The production of the whole A320 family as well as the cabin interior of the A380 takes place at the Airbus airport. If you are hunting for rare liveries from Asia, America or everywhere else from this planet, this is your place to be! Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airport is the exclusive airport for the Airbus production plant in Finkenwerder. It has been one of the major Airbus facilities since the company started production in the 1970ies. Since the inaugural flight of A321 in 1993, there is also a final assembly line for Airbus narrowbodies.
It is mostly interesting for its test flights and deliveries of newly produced aircraft for customers all around the world. But you will also see the Airbus Beluga aircraft, which is used as a transporter between the different Airbus production plants in France, Spain, Great Britain and Germany. Sometimes you will also see business jets or light airplanes.
The first thing to know about this airport is that you can never be certain about any movement. There are days where you can see a couple of highlights in a few hours, but there are also days where you will wait for hours for a highlight or any movement at all. Try to visit the airport on a workday, as the traffic on the weekend is much smaller. While there is basically no traffic on Sunday at all, the Saturday can have just a few movements (sometimes deliveries). Other periods with less traffic are the school holidays, because production is often slowed down a little bit.
Usually the traffic does not start before 9 AM, so coming here earlier would not be worth it. But sometimes the traffic can also start at 10/11 AM or even later on slow days.
If you are especially interested in A380 traffic, you have to be patient as well, as there are a lot of days with only A320-family traffic.
Still Hamburg-Finkenwerder is always worth a visit, because some highlights and rare liveries will be extremely hard to catch after they are delivered to some remote or spotter unfriendly home countries.
Written by Jan Seba & Maximilian Ono (local spotters) and Severin Hackenberger (regular visitor) – Last update: March 2018
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|Spotting Information||Ladder||Though the major locations do not require a ladder, it is always useful to have one with you. Traffic is very unforeseeable and you never know if you might need it. If a ladder is required it is mentioned at the spots below.|
UPDATE March 2018: We received information that infrared sensors were installed along the fence. If you hold your camera/lens above the fence, a warning will be send to the firefighters and security service! Stand at least 30cm from the fence, so we can still take pictures in Finkenwerder in the future.
|Car||Public transportation infrastructure with buses can bring you to the major locations, but often you have to change locations and a car will be very helpful.|
|Restrooms||There no restrooms around the airport.|
|Drinks/Food||You should bring your lunch with you or you can buy something in nearby Finkenwerder. On the left-hand side of the main facility gate (called “Osttor”), there is a small shop where you can buy some snacks.|
|Hotels||There are very few hotels around the airport.|
|Season||In general the traffic can be interesting every day of the year, but the chance for good weather is higher during the summer season (April to October).|
|Runway Usage||05/23||Southwestern winds are most common in Hamburg, making 23 the most used runway direction.The runway usage is also directly influenced by the Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel airport. As they have “parallel runways”, they have to synchronize their landings and takeoffs. If Fuhlsbüttel uses runway 05 or 23 for either takeoffs or landings you can expect Finkenwerder to use the same direction, so that the traffic does not cross in the air.|
|Spot #1 – Visitor Hill|
|WHERE||The visitor hill is located almost in the middle of the runway and has lots of parking space located right next to the hill. Arriving by public transport (from Hamburg) is more difficult, but you can use bus “150” from “Bahnhof Altona” and you should get off at the bus stop “Am Rosengarten”. Another option is to take bus “146” from S-Bahn station “Harburg” or “Harburg-Rathaus” to the bus stop “Airbus” at the Eastgate. From here you can either walk the distance or take bus “150” as well.|
|WHAT||There is a lot of traffic, which you can catch from here.|
05 Departures will taxi to the runway right in front of you, but often they are already in the air when taking off. But most of the time they are not too high.
05 Arrivals will sometimes touch down very close to this location, but you will not catch them taxiing back (except the A380).
23 Arrivals are also good here, as you can shoot them from both sides, when they taxi back to the plant or Delivery Center.
23 Departures will be very difficult though and often too high at this point (except for example a loaded Beluga).Furthermore you can also catch the movements on two of the main taxiways.
