Bern-Belp (BRN/LSZB)
Guides Switzerland
Last Updated on Friday, 09 March 2012 01:22

By Tis Meyer and Ian Lienhard, aviation photographer based in Bern.

 

Quick Infos
ARR/DEP: 
TWR: 
ATIS: 
127.325
121.025 (Alt: 119.700) 
125.125
Link Webcam
Link Timetable ARR | DEP

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.

 

Traffic

Typical Airline Traffic in Bern
Airline Types Frequency
SkyWork D328, Dash 8-400 Numerous Daily
Air France ATR-42 1-2 daily
Helvetic Fokker 100 Daily charters in summer
Darwin Saab 2000 Weekly charters in summer
FlyBe Dash 8-400 A few charters in winter

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!

 

Runway Operations

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.

 

 

 

 

Getting there

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.

 

 

Spotting Points

Click on the maps above and below for bigger resolutions

Area around the terminal (Spots 1) Area around the REGA Base (Spot 2)


 

 

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).

Getting there See "Getting There" section above. There are various parking options on offer, see the official airport website for more information.
Facilities Restaurant, small shops and toilets available inside the terminal
Focal Length Starting from 15mm for wide-angle apron shots, acft on the runway need 150-250mm, and 400mm can be handy for action shots.
Views All operations in either runway direction, apron traffic, parked acft.
Best Time Until about 10-11AM in summer.
Attention

Parked below the visitor's globe

View of the apron and runway (F100) from the globe

Takeoff Rwy 14 from the globe (late evening)

View from the Old Tower Restaurant (facing south)

Parked; from Spot 1B

Taxiing; from 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.

Getting there Limited parking at the spot, more on the other side of the street. The local bus (160) stops at the spot, too (Belp, Giessenbad).
Facilities Restaurant and Toilets available inside the terminal
Focal Length About 100mm for an ATR42 on the runway, 60mm for a Citation C560 on the taxiway.
Views Landings and takeoffs on runway 32, aircraft taxiing to the government area and the REGA Facility.
Best Time Runway/Approach shots until about 10-11AM in winter
Attention Even if the fence isn't realy high and there are some stones to stand on, a small ladder would make it easier to spot here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Getting there Bus Nr. 333 from Belp's train station stops nearby; however, it only operates in the morning and evening peak hours of weekday. Otherwise' exit bus 160 at Muristrasse-Süd and walk down the Muristrasse for about 1km.
Facilities There is a Landi next to the busstop Muristrasse-Süd with some refreshments, otherwise you have to go to the terminal.
Focal Length 250mm for a G-IV, around 50mm for helicopter movements around the Heliswiss facility
Views Aircrafts approaching runway 32 and helicopter operations from the Heliswiss base. Aircrafts approaching the gliderstrip almost fly over your head.
Best Time From 10-11AM until sunset
Attention Do not walk onto the Heliswiss tarmac without permission, even if there are no helicopteroperations!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Getting there

There are two ways to get here. If you haven't got a car, bringing a scooter/skateboard is a great idea

  • It's a 2km/25min walk from the terminal
  • You can also route via the village of Kehrsatz, which is served by local trains from downtown Bern. From there it's a 2.2km/30min walk to the spot, that goes gently downhill (ideal for scooters!)
Facilities No restaurant, shops or toilets near the spot. The closest options are at the terminal.
Focal Length 100-200mm for planes on the runway, up to 400mm for great action shots
Views All operations on Rwy 14 (landings, backtracks). Faster arrivals into Rwy 32, climb outs from Rwy 32 (angle is good on most planes).
Best Time From 11AM till sunset in summer.
Attention It's forbidden to drive along this side of the airport, so make sure to park your car on one of the marked car park areas on the map above and walk down.

Typical Rwy 14 approach shot

Backtracking Rwy 14

Rolling out on Rwy 32

Early TO Rwy 32 (340mm)

Later TO Rwy 32

Climbout Rwy 32

 

 

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.

Getting there See Spot 1 and "Getting There" section above respectively.
Facilities Restaurant and Toilets available inside the terminal
Focal Length
Views
Best Time
Attention

 

 

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Last Updated on Friday, 09 March 2012 01:22
 
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