+++ UPDATE April 2019! With the movement of all passenger flights to the new Istanbul Airport (now IST) on April 6/7, the old Atatürk (now ISL) airport is now pretty calm. Only cargo and government flights remain here. The spotting locations in this guide are still existing but all other airline infos and pictures you will find below are no longer mandatory +++
Istanbul Atatürk is the busiest airport in Turkey and due to its growing home carrier Turkish Airlines, is always worth a visit. With 60 Mio. passengers in 2016 and only one active runway for arrivals its very easy to catch almost all movements. As you may see on Flightradar 24, the ATC can place 10 aircraft on the ILS. Keep in mind that the traffics in therm of approach is pretty the same as London Heathrow, as an aircraft land every 2 to 5 minutes you won’t be bored, excepted maybe by Turkish fleet. Also the locations are pretty easy to find on foot and as already said, you won’t miss much traffic there.
What about traffics? Turkish Airlines is responsible for at least 80% of the traffic. But you have lots of interesting movements from exotic companies like, Afriqiyah Airways, Air Astana, Ariana Afghan Airlines, Atlas Global Airlines, Azerbaijan, Iraqi Airways, Libyan Airlines, Mahan Air, Malaysia, MNG Cargo, Taban Air, ULS Cargo, ZagrosJet and so on… The airport is open for 24 hours and sadly you can miss some interesting carriers as the fly during the night only.
A detailed flight plan can be found on the airport website.
Written by Julian Mittnacht, Jeremy Denton and Dirk Weinrich (Last update November 2016)
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|3.000 m (9.843 ft)||3.000 m (9.843 ft)||2.580 m (8.465 ft)|
|Terminals||Terminal 1||Terminal 2|
|Domestic flights only||International flights only|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||not needed|
|Restrooms||Public Toilet at the beach and the FlyInn Shopping Mall|
|Drinks/Food||Lot of Snack Bars/Restaurants are at the beach (Yeşilköy Marina) or the FlyInn Shopping Mall|
|Hotels||Most hotels are pretty close to the Terminal but we ‘recommend’ the Airport Inn Hotel at Yeşilköy Marina as its in a walkable distance to the spots and you have a lot of restaurants next to you as well as the train station to the city. There is also a brand new Crown Plaza Hotel just next to spot #2, where you can take pictures from the rooftop bar, but it’s not as good for pictures as the walkway along the shore.|
|Season||There is no special season but its very hot in the summer. Less heat haze problems as you are pretty close to the aircraft.|
|Runway Usage||05||80 percent of the day 05 is in use for arrivals|
|23||if the wind change, 23 is in use for arrivals|
|17L/35R||mainly in use for departures|
|17R/35L||mainly in use for departures|
|Spot #1 – Fly Inn Shopping Mall – 17/35 arrivals & departures, 05 arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is on the top floor of the shopping mall on a balcony, next to the Lavazza Best Coffee Shop and next to the food court of the Fly Inn Shopping Mall, located in Florya. Taxi ride is approximate 10 minutes from the airport. If you stay at Florya park (spot 2), you can easily walk to this position. Just follow the path that is shown on the map. Footwalk is appr. 20 minutes|
From the balcony, you have 2 areas (one for the Lavazza Best Coffee Shop where you can sit only if you buy something from the Coffee Shop or you can sit on the orange tables where you can eat fast food from any of the other eateries. However, I draw your attention to the fact that if you sit and consume in the Lavazza Coffee, you could ask the server for the Wi-Fi, that could be a help to watch FR24.A better option could be to use Pippo Restaurant, (next door to the main balcony). Again, provided you buy something to eat or drink, the staff are OK for you to use their balcony, which is slightly better because you can avoid getting the fence in your photos for smaller aircraft. It’s also easier to see the approach for Runway 05. You can use their wifi and you’re less likely to be harassed by the police at this spot.
