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A Quick Guide To Planespotting At Hong Kong Airport

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While I’m more of an airline product guru, I take passion in aircraft and aerodynamics as well. I won’t be able to tell you nearly as much as Jason will, though it fascinates me, and the prospect of flying in a tube 38,000 feet above the ground is one of the reasons I love flying. Planespotting is also fascinating for that reason, and I’ve been a few times – however, I think that my experience yesterday has brought back some tips that some planespotters in Hong Kong might need.

I figured I’d give a few tips, as I know that some of you reading might be interested in planespotting as well.

Have Decent Equipment

I don’t own a DSLR or a tripod, though obviously that would heavily contribute to photo quality. I brought my Canon Powershot G3 X, which has a zoom of 25x, and I found that to be enough. I didn’t even bring a tripod (actually, in retrospect, the planes move fast, so don’t bring one unless you’re confident that you’ll be able to navigate it well).

img_5527The Canon Powershot G3 X that I used yesterday

In other words, don’t stress if you don’t have a DSLR camera, but don’t show up with your iPhone and expect great pictures.

Where To Go To

Obviously, there’s the SkyPier, where you can take great photos, and there are also other great areas (HK Spotting has a thorough guide), though there’s an area that I believe has proven successful no matter where aircraft are taking off and landing, of which I’ve visited multiple times and would like to share.

I normally take the MTR to Tung Chung and walk over to the bus stop, where the S52 departs every 20 minutes. I take it to the terminus at Aircraft Maintenance, where HAECO has a rather large maintenance hub (while I wish I’d had the opportunity to visit, I haven’t). I then walk back along where the bus came along the road, and soon find myself at an unfenced area with some rocks. I prop myself on one of those rocks as my “dwelling area”, where you can get great views of aircraft taking off on 25L, or landing on runway 07L. (It’s worth noting that personally I’ve taken off on runway 07R more times than not, so you’ll be more likely to spot planes landing at this area than to spot planes taking off.)

In the below diagram, the yellow star represents where the S52 goes off, and the blue star represents the area that is unfenced and therefore the best spot to planespot.

a map of planes on a mapWhere To Planespot Near Hong Kong Airport

The App I Always Need To Use

This seems simple, but it’s actually been invaluable to me. Every time I planespot I use FlightRadar24, an app capable of tracking planes’ flight paths very accurately. I’ve been able to tell which aircraft I’d be photographing before they took off, and exactly when they started their takeoff roll (which is really helpful, as it helps me get ready). Ultimately, if you don’t have internet, you’ll be able to hear the planes taking off, but if planes are landing on 07L (and taking off on 07R) instead, you’ll have issues with telling when planes are approaching.

FlightRadar24 works off Google Maps, so you’ll be able to locate yourself with a blue dot when you’re at the area, which makes it even easier for you. I’d say FlightRadar24 is the one app that you need when you’re planespotting, no matter which airport you’re at.

a large white airplane flying in the skyI was able to tell when the United 777-300ER was taking off

Quick Notes

  • The S52 departs HAECO every 20 minutes (on the hour, 20 and 40), and the bus ride is about a minute-long run from the spotting area. The bus sometimes leaves early, so you’d want to make sure you’re packing up five minutes before. By the time you see the bus approaching when you’re at the area (as it’s a straight, long road with a final curve into the bus stop), you’ll want to run to the stop in order to catch the bus.
  • There aren’t any shops or restaurants (or anything, for that matter) nearby – that said, if you’re lucky enough to catch an S52 when you need to, the bus ride to Tung Chung is about 15 minutes, so you can grab lunch and head back in for the afternoon. The bus fare is also relatively cheap, at ~HK$5
  • This also means that if you’re planning to use FlightRadar24, you should have a portable charger handy
  • Bring your own water and sunscreen – the area can be very sunny!
  • You don’t have to go during great weather – as long as it’s not raining, you’ll get good photos
  • I didn’t find anyone else there, apart from joggers and employees that were leaving HAECO for lunch. Over the few times that I’ve been, I’ve seen about 4-5 fellow planespotters in total

Some of My Photos

I’m still a photographer in training and haven’t taken any courses, so despite my constant reviewing and photo taking, I have a limited skill set when it comes to photography. Despite this, I managed to get some photos that I’m proud of. Of course, I went home and cropped the photos, which I believe you should do too, especially since you may experience zooming issues as the planes are rather close.

a plane flying in the skyCathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Taking Off Hong Kong Airport

a plane flying in the skyHong Kong Airlines Airbus A320 Taking Off Hong Kong Airport

a large airplane flying in the skyChina Airlines Boeing 747-400 Taking Off Hong Kong Airport

a large airplane flying in the skyDelta Airbus A330-200 Taking Off Hong Kong Airport

a plane flying in the skyCathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Taking Off Hong Kong Airport

a red and white airplane in the skyThai AirAsia Airbus A320 NEO Taking Off Hong Kong Airport

a plane flying in the skyAeroflot Boeing 777-300ER Taking Off Hong Kong Airport

Bottom Line

If you’re into aviation, I think that planespotting is definitely something that you should do should you find yourself with free time in Hong Kong. It’s a painless process, takes about two hours of travel time from Hong Kong Island, and it’s also fun. That said, it’s definitely not one of the world’s best places to spot planes – so if you’ve spotted somewhere else and haven’t done so at Hong Kong Airport, I don’t think you’re missing out on too much.

However, if you’re based around the area and find yourself with a free summer, you should take a morning and take some good photos of planes. Feel free to send some over to us. 😉

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