skiathos and I got superb shots there(three visits) of the usual plane locations but also up the hill past the Punta Hotel opposite the road to the runway from town and further up the road opposite the town. Got a superb shot of a Thomson 757-200 low incoming right above an anchored german cruise ship..Europa2 so I’m really looking forward to getting some more at Madeira.

    The Funchal terminal sounds a great place and as mentioned by Lewis I can get an Aero bus from town…infact our hotel has a courtesy bus to the airport as it’s a 15 minute walk from town. Would you know of another location overlooking the airport that has a bus route ? Agua de Pena photos above look there a service there ? I’ve seen photos taken just above sea level which shows the pillars of the runway extension so I assume it’s a matter of seeing if there’s a way of getting there from the terminal.

    Car hire.. ? Maybe drivers are good on Funchal but my wife wouldn’t have us renting any means of transport on holiday having witnessed the standard of driving in Skiathos.There’s a complete disregard of traffic law..there are laws, I asked but they are ignored and not policed. Our taxi driver to town one day (two buses were full) drove the 10 minutes having a heated conversation with someone, then wrote notes on a pad stuck to the dash,had a near miss with a bus on a bend and then he then stopped to pick up his wife who sat in the front seat with her large 12 year old on her lap..a police car was driving along in front of us too…lol. All pretty scary for my wife.

    No website ?..Unfortunately,I’m not too good with computer technology but I need to get to grips with this. I’m having to Email people I met in Skiathos with my plane photos.

    I’ll take my scanner (Tommy above). I’ve just checked and the tower is 118.35. Hope this is the one. Unlike Skiathos, which has two busy days,Tuesdays and Fridays,the rest not much doing,I see today,Sunday 27th. is busy all day so no hanging around problems, I’ll keep checking throughout the week.

    Thank you again.

    John W.

  4. Tommy

    Hi Julian
    Thank you for a very informative site. It looks great. Do you know whether it is OK to use a scanner here?

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Hi Tommy,

      I am not sure if its illegal to use a scanner but I know that local spotters use a scanner even without earphones.
      So I can’t imagine you become a problem.


  5. Lewis Wilson

    Thanks Julian
    Your information posted on Funchal Airport Madeira, was spot on and helped me fantastic.
    I used the aero bus from my hotel Pestana Casino Park in Funchal, right to the airport terminal.
    Followed your information going inside and taking the stairs on the far left of the building,
    I then ended up on the fantastic roof terrace, pity more airports could not follow this roof terrace.
    Got some great photos.

    All thanks to you

    Lewis Wilson

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Hi Lewis, good to hear that everything was fine and you had an enjoyable stay. It was a pleasure to help you out with informations!
      Regards, Julian

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *