Located in the North of Portugal, Porto (OPO/LPPR) is the 2nd main city of the country (after the capital Lisbon) with around 2 million people living in its metropolitan area. Furthermore, Porto has a huge influence area, attracting a lot of market from Galicia due to the great accessibilities from this city to all the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, and also because of the quite bigger offer in terms of airlines and direct destinations.
Porto has the 2nd busiest airport in Portugal, handling nowadays more than 11 Million passengers per year (should reach 12 Million in 2018), number 3 times bigger than the 3 galician airports (Santiago + A Coruña + Vigo) combined in the same period. This airport is a hub for the flagship airline TAP Air Portugal and 2 foreign airlines have also a base here: Ryanair and easyJet.
Even though TAP is the busiest airline in terms of aircraft movements, Ryanair is the leading airline in terms of passenger numbers. TAP operates a daily long-haul flight in Airbus A330-200 to destinations in South and North America and most of its flights are operated by TAP Express aircraft (E190 for the most of the European destinations and ATR 72-600 from/to Lisbon, performing the hourly air shuttle called “Ponte Aérea”). Still regarding TAP fleet, do not expect to see A330-300, A340-300 and A321 (this last one is uncommon but not so rare as the previous types mentioned).
The gem which attracts a lot of foreign spotters to OPO is the “Triple 7” of TAAG Angola Airlines. This airline operates 3 times per week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) in 77W (777-300ER) – the B777-200ER are rather rare, but not impossible to catch; unfortunately, since 2017 the schedule is not so friendly as before, with very early morning arrivals (still dark except in the bigger days of the year in June-July), aircraft staying all day on the ground and only departing at night back to Luanda. Delays are very rare, though. However, during the Christmas/New Year’s Eve, additional flights are operated, some of them with arrivals/departures in daylight.
Freighters also are most likely to operate in night hours. On weekdays, Star Air (on behalf of UPS) performs brief-stops to (un)load cargo on its route from Cologne to Lisbon in the early morning and returns in the evening on the opposite route. DHL (EAT Leipzig) brings an Airbus A300 on weekdays and European Air Transport brings a Boeing 757-200 in the afternoons from Tuesday to Thursday. TNT/ASL Airlines performs also a daily flight on weekdays with an early morning arrival and a late evening departure, staying all day on the ground. And Swiftair does more or less the same as ASL Airlines with their ATR42F/72F (on Mondays there is a ferry flight leaving
Porto to Lisbon in the afternoon).
In a non-regular basis, there are visits from time to time of small operators like Fleet Air International, Sprint Air, RAF-Avia between many others. Porto is also the airport in Continental Portugal which receives more visits of Russian/soviet aircraft like Antonov An-12, An-26, An-124, Ilyushin IL76TD, mostly for fuel stops but also for cargo charter duties. In the same way, once in a while we receive visits of Boeing 747-400F.
Even though Porto is not so interesting to visit than other major European airports and despite the fact that there are no official spotting locations, it’s a very spotter-friendly airport and has plenty of good spots where you can catch all the movements, no matter which runway is active. The Police pass by frequently inside the airport perimeter and sometimes stop to check if everything is OK with the Emergency Exits, but you don’t have to worry at all as you are practicing your hobby peacefully and not doing something illegal.