|WHAT||The balconys are located just a few meters away from the perimeter fence and its a well known photo position for the local spotters. You have a great view of all the ramp action as well all the runways movements. You won’t miss a single plane here! Heat distortion isn’t a problem if they are using 35R/L but if you manage to take pictures of planes which land on runway 05, try from around 18:00 otherwise you’ll get too much heat haze. You have to be careful on one thing, sometimes an aircraft is landing on runway 35L that you are not expected to see.|
|TIME||Best time is from 13:30 until 20:20. In the end of afternoon you can also catch the 05 arrivals around 18:00 (depend on the heat haze)|
|MISC.||Its a great place for spotting as you have all the facilities that you need just behind you. You can sit there on a table in the shade and can have a drink. Do you want more?|
SECURITY NOTE: THIS IS USUALLY THE SAFEST PLACE FOR OUR HOBBY AT ISTANBUL AND HOPEFULLY YOU WON’T BE DISTURBED. THIS IS THE NUMBER ONE SPOT AND SPOTTERS ARE A KNOWN SIGHT BUT SOMETIMES SECURITY SERVICES WILL PASS AND RECENTLY THE AUTHORITIES HAVE BEEN ASKING PEOPLE NOT TO TAKE PHOTOS, SO REMEMBER, BE DISCREET!
|FOCAL LENGTH||Runway 35L = 170mm C295 / 116mm 175 / 95mm 320 / 50mm 773|
Runway 35R = 210mm 320 / 170mm 739 / 140mm 332 / 116mm 345
Runway 05 = 500mm 319 / 340mm ABF / 290mm 332 / 240mm 773
|Spot #2 – Florya Park / boardwalk – 05 arrivals|
|WHERE||All along the board walk is this spot located. To get there take a taxi from the airport to Florya Park, which is a popular relaxing place for the locals as its close to the beaches and is perfect to escape from the trouble of Istanbul City. If you are coming from the FlyInn mall use the tagged footpath on the map (walking time is 20 minutes). The spot is directly along the water so just find a place along the board walk where you would stay.|
Another opportunity is to visit the Sosyal Tesisler Restaurant with its large terrasse and large shades over the table protect you from the sun as well. But you need to buy drinks etc. to stay here for a longer time!
|WHAT||You get all the arrivals if RWY 05 is in use (what is most of the time).|
|TIME||From early morning until around 14:00. Be careful about the weather in morning. Mostly of the time lots of clouds are coming from the north with little rains also until around 12:30.|
|MISC.||There is a public restroom (tagged on the map) next to the beach and some restaurants close to the park. Less shadow along the boardwalk but enough benches to have a seat. SECUTIRY NOTE: Usually you don’t have trouble with the police here and the locals are very friendly too but keep a low profile.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Runway 05 = 340mm 319 / 290mm 738 / 210mm 788|
Pictures taken from the restaurant:
|Spot #3 – Turkish Air Force – Museum|
|WHERE||The museum is famous and lots of signs could be found on the road. You can reached the museum from Airport Inn Hotel by walk or take a taxi. It’s on Eski Havaalani Cd. street.|
|WHAT||Around 30 war aircraft could be taken like F-16, F-4, F-5, Transall, etc.|
|TIME||Open everyday except Monday and Tuesday from 09.00 to 16.30|
|MISC.||7TL = 2.46 USD and free for kids.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-55mm in enough|
|Spot #4 – Ataköy Shopping Mall – 23 Arrivals|
|WHERE||The shopping mall is located in the city district Ataköy, close to the harbor and the Hyatt Regency. You can easily reach it by car and public transport.|
The spot itself is in a corner of the valet parking in the north east corner just a few meters from the main entrance.
|WHAT||Arrvials on 23 only from this position.|
|TIME||From morning until late noon.|
|MISC.||You find everything you need within the mall. Supermarket, Restrooms, Fast Food…|
SECURITY NOTE: THERE IS A SECURITY CAMERA FOR THIS PARKING AREA SO STAY CLOSE TO THE HANDRAIL TO AVOID TO BE IN SIGHT. KEEP A LOW PROFILE AND STORE YOUR CAMERA AFTER YOU HAVE DONE THE PICTURE.
|FOCAL LENGTH||A320 = 250mm; 787 = 190mm|