|Last Updated on Friday, 09 March 2012 01:22|
By Tis Meyer and Ian Lienhard, aviation photographer based in Bern.
Introduction and Operations
Bern-Belp Airport lies about 5 kilometers southeast of the Swiss capital of Bern, outside the town limits of Belp - hence its second name. The airport features one concrete runway (14/32) of 1'730m/5'700ft as well as a grass runway and a glider strip. After a long history of many unsuccessful airline connections, its new home-carrier SkyWork is propelling the airfield up the statistical ranks: In 2011, a growth of 97% percent in passengers (170'000) and 106% in movements (7'200) has pushed it up to become the national number 4, behind the "big 3" of Zurich, Geneva and Basle.
Generally speaking, Bern's traffic consists of about 75% scheduled flights and 25% charter flights. More than half of all flights at the airport are flown by SkyWork, who use their fast-growing fleet of 4 Dornier 328 and 3 Dash 8-Q400 to connect Bern to over 20 central european destinations. While the planes usually head for important cities during the week, holiday flights to the Mediterranean are common on weekends. Zurich-based Helvetic Airways has entered the Bern market in 2011, basing one aircraft in Bern for the summer season to operate holiday flights to destinations in the Mediterranean and Northern Africa. The planes of Darwin Airline are dropping by once or twice a week (usually on weekends) for the same purpose during the summer season. Since Cirrus' demise, Air France's service to Paris-Orly (operated by Airlinair) remains the only external scheduled connection. There are too many changes to the fast growing flight network out of Bern to jot down all flights here; but if you plan a visit, have a look at the seasonal schedule on the airport's official website. Generally, in summer time, weekdays offer some more frequent SkyWork operations, whereas the weekends see a slight increase in airline variety.
Thanks to its proximity to the Swiss capital, which is also Switzerland's 4th biggest city, as well as to the nearby Alps, there is a fair amount of business aviation traffic at the airport. Several companies (like Nomad Aviation) have some of their aircraft based here, and there are usually between five and ten biz-jet movements a day. Additionally, Bern is also the base of the Transport Wing of the Swiss Confederation, transporting national members of the government as well as foreign delegations. As of 2011, the following aircraft are used:
In addition to those movements, Bern Airport is a popular General Aviation aerodrome, serves as the base of several Helicopter companies (REGA, Heliswiss, Mountainflyers), and is also used as a glider strip. There's always something buzzing in the skies of Bern!
The one concrete runway is used by all commercial flights, and many of the small planes, too. Rwy 14 has an ILS system. Due to terrain restrictions in the south, Rwy 32 is usually approached using Rwy14's ILS and then breaking off for a tight, right hand visual circling. Note that taking off on Rwy 14 requires a backtrack of about half the runway's length.
Although the predominant winds in Switzerland are light westerlies, the main runway is Rwy 14, owing to its ILS system and the short taxi distance to the terminal after arrival. If the northwestern winds pick up significantly, Rwy 32 will be used. This seems to occur quite often on summer days, starting around noon, leading to Rwy 32 being in use in the afternoon.
Beware that pilots tend to ask for the most favourable runway for their flights. These wishes can be granted if a calm traffic situation allows. For example, many prefer Rwy 32 for takeoff, as it doesn't require a lengthy backtrack and offers shorter departure routes for west and southwest bound flights. However, this is of course not practicable if there's a flight already inbound for Rwy 14.
There are two bus routes serving the airport. Route 334 ("Airport Bus", Schedule) is an express service, connecting the airport to Bern's central rail station on an hourly basis, with some gaps in between. The other service is a local route (Bus 160, "Tangento", Schedule) that proceeds every hour from the airport to several local villages, with the possibility to change to the rail network at all of them; your best choice is the first village on the route, Belp, from where local trains depart to downtown Bern and to the city of Thun in the southeast.
From Bern's Main Station, it takes one hour to Basel and Zurich, and approximately two hours to Geneva.
Click on the maps above and below for bigger resolutions
Spot 1: Terminal Area
There are several viewing options close to the terminal. The most popular is the official "visitor's globe", positioned right in front of the terminal entrance, that offers views of the northern apron parts as well as the runway. This globe is covered in large parts by netting wire, restricting photography a little. The side facing the runway is made of plexiglass (see photo above). Views can also be had from a restaurant located in the old tower, from the "Propellerstübli" restaurant north of the terminal (Spot 1A) and the restaurant at the General Aviation sector south of the main terminal (Spot 1B).
Spot 2: REGA Base
If runway 32 is in use during the morning hours this spot is the most recommended. Here you'll see the approaching aircrafts shortly before touchdown or when lining up. Aircrafts parked on the ramp in front of the governmental hangars always use intersection F in front of you, bigger aircrafts from the main ramp use the runway for backtracking. Next to you is the helipad of the swiss air ambulance REGA with a based Eurocopter EC145.
Spot 3: Heliswiss Base
This spot can be used for Rwy 32 operations in the afternoon, as well as for low climb-outs out of Rwy 14 and Helicopter operations. If the runway is too far away for your camera you can walk towards the runway using the pathway next to the farmer buildings in front of the Heliswiss base. On hot days heathaze makes it impossible to spot from this spot.
Spot 4: Gürbedamm/Rwy 14
This is probably the most popular spot. A dam running along large parts of the runway, mostly in its northwestern sector, offers plenty of opportunities to take pictures. You can position yourself anywhere on the dam, depending on runway operations, expected traffic, and your personal taste. Since the dam is about 2 meters high, it lets you see over the fence without problems, and no ladder is required.
Spot 5: Morning Arrival Spot
For Rwy 14 arrivals during the first half of the day, this spot in the vicinity of the terminal is handy.
|Last Updated on Friday, 09 March 2012 01:22|