These airlines are serving OPO/LPPR as of October 2018:
Aegean Airlines*, Aigle Azur, Air Canada (opb Air Canada Rouge)*, Air Europa, Air Horizont*, Air Transat, Arkia Israeli Airlines*, ASL Airlines France*, Azores Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cobrex Trans*, CSA Czech Airlines* easyJet, easyJet Switzerland, El Al*, Eurowings, Evelop*, Iberia, Iberia by Air Nostrum*, Joon by Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, Luxair, Nouvelair Tunisie*, Orbest*, Privilege Style*, Royal Air Maroc, Ryanair, Swiss International Air Lines, TAAG Angola Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Transavia, Transavia France, Tunisair*, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines*, Volotea*, Vueling, WizzAir*
* seasonal basis airlines or charter operations (mainly in IATA Summer season)
Written by Carlos Seabra, Rui Miguel (local spotters) and Severin Hackenberger. Last Update: October 2018
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|All airline are served at the same Terminal|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||You can easily take pictures in every spot without a ladder. However, for the demanding spotters who don’t want any obstacles at all in their shots in some places (e.g. fences, traffic signals, …), a ladder is highly recommended.|
|Car||Porto has a relatively small airport. From the Terminal, every spot is reachable by foot, but just a few are easy to get in a reasonable amount of time (less than 30 minutes), unless you are up to walk for over an hour. Therefore, a car is highly recommended to reach almost every location; the parking spots are just 15 to 20 meters far from the place you photograph, except in 2 or 3 spots when you have to walk but never more than 5 minutes. It’s easy!|
|Restrooms||These facilities are available inside the Airport Terminal, coffeeshops, supermarkets and gas stations.|
|Drinks/Food||Inside the Terminal’s public area, you have some coffeeshops in both Arrival/Departures floors (e.g. Costa Coffee on Arrivals) and a few small restaurants on the Departures floor only. On Arrivals, there is also a shop with vending machines where you can get a large variety of drinks, some snacks and sandwiches (and also a machine with electronic stuff such as mobile phone charger cables, adapters and also memory cards if you urgently need some kind of those devices).|
But, as typical, in the Terminal all prices are super inflated. The best option to save some money is to go to the coffeeshops, restaurants or supermarkets around the airport and buy everything you need. There is also a huge Shopping Center named “Mar Shopping” around 4 kilometers southwest of the airport (less than 10 minutes driving), where almost everything is available.
|Hotels||There are several options close to the airport and hundreds if you choose to stay around or in Porto city, for all budgets. Depending on demand and how sooner you book your stay, you can get good accommodation with reasonable fares starting at around 50€ per night.|
|Season||If we could describe Porto’s climate in two words, the best option should’ve been “mild overall”. The region features a Mediterranean climate.|
Winter is mild and rainy; however, long periods with mild temperatures and sunny days may also be frequent. The relatively high annual precipitation is concentrated in the Winter months.
Summer is warm and dry; however, cool and rainy days can occasionally interrupt the dry season. But the particular area where the airport is located has a kind of microclimate and can be pretty unstable due to the humidity. Fog is a pretty often sight, can (dis)appear very quickly and it can also last all day, in worst cases a succession of days, non-stop. Porto is the Portuguese airport with most LVO days per year.
|Runway Usage||17/35||Porto has a single runway (17/35).|
RWY 17: This is used when the wind blows predominantly from South and in case of low visibility operations (LVO), no matter the wind, because it’s the only one equipped with ILS (up to CAT II). Since there isn’t any parallel taxiway till the beginning of the runway, the traffic which is not able to depart from intersection Foxtrot, has to perform backtrack, leading to a drastic reduction of the hourly capacity to less than 10 movements per hour…
RWY 35: is used when the wind blows predominantly from North and is the preferred runway for operational reasons due to the poor layout of the airport, being way more used than 17.
|Spot #1 – Rua da Fabrica hill|
UPDATE: As of February 2019, this spot is currently very limited as the hill won’t be no longer accessible soon and the road will close on December 2018 due to taxiway Foxtrot extension works. The taxiway will be extended until next to the Firefighting Department and therefore the tunnel which crosses the runway will be also extended. At this time, the best alternative is to use the Spot #2. So far, the future of this area for spotting conditions after the works are finished is still uncertain. The works should be concluded in the Summer of 2019.
|Spot #2 – Rua das Bicas|
|WHERE||This spot is just 400m far from the spot 1 that will be closed due to taxiway Foxtrot extension works which already started. During the works, this will be the best alternative, although it will be very small for a large number of people. So far, it is still not known if we will have a good brand-new spotting point after the job is done.|
By car from the Terminal you will take just between 5 to 10 minutes to reach it and you can park your car in the other side of the road, there are plenty of parking space. It’s also possible to reach this place by feet, it will take more or less 15 to 20 minutes depending of your walking speed.
|WHAT||The main goal in this spot is to capture all the traffic which clears runway 35 via taxiway Foxtrot. The preferable taxiway to vacate after landing is Foxtrot but you also should have some traffic which vacates to the left, via Alpha 3 (the cargo traffic which parks on the Tango/Whiskey ramp and also the heavies (like the A330 of TAP, the A310/A330 of Air Transat, the B777 of TAAG, the 757 of United) for operational reasons. You can get some great close-ups of the aircraft taxiing to the ramp as you can see on the examples below.|
In this spot you can also photograph all the traffic on both runways (17-35), but mind that the distance to the runway centerline is bigger than you had in the spot 1 (around 330m instead of 195m of the spot 1).
