Moscow Vnukovo Airport Spotting Guide

Vnukovo International Airport is one of three major airports serving the Russian capital Moscow. It is located around 27 kilometers southwest of the city centre. Although it handles significantly less traffic (around 16 million passengers in 2015) than Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo it might be the most interesting airport to spot in Moscow. You will still see a lot of classic Russian airplanes in action, as UTAir (and a few other small Russian carriers) still use a few Yak-42s and Tu-154s on their services. With a little luck you might even get Tu-134s or some state operated aircraft like Il-62 or Il-76, so prepare your ears for amazing sounds and real airplanes!

Don’t expect too much airline variety as UTair is the biggest operator followed by Aeroflot and Pobeda. The airlines Gazpromavia, Rossiya Airlines, Yakutia or I-Fly add a little colour with their aircraft. But overall the traffic is very good, as a lot of the aircraft you will spot here, you will only ever see in Russia.
The arrivals at VKO are mostly handled in peak times, which is great for spotting, as you will get a lot of traffic in a very short amount of time. The morning peak starts at 7:30 AM and lasts until 9:30 AM. After that though it might get very boring with only a handful of aircraft per hour. But those might still be highlights and worth the wait. In the evening the rush is from 4:30 PM until 7 PM.
Spotting in general is becoming more and more popular in Russia and problems with the police should be the exception.

Written by Jan Seba, Clive Grant, Alexander Stahl and Bas Velders (last update September 2017)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Airport Informations    Runways 01/19 06/24
3.060 m 3.000 m
Terminals Terminal A Terminal B Terminal D
Main terminal for UTair and Transaero, used for domestic and international Flights Charter and international Flights Serves only domestic arrivals from North Caucasus
Spotting Informations  Ladder Not required at any of the locations.
Car All of the spots can be reached by bus from the terminals or the city centre. A car would be especially useful if runway directions were switched.
Restrooms Inside terminal buildings/restaurants around the airport.
Drinks/Food Inside terminal buildings and at some other locations (mentioned below).
Hotels There are no hotels close to the airport
Season Traffic is more interesting and the chance for good weather is higher during the summer season (April to October).
Runway Usage  All runways are used for departures and arrivals. In the summer all wind directions are almost equally likely, while in winter you will mostly see winds from the south and east, thus arrivals using runway 19 or 06 are most likely. During the time of the visit RWY 06/24 was closed due to reconstruction but it is now reopened for operational use.

Spot #1 – Highway – Morning 01 Arrivals
WHERE The spot is located directly next to the M3 highway. To get there from the city centre, use the last metro station on the red line “Yugo-Zapadnaya”. Exit the station and look for the buses with the numbers 309, 490, 569 or 304. There might also be other buses, which go to this spot, as it is not always very clear which route each bus takes. Also lookout for the small minivans, which also have a number in the front and where the driver has to be paid in cash (so the multiuse metro tickets won’t work here). The advantage of these buses is that they run much faster.The bus stop to exit is called Аннино, pronounced “Annino”. There is a footbridge crossing the highway at the bus stop, which you should use. Then it is just a few metres walking next to the highway to reach the location.If you are arriving from the terminal it is a little more complicated, as there is no direct bus running to the approach. The fastest way is to use a taxi here. The cheapest (though time consuming) option is to use a bus in the direction of the city centre, get off at one of the bus stop at the M3 and take one of the above mentioned buses in the other direction.
WHAT You are standing on a small strip of grass, behind of a few trees. You can just see the distant approach over the wall in the south and the aircraft will approach runway 01 over the highway, which is also where you can shoot the aircraft. There are lamp posts next to highway, which may disturb your image with low approaching larger aircraft. But you always have the option to walk a little closer to the runway, which might also be useful for the small regional aircraft.
TIME Best light conditions are from sunrise until 1 PM.
MISC. There is a gas station a few meters west of the spot, where you can buy food and drinks.
FOCAL LENGTH 70mm for a B773, 100-150mm for most narrow-body types
Spot #2 – Highway – Evening 01 Arrivals
WHERE The spot is located right next to the airport fence and the safest way to get here from spot 1 is to walk back to the bus station and use the pedestrian bridge to cross the highway. From there on just stay close to the airport fence and walk through the approach path. This is also the place where the Red Wings Tu-204 overshot the runway and crashed into the highway.
WHAT This is the place to be for 01 arrivals in the evening and if you position yourself correctly you won’t get any problems with the lamp posts of the highway here. The aircraft are a little higher here compared to spot 1, but the angle is still good.
TIME Light is good here from around 4:30 PM until sunset.
MISC. You can still go to the gas station next to spot 1 from here, but it is a bit further from here.
FOCAL LENGTH 70mm for a B773, 100-150mm for most narrow-body types.

