Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont Spotting Guide

Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont (IATA: SDU, ICAO: SBRJ) is the 7th biggest airport of Brazil. In 2014, the airport welcomed 9.7 million passengers. The airport is nicely situated near the city centre of Rio de Janeiro and close to some of the tourist attractions and landmarks. From the south side of the airport you have a view of the spectacular Sugar Loaf and further away: Cristo Redentor.

The airport is dominated by four airlines: TAM, GOL Transportes Aereos, Azul and Avianca Brasil. The biggest aircraft you will see here is an Airbus A319 or a Boeing 737-800. Besides the commercial traffic you will see lots of private aircraft and occasionally some military aircraft.

You won’t have any problems here taking pictures. The police and security are used to people come and watch the aircraft.

Written by Bas Velders (last update December 2015)

Rating Movements  Visitor Rating
How was your spotting trip? Rate the airport!
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Airport Informations Runways 02R/20L 02L/20R
1.320 m (4,331 ft) 1.260 m (4,134 ft)
Terminals One Terminal for all flights
Spotting Informations Ladder Not needed.
Car Not needed.
Restrooms Inside theTerminal.
Drinks/Food Inside the Terminal.
Hotels Ibis and Novotell nearby (via the skybridge).
Season No special season.
Runway Usage  02R/20L Main runway. 
02L/20R No Info (Rarely used).

Spot #1 – Naval Academy
WHERE This is one of the two famous spots of Santos Dumont Airport. When coming from the terminal, go south towards Av. Alm. Silvio de Noronha. Walk past the checkpoint and towards the checkpoint on the other side of the runway. The security guards are used to plane watchers, so you won’t have any problems to take pictures of departing and arriving planes. When crossing the runways, do not stop until you are clear of the flightpath.

+++ UPDATE: We got reports that this spot is no longer reachable and access is denied by the gate guards. Maybe this was just due to the olympic games and the situation has changed. Please check the comments below.+++

WHAT All operations are visible from this spot. 20L departures tend to be a bit high, but you can walk further towards the base entrance to shoot some pictures trough/over the fence. Also most 20L arrivals will roll out towards the end of the runway, so you can take pictures when they exit. For 02R operations, this spot is ideal.
TIME Light conditions are good in the morning.
MISC. There is nothing to eat, there is no restrooms and there is no shade!
FOCAL LENGTH  24-100mm
Spot #2 – Av. Alm. Silvio de Noronha
WHERE On your way towards spot 1 you will pass the second spot. Just stay near the end of the fence and you’ll be all right.
WHAT All operations are visible from this spot. For 02R operations, this spot is ideal. When runway 20L is in use, the smaller arriving aircraft tend to leave the runway early. All the bigger aircraft will exit on the other end of the runway.
TIME Light conditions are good in the afternoon and evening.
MISC. There is nothing to eat, there is no restrooms and there is no shade!
FOCAL LENGTH  24-100mm
 Spot #3 – Terminal
WHERE On the arrival side of the airport terminal there is a public area (landside) with a glass facade near the information counter. It is possible to take some pictures, however the view is partially obstructed by the gates.
WHAT All operations are visible from this spot.
TIME Light conditions are good in the afternoon and evening.
MISC. Everything you need is in the terminal.
FOCAL LENGTH Taxiing aircraft: 50-150mm. Aircraft on the runway: 200-300mm


Don´t miss our newest guides!

6 thoughts on “Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont Spotting Guide

    1. Bas VeldersBas Velders Post author

      Is spot #2 accessible or are you being stopped at the checkpoint on Av. Alm. Silvio de Noronha?
      Are you still allowed to walk to the edge of the high fence?


  1. Max

    Have been there again @ end of July 2016, military personnel told me that its not allowed to go behind their checkpoint. Another spotter told me that this is only for the duration of the Olympics. Hopefully it will be opened again after Rio 2016.


  2. Carlos

    2 updates:

    #1 Naval Academy is closed acess due the Olympics, but since a “spotter” literally laid down on the tarmac, lot of people have been told that this location will be closed for spotters forever since Police got this pic months ago.

    But that wasn’t only bad news, now have a mall with rooftop acess (get zoom in the map and you will see Bossa Nova Mall), have panoramic views of the runway and probably a 300mm will be fit for this location. Just watch-out for mall hours, they use to close the mall before the sun goes down. Also have a hotel annexed to this mall, Prodigy Hotel Santos Dumont Airport.

    1. JulianJulian

      Is spot 1 & 2 officially shut down by the authorities or can you still “try” it? Would be a shame if this unique location will be lost.
      Do you have some pictures from the Mall for us?


Leave a Reply

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