First there is the taxiway to the northern side of the runway, which is used by all A380s. Photos can be taken of the A380 turning from/into the taxiway to/from the runway. The second option is the southern taxiway between the Delivery Center and the runway. It is used by A320-family aircraft for taxiing to runway 05 or after a runway 23 landing. There is also a second taxiway to the Delivery Center which is mostly used for taxiing to runway 23 or after a 05 landing.
Additionally you will sometimes see aircraft being towed between the Delivery Center and the production plant on the northern side of the runway.
|TIME||Light conditions on the runway are good from 8 AM to 2 PM. Aircraft on the taxiway to the Delivery Center can be shot from 1 PM to 6 PM in the summer (earlier in winter) and on the taxiway to the plant from 11 AM (earlier in winter).|
|MISC.||The Visitor Hill is the official spotting location and also the place to meet local spotters. It is often used as a main base where the movements are awaited. You can also sit in your car and relax while waiting or enjoy the sun. Take warm clothes with you in winter, as it often gets very windy and chilly on the Hill.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||100mm for an A320 and 55mm for an A380 on the runway. 100-150mm for aircraft on the first Delivery Center taxiway and 70mm is good for an A380 on the other taxiway.|
|Spot #2 – Eastgate – 23 Arrivals and Departures|
|WHERE||This spot is located a little to the west of the eastern entrance gate to the Airbus facility. Parking here is not very easy though, but you could use the parking space next to the gate if you only stay for a short term and then drive back to the Visitor Hill. If you are planning on staying for a few hours (which is often not necessary) you should park in the town and walk here. Using public transportation is also very easy for this spot, just use bus “146” or “150” as described above at spot #1 and get off directly at the Eastgate.|
|WHAT||The spot is best used for runway 23 departures or RTOs but you will also be able to catch a 23 landing here. If you are very lucky you might be able to see aircraft being towed here to or from the paintshop.|
|TIME||Best light conditions on the runway are from 8 AM to 2 PM.|
|MISC.||As the dyke has been removed you need at least a three step ladder here now. To keep the inner fence out of the pictures, you need a 4, better 5 step ladder. Don´t stay too long at the fence and remove the ladder after you have took your shot.|
Sometimes vehicles inside the facility have to raise a boom barrier in front of you, which can disturb your shots on the runway, so be prepared to take your shots before that happens.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Again 100mm for an A320 and around 50mm for an A380.|
|Spot #3 – Westgate – 05 Arrivals and Departures Summer Evening, 23 Arrivals|
|WHERE||At the other Airbus gate entrance is another spotting location, which is easily accessible. From the Visitor Hill drive around the 05 runway and then turn at the first right. After a short distance you will see an entrance gate for the Airbus employees and a small widened paved area next to the fence, where you can park your car. If you are using bus “150” the closest bus stop is “Neuenfelder Damm”.|
|WHAT||This is mostly a summer spot, as the sun does not get around the runway between October and March.|
Here a ladder is very useful if you want to shoot from the fence and not risk having the fence or peoples heads in your photo. But still it is possible to take pictures from a dyke on the other side of the road, so you can use this position without a ladder.
Runway 05 arrivals will never present a problem as they are still much higher than the fence and you can just use the dyke for this.
You will also get aircraft taxiing to and taking-off from runway 05. Furthermore you can shoot aircraft which have landed on runway 23 when they are turning on the runway in order to backtrack to their parking position (almost all A320-family aircraft do that here). This is quite an advantage as you can also shoot them at a time when the light would be directly on the runway.
|TIME||Best light conditions for 05 traffic are after 6 PM and the 23 arrivals can be shot from approximately 3:30 PM.|
|MISC.||You are always in sight of security personnel from the gate, so behave smart and be sure to leave the place as it was.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Again 100mm for an A320 and around 50mm for an A380 close to the fence. From the dyke ~120mm for an A320.|
|Spot #4 – Lineup 05|
|WHERE||When trying to get to this place, you will notice that there really isn’t any place where you can leave your car. If you have to go here it is advisable to use the paved area at spot #3 to leave your car and walk from there.|
|WHAT||This location is only useful for 05 lineups, when the sun shines pretty much directly onto the runway. Thus it is mostly used for A380s, as you can still get the A320 aircraft on the taxiway at that time.|
You will need a ladder at this location, because you are standing right next to the fence at the head of the runway.