In all the area you will shoot through the fence and sometimes the grass is not cut (see the example), so we recommend to bring a ladder.
|TIME||If the goal is shooting to the runway, this spot is good from sunrise until 11:45 in the peak of Winter or 13:15 in peak of Summer.|
If you want to get some good close-ups at Foxtrot, Summer is the most recommendable season of the year because in the Winter you start to get backlit at around 09:00.
|MISC.||There are no shades in this area.|
The nearest coffeehouse is 240m far (around 3 minutes walking) but there is not too much in terms of snacks, so we recommend you to bring all you need. Regarding lunch, this shop serves low cost meals but you don’t have great variety.
You have some other coffeehouses and restaurants close to the airport, as well as gas stations.
It’s up to you!
|FOCAL LENGTH||Between 30mm (minimum length for Foxtrot) and 400mm (maximum length for the runway – for bizjets, for example).|
|Spot #3 – Dirthill|
|WHERE||From the morning spot all you have to do is to go down the road and go through the tunnel (there’s a sidewalk for pedestrians). Once on the other side go up and straight until you see on your left side an emergency exit from the airport. Spot2 in on the oposite side, on a hill.|
|WHAT||Just like the morning spot, this spot is midfield and you can see all landing and departures, no mater the runway. However there’s more fence then on the previous spot. Yet when aircraft are passing in front of you there will be a clear area, just as you can see on the photos bellow.|
|TIME||From 13:00 until the end of the day.|
|MISC.||There’s no shade in here and no facilities or anywhere nearby to buy food, so bring all that you need. If you are with a car, there’s no proper parking spots. Yet it’s best to park where it’s point out on the map, as close as to fence as you can, then parking at the emergency gate for the obvious reasons.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70mm = A330, 115mm = A319, 180mm = A310 on TWY F|
|Spot #4 – Cargofence|
|WHERE||This spot is no exact location rather the area along the fences inside the cargo area. Example and overview shot(s) were taken from #3.1. Parking is almost always possible by the fence or otherwise inside the nearby parking areas/by the roadside.|
|WHAT||All planes parked on the cargo apron, sometimes also VIP jets.|
|TIME||Depending on the angle, but mostly better in the afternoon.|
|MISC.||There are no shades on this area. If you’re coming during the week expect a lot of traffic. Ladder needed, anythin else needed can be found at the nearby gas stations or supermarkets.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Depending on your position and angle from 24mm up to 300mm.|
|Spot #5 – Roadside|
|WHERE||This spot is located by the roadside of a unnamed road, which connects PAX terminal and Cargo terminal. You can stop inside a dirty entrance to a sand/stone storage area or similar. Angle is good there and you are more safe than by the roadside – many drivers are furious and wild!|
|WHAT||Arrivals runway 35 and maybe Line-Ups through the fence – never tried yet.|
|TIME||From early midday till sunset.|
|MISC.||Parking limited as well as free view. Ladder might be useful, but be aware of fast drivers! Everything needed inside nearby gas stations/villages/supermarkets.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70 – 200mm|
|Spot #6 – National Road 107|
|WHERE||If you leave the Terminal and walk by foot southbound, always side by side with the airport perimeter, in less than 10 minutes you’ll reach this location.|
If you are driving, plenty of free parking spots can be found there along the roadside, although in some periods of the day, a lot of airport staff park their cars in that place, so it may be difficult to find an available one.
|WHAT||This location allows an overview for the remote stands from S20 to S66 as well as the taxiways S2/S4/S6. The remaining stands are full of obstacles (e.g. fences, airbridges and possibly other aircraft).|
From this spot you’ll be able to photograph airplanes parked on those remote stands and also taxiing traffic to the active runway. Normally the goal of this spot if to shoot aircraft parked on stands S20-S40 which normally arrive during the night (or during a period when you can’t be at the airport) and that is the only way to capture them. Shooting for stands S60-S66 is possible but not a good option due to the distance.