Spot #3 – Tunnel – Morning 19 Arrival
WHERE This spot is located next to a tunnel leading to the terminals. Getting here from the city centre is very similar to the other locations. Again go to the metro station “Yugo-Zapadnaya” but this time use bus number 611. After going to the terminal the bus goes around the airport, where you get off after a few more stops at the bus stop “ATC”. Walk back a few meters next to the road until you see a footpath to your left, directly to the spot along the tunnel entrance.Instead of metro and bus, you can also use the Aeroexpress Train to the terminals from metro station Kievskaya and then either walk the remaining distance or take bus 611. Using this method is probably a little faster, but also more expensive.
WHAT You can stand directly above the tunnel entrance and go a little back towards the trees. From here you will see the approach rather late (due to the trees), but it is still enough time to switch lenses if necessary.
TIME Best light conditions are from sunrise until 1 PM.
MISC. There aren’t any restrooms or shops close by, so take some food with you.
FOCAL LENGTH 70mm for a B773, 100-150mm for most narrow-body types.
Spot #4 – On the pipes – Evening 19 Arrivals
WHERE This spot is also easily reachable by the previous morning location. Just walk through the approach path and turn into the first left. A couple more meters and you will already see the pipes above the street.
WHAT The pipes or the fenced platforms on top can be used to elevate your position, so you should not have any problems with the fence
TIME Light is good here from around 4:30 PM until sunset.
MISC. Again you are very far from shops and restrooms, so prepare.
FOCAL LENGTH You are a little closer here, so around 50mm for B773 and from 70-120mm for narrow-bodies
Spot #5 – Footbridge – 06/24 Movements
WHERE Right next to the bus stop “Annino” for #1 and 2 (see above how to get there) is a road crossing bridge. Enter it, climb the stairs and you will find some sort of window in the wall pointing to the runway.
WHAT RWY 06/24 operations in both directions, landing and take off.
TIME Best light conditions are from sunrise until 1 PM.  Due to the high distance heat can be a problem in summer for ground photos.
MISC. Foreground clutter is possible, pick the right moments to shoot. Car can be parked nearby.
FOCAL LENGTH High focal lenghts are recommended (around 300 mm for A320/737).
Spot #6 – Highway – Morning 01 Arrivals, Morning & Afternoon 01 Departures
WHERE This spot is located directly next to the M3 highway, by the fence on the opposite side of the road to Spot no. 1. If necessary, use the footbridge at Spot no. 5 to get there and walk a short way west to where the concrete steps come up from the motorway. Some crazy Russians park their cars in the lay-by or even on the motorway and climb up these steps to watch the aircraft, so you won’t be alone for long. The police will eventually come and move the traffic on but you should be OK to stand here without bothering the authorities. The only time when this doesn’t seem to apply is when a VIP flight is due in or out. In this case you’ll be moved on, even from the south side of the highway.
WHAT All traffic landing on Runway 01 although the angle isn’t as good as Spot #1. Best for traffic departing on Runway 01 although bizjets tend to depart from an intersection and so don’t come close enough for photos. Traffic on Runway 06/24 is visible from here but too far away for decent photos.
TIME For arrivals, best light conditions are from sunrise until 1pm. For departures the light remains good until about 4pm.
MISC. There is the gas station west of Spot no. 1 or a small shop just behind Spot #1.
This spot requires photos to be taken through a fence with rectangular gaps. There are a couple of spots where someone has ‘adjusted’ the fence to fit a camera lens through. Use those spots if you can, otherwise take photos through the fence allowing plenty of space to crop your photos later. Don’t bend the fence any more than it is already!
FOCAL LENGTH 70-300mm will cover most things although the smaller departing traffic can be affected by heat haze on hot days.
Spot #7 –  Highway Shop – 24 Arrivals
WHERE Just before you enter the ramp to the terminal there is a car parking with a small shop to the right side of the street. You can reach it from the south on the main road to the terminals or from the north via the ul. Tsentralnaya. Park your car there and move along the parking, depending where the angle is the best for you. It seems to be used by people making a long journey by car often to take a rest.
WHAT Arrivals on RWY 24.
TIME During summer in the early morning and afternoon. Backlit in winter.
MISC. There is a shop at the parking where you can purchase snacks and drinks. Trucks driving by may sometimes photobomb.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-300mm will cover most things
Spot #8 – Lukoil petrol station – 24 Arrivals
WHERE The Lukoil petrol station: The easiest way to reach this spot is by car. From the city of Moscow, you can follow the motorway M3. If you drive towards Moscow, the petrol station cannot be reached. You have to turn at the next motorway exit. If you are traveling by bus, take bus 911 from Vnukovo Airport and get out at ‘Institut Poliomielita’. You can cross the road via the footbridge.
Be aware: When you are at the spot, stay at the bicyclepath between the highway and the petrol station (and try to stay out of sight as much as possible). Do not stay at the petrol station or the bus stop, you will likely be send away.
WHAT Arrivals on RWY 24.
TIME During summer in the early morning and afternoon untill ~15:00.
MISC. There is a shop at the petrol station where you can purchase snacks and drinks.
FOCAL LENGTH ~100-250mm.

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One thought on “Moscow Vnukovo Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Daniel Seaman

    What are the Russians like with UK Nationals spotting now a days? Tempted to go next year and will want to photograph everything.

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