Ponta Delgada João Paulo II Airport (PDL/LPPD) is located on the island of São Miguel and the busiest airport of the Azores. It is situated just 2 km west of the city centre of Ponta Delgada and surrounded by residential areas and the Atlantic Ocean to the South. Ponta Delgada is the largest city and economic centre of Azores so PDL is both the domestic hub for SATA Air Açores interisland flights as well as the international hub for Azores Airlines.
The Airbus of Azores Airlines usually arrive from the US/Canada early morning before continuing to mainland Portugal between 8.00 -9.00. Mid-afternoon the hub operates in the other direction. Usually the same aircraft return but sometimes they are swapped over in LIS/OPO with aircraft based on other islands. Outside these hubs there are a few flights apart from a few connections to other European cities and Praia in Cabo Verde, a peculiar flight as it is probably the only straight north-south flight in the Atlantic. The DASH 8-200/400 are busy throughout the day on interisland flights with peaks in the morning and evening. Other airlines serving PDL regularly are Ryanair and TAP Air Portugal. The later competing with Azores Airlines on flights to North America with A321LR. Seasonal charters in the summer are operated by the TUI group and various airlines from Scandinavia.
Despite its strategic position in the Atlantic PDL gets relatively few flights on fuel stops. Civil flights crossing the Atlantic historically stop at the smaller Santa Maria which has a longer runway while military flights prefer Lajes airport on the island of Terceira, also home to a major USAF airbase.
Written by Michael Lutzenberger, Robert Albrich (Spot 4 and 5) and Stephan Weidenhiller (Spot 3). Thanks to Maximilian Kramer for providing some pictures.
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|12/30||12/30 2,497m Asphalt|
|Terminals||One terminal for domestic and international traffic|
|Car/Public Transport||Even most spots are close to the terminal they cannot be reached easily by foot so a car is recommended and rental is cheap. This will also help to explore the rest of the island when the traffic is slow. But there are public buses which stop near spots #1-3.|
|Drinks/Food||In the airport and several small restaurants in the village of Relva.|
|Hotels||There are some around spot #1 and #2, but also plenty in Ponta Delgada which is just 2km away.|
|Season||Year round though summer will have slightly more traffic.|
|12/30||Used in all ways and there is no prefered direction.|
|Spot #1 – EN1-1a East Bus stop – Nearby taxiway + 12/30 movements|
|WHERE||From the motorway R1-1a exit for EN1-1a towards Relva, the last exit before the airport. Turn right onto EN1-1a and immediately right again into Rua Monsenhor José Gomes (marked on the map exactly). There you will find enough space for free parking. For the spot then just cross the main road and from the other side you perfectly overlook the airport.
Bus stop Ramalho – Bairro Alcindo Alves – Aeroporto is right at the spot and the bus shelter can provide shelter during rain showers.
|WHAT||Aircraft on the taxiway to the runway 30 end and runway 12/30. Nice backdrop with the ocean behind.|
|TIME||This spot is north of the airport so into the sun most of the day. However, on the taxiway you shot in a slight angle towards southwest so the light is ok for the morning SATA/Air Azores departure wave.
In the summer for the early arrivals from North America and late evening on the runway also should be fine.
|MISC.||You are on a plateau overlooking the airport, so no ladder needed. Plus heat haze and similar stuff is no issue here.|
A321 taxiway = 120mm / A321 runway = 170mm / Dash 8-400 on taxiway = 195mm
|Spot #2 – EN1-1a West – Nearby taxiway + Airport Apron + 12/30 movements|
|WHERE||From #1 walk a few minutes along the EN1-1a towards the west or drive and park on the main road. There you can just simply change the position for the best angle.|
|WHAT||Overlooking the main apron. Clear shots of the first stands. Others might have lamp posts or ground equipment in the frame. Also aircraft taxying to stand/pushback and on the taxiway to runway 12.|
|TIME||Morning to midday as shooting towards the West. Nice night shots are also possible from this spot.|
|MISC.||You are on a plateau overlooking the airport, so no ladder needed. Plus heat haze (maybe just APU produced heat) and similar stuff is no issue here.|
Depending on the aircraft’s position: Dash 8-200 = 240mm / Dash 8-400 on taxiway = 270mm
|Spot #3 – Roundabout – 30 arrivals, 12 departures|
|WHERE||There is a roundabout at the ocean at the south of the 30 treshold and the western boundaries of the city of Ponta Delgada. From the airport follow the signs to the city centre and after passing the 30 approach continue straight to the ocean and you will reach a roundabout with an anchor in the middle. Use the third exit to park the car on a small parking area and then step on the sidewalk at the roundabout and start spotting.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 30 and heavy 12 departures.|
|TIME||From late morning until afternoon.|
|MISC.||There are hotels and restaurants nearby and also the city center is just a short hop.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A320 = 200mm|
|Spot #4 – Rock Mound – 12 movements|
|WHERE||The spot is on a rock mound, directly at the threshold of runway 12 and on the opposite side of the terminal. Continue on the main road westwards, pass spot 2 and take the next left. Drive all the way down to the ocean and then turn left. There is a parking directly under the approach path. Leave your car there and continue by foot along the perimeter fence until you see a huge mound of black rocks. Climb up there and you have a free sight over the fence of the action.|
|WHAT||All runway 12 departures and arrivals as well as ramp movements on the far end.|
|TIME||From late morning until afternoon.|
|MISC.||Be aware of slippery rocks.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Not known.|
We can’t provide sample photos but this one was taken there.
|Spot #5 – Sport Arena – 12 arrivals, ramp, taxiway|
|WHERE||Once again turn left from the main road after you have passed spot #2. Take the next left until you see a small parking and a soccer field to your left hand side. Park there and walk to the end where you find a skate area and a tennis court. You are on a hill and the terminal/ramp is below your position.|
|WHAT||Best for all ramp movements and 12 arrivals and line-up.|
|TIME||From afternoon until sunset a great position for the ramp and taxiway movements for 12 departure.
12 arrivals are possible in the early morning hours only.
|FOCAL LENGTH||A321 taxiway = 160mm; A321 ramp = 140mm|