|TIME||It is best to use this spot between 2 PM and 6 PM.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-60mm for an A380|
|Spot #5 – Old Turning Area – 05 Arrivals and Departures, 23 Arrivals|
|WHERE||If you walk a couple of meters down the runway from the Visitor Hill you will get to a bend in the road and a street crossing with traffic lights. Again there is no official parking spot, so it might be the best idea to walk along the fence.|
|WHAT||While we have spot #3 mostly for the evening this spot is basically used for the same purpose in the morning and around noon. Just the same you can shoot all the aircraft using runway 05 and also the aircraft landing on 23 when they are turning right in front of you. At this location you need a ladder though, as there is no elevation or dyke to stand on and shoot over the fence.|
|TIME||Best light conditions for 05 traffic are from 8 AM to 2 PM and the 23 arrivals are best before 3:30 PM.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||You are closer to the runway here compared to the Visitor Hill, so it’s going to be less than 100mm for an A320 directly in front of you.|
|Spot #6 – Rueschpark Tower – Runway 23 arrivals|
|WHERE||Take the ferry No. 64 from Finkenwerder Harbour pier (“Finkenwerder Landungsbrücken”).Leaving the ferry at “Rueschpark” turn right onto the path along the coast and you’ll find a small red tower after some minutes to the right.|
|WHAT||Runway 23 approaches. From the upper floors of the tower you can also see the departing planes turning on the runway.|
|TIME||Best light conditions from the morning until about 2 PM.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||approx. 70-130mm according to the size of the plane (A319 – A380).|
|Spot #7 – Jenischpark – Runway 23 arrivals|
|WHERE||This is probably the only spot north of Elbe river which means it is faster accessible from Hamburg Airport or the city centre. You can take the bus to “Teufelsbrueck” (No. 286 from subway station “Othmarschen”) or ferry (No. 64, only if you are coming from south of Elbe river, e.g. Finkenwerder) to “Teufelsbrueck”. Then walk along Elbchaussee street eastward a few minutes until you see a baroque-style park gate on the left hand side. Enter the park through the gate and take a seat on the benches just a few metres behind. The approaching planes fly above the grassland in front of you. If you go by car, there is a car park at the northern end of the park (Hochrad street). Maybe there are also parking opportunities in streets nearer to the spot.|
|WHAT||Only Runway 23 approaches. Runway 05 departures are visible but too high and in a bad angle.|
|TIME||Best light conditions from the morning until about 2 PM.|
|MISC.||There are two restaurants at the Teufelsbrueck ferry pier. A café called “To’n Peer Stall” is located in the northwestern corner of the park. Both locations are a 10 minutes’ walk from the spotting point. You never know how soon a plane returns from a test flight, so watch Flight Radar carefully before you leave and be prepared to return to the spot urgently or better stay at the spotting point during a test flight.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Approx. 160 mm for A320 and 140 mm for Beluga.|
|Spot #8 – Neßdeich|
|WHERE||This spot is located on a dam next to “Neßdeich” street. The easiest way to get here is to park your car in the nearby “Neßkatenweg” by the roadside. This should be okay for short stays, you won’t be here for days anyway regularly. Then cross the meadow and walk up the dam Using the already by spotters stamped out way up. Then choose your favourite position depnding on the aircraft you wanna spot.|
|WHAT||All runway activities and some parked Airbus’ on the A320fam apron.|
|TIME||Best light conditions from the morning until about 2 PM on runway, apron only on cloudy days or very early morning.|
|MISC.||No ladder needed. Parking is limited so when a highlight is coming you might park somewhere else.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50 – 300mm|
A321 = 120mm / A320 = 150mm / Cessna > 300mm