|TIME||Excluding nighttime and rainy/grey days, for taxiing aircraft, light is good until 11:30 in the peak of the Winter and 13:30 in the peak of Summer.|
For all aircraft parked on the remote stands (S20 to S66), light is good all day in the peak of Winter and acceptable until 16:00 in the peak of Summer. Regarding heat haze, it can be a problem especially from stand S40 onwards and naturally it gets stronger as the distance increases. Overall, it’s pretty acceptable on the coolest seasons but you won’t get any good shot in the warmest ones…
|MISC.||There are no shadows in this area. Food/drinks and restrooms are available in the Main Terminal, less than 10 minutes away by foot.|
Mind that there is the risk of having any kind of clutter in front of your “target”, such as stairs, airport vehicles or even another aircraft. The fence is tight but perfectly OK for 55mm diameter lenses. Some holes may be slightly expanded, so you won’t face any problem with 77mm lenses as well. You can bring your ladder if you want, and also the tripod for night shots. All stands have good artificial light but you’ll note that the aircraft will be better lit in the nose than in the tail… Nothing which you can’t improve with a good edition.
|FOCAL LENGTH||70mm are enough for a close-up of a taxiing aircraft, up to 400mm depending of the size of the parked aircraft plus how far it is from your position.|
|Spot #7 – Staff Parking 5|
|WHERE||If you leave the Terminal and walk by foot northbound, in less than 2 minutes you’ll arrive to the entrance of the P5, an exclusive parking for airport staff. It will be very easy to find as it is well signalized as “Parque STAFF P5”.|
If you have a car, you have various solutions to park it, but the best of them are paid. If you intend to perform a very short visit just to catch something and leave, you may be able to park the car in the Cargo Terminal zone as it’s an area of pick-up/drop-off cargo. However, Police passes often and the possibility of penalties are not discarded… Act at your own risk.
Also free of charge you have “Rua da Caralinda”, in front of a Primary School (location marked in the map) where parking spots are normally available. From there, you have to walk about 5 minutes until you reach the Staff Parking P5.
Finally you have the paid (and safest) options: Airport Parking P4 just in front of the Cargo Terminal where you pay 0,60€ per each 15 minutes up to a maximum of 8,00€ per day – 2 minutes walking to reach P5 – and Airport Parking P1 in front of the Passenger Terminal where you pay 0,70€ per each 15 minutes up to a maximum of 10,00€ per day.
|WHAT||This location has a limited overview for a few stands with any obstacles:|
S55 – just in front of the parking and where some A124 and B747-400F are parked as this stand is one of the few in OPO able to handle these heavy gems.
S56 and S70 – depending of the size of the aircraft and how it’s parked – normally only doable with small aircraft parked nose-out. It’s rather rare nowadays to have interesting aircraft on these stands as normally commercial aircraft are parked there, but eventually it’s possible to see there Antonovs An-26 in cargo flights or fuel stops and Falcons (50/900/2000/7X) in State flights.
S60 to S66 – the spot is useful to catch the aircraft parked on these stands: some cargo aircraft (like the AT42/72F of Swiftair and the B737-400F of ASL Airlines), business jets (except Global Express, Falcon 7X and Gulfstreams normally parked on S40-S43) and all general aviation which may visit the airfield.
Eventually, if stands S55/S56 are not occupied, you may be able to catch in the morning the taxiing aircraft on S5/S6 taxiways after landing on runway 35 or on its way to depart from runway 17.
There isn’t anything else you could catch here, so you won’t stay here longer than 5 or 10 minutes, unless you intend to spend more time doing night shots. You can bring your tripod with you, you won’t face any problem.
|TIME||Excluding rainy/grey days and nighttime, it really depends of what type of photo you want and how the aircraft are parked. Overall, you’ll have the Sun in your back all morning and all type of photos should have good light. Taxiing aircraft on S5/S6 should be well lit until late afternoon in the peak of the Winter and midday in the peak of Summer. Eventually if you get very lucky in the late afternoon, you can get some interesting backlit shots. Regarding the aircraft parked on the stands S60 to S66, light is good all day in the peak of Winter and acceptable until afternoon in the peak of Summer.|
|MISC.||Excluding some trees next to the fence (Control Tower side), there are no significant shadows in this little area.|
Regarding food/drinks and restrooms, you have all those facilities in the Main Terminal, just 2 minutes away.
The fence is OK for 55mm diameter lenses but a bit tight for 77mm, anyway please do not bring the ladder as you should be the more discrete possible in order to not attract the attention of any security staff. Subtlety is the secret of success.
Heat haze advice: It’s possible to get some heat haze in the photos to the stands S60-S66, especially in warm days when it can be strong and disturbing. The best option is always trying to shoot in the first hour after sunrise.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Depending of the type of photo you want to perform, between 18mm for overviews and 350mm for small business jets parked on the farthest stands (S60-S66).|
On the last shot you can see some people infront of the face – this is where the exact spot is loacted at: