Caution: Based on data and experiences of 2013!

 

 

Typically Ibiza: A british charter plane rocketing off Rwy 06 with lots of interesting biz-jets in the back.

 

Introduction

Ibiza's only airport is located approximately 7 kilometers southwest of downtown Ibiza and features a single runway (06/24, 2'800m/9'200ft) and one large apron with an attached terminal building. In 2012 it handled approximately 5.5 million passengers and about 58'000 aircraft movements, making it Spain's eight-busiest in both statistics.

 

Traffic

As with all leisure destinations in the Mediterranean, Ibiza's traffic is busiest in the warm season, peaking in the summer months of June, July and August.

Regular traffic: The most dominant airline is Ryanair, flying several Ibiza based aircraft to just over 20 destinations in summer, and half a dozen cities in winter. Behind, Spanish carriers link the island to the most important places in the country, namely Barcelona (Vueling), Madrid (Air Europa, Iberia Express, Vueling), Alicante and Valencia (Iberia Express). Another important factor are the flights to the other Balearic islands, Mallorca and Menorca, carried out by Iberia's Air Nostrum subsidiary.

Seasonal traffic: Ibiza's airport seems to be most popular with airlines from the UK, Germany and Italy, and to a lesser extent with those from Belgium, France, The Netherlands and Switzerland. The most popular international destinations are Manchester, London Gatwick, London Stansted, Birmingham and Milan. This is reflected n the variety of airlines to be seen:

  • UK: Many Thomson Airways (B738, B757), Thomas Cook (A32X, B757) and Jet2 (B733, B738, B757), Monarch (A32X, B757) British Airways (E190/A32X)
  • Germany: Condor (A32X, B767), Air-Berlin (A32X/B738), TUIfly (B738), Germanwings (A320), Lufthansa (B733)
  • Italy: Alitalia (A32X), Air One, Livingston (A32X), Neos (B738)

Biz-jets/VIP traffic: Thanks to Ibiza's popularity as a celebrity hot-spot and owing to its many famous clubs and bars, the airport receives a good amount of biz-jets per day. At least a dozen of them can be seen each day, and more impressive aircraft all the way up to BBJs, private Boeing 727s and even Qatar's A340-500 can quite often been seen on the tarmac.

 

Traffic varies quite a lot from day to day. Generally it is strongest on weekends, but during the summer season even the slower weekdays feature 15 to 20 leisure flight movements. Several Jet2 and Thomson Airways flights can be seen on all days. Most of the British and German charters appear to arrive in two distinct waves, one between 9-11AM in the morning and one between 5-8PM in the evening (plus a thid one before midnight). In the 2013 season, Saturday was the busiest day with a strong focus on British and German carriers, while Sunday was pretty busy too, offering a wider selection of airlines (including a lot from Italy).

Best check the traffic data of the previous week on Flightstats.com before you go, work with AENA's official airport timetable during your spotting (it also shows aircraft types) and use Flightradar24 to keep track of the planes' exact locations.

 

Operations and Winds

When winds are calm, Rwy 24 is preferred. The Spanish AIP states for the preferential runway: "RWY 24, because of environmental reasons, will be preferential whenever the tail wind component does not exceed 10 kt and the runway surface is dry or wet with braking action good."

However, pilots' discretion is taken into consideration when winds and traffic are calm and especially Ryanair makes good use of this.

During my stay it was usually calm in the mornings, until the winds picked up in either direction around 10-11AM and usually stayed in that direction until sunset. Easterly and westerly winds seemed to occur about equally often during my two weeks' stay, which corresponds with the below observation of Weatherspark (southwesterly and westerly winds can be counted as one, as they both result in Rwy 24 being used).

(Weatherspark, retrieved July 2013)

 

 

ATC Frequencies (as of 2013)

Taken straight from the Spanish AIP's aeronautical charts for Ibiza.

Incoming traffic is being handed off by Brindisi or Athens to APP who directs them near the airport. Then, about overhead, they change to the Tower frequency where they stay until shutdown.
Corfu is equipped with an ATIS-, APP- and TWR-frequency which are in use daily. Departing aircraft are handed off to APP ("Kerkyra Radar") who clears them about to FL200. Then they have to switch to a Radar station, Brindisi for westbound flights and Athens for eastbounds.

StationFrequency
Arrival (Palma Radar) 134.825
Ibiza Tower 118.500
Ibiza Ground (not always in use) 121.925
Ibiza ATIS 119.800

 

 

Spotting Points

(click on the map for a larger version which is perfect to print on A4)

 

 

Spot 1: Stone wall at Rwy 24 threshold

This is probably the most famous and mostly used spot (even if I was a bit disappointed by it). Next to the beginning of Rwy 24, the otherwise very tight and solid perimeter fence is supported by a stone wall and has some considerable holes in it. This allows you to either climb *on* the stone wall, or use one of the holes in the fence to peek through. Of course you can also just bring a ladder.

Getting there Exit the airport motorway following the signs for "Se Canal" and "Ses Salines", the area south of the airport. This will take you on main road PM 802. Follow this road for 850 meters. Just after you pass a bar named DC-10 on the right, a dirt road breaks off to the right towards the fence. This dirt road follows the perimeter fence all the way to the airport's western end. However, you stop after about 200 meters as soon as you notice the fence moving up on the stone wall. Note: this dirt road is very, very bumpy, so take care and drive slowly, and probably don't bring your Ferrari here.
Facilities Nothing; the closest places to buy food are inside the terminal or at the beach of Playa d'en Bossa.
Views Rwy 24 landings and line-ups, acft taxiing to Rwy 24. Rwy 06 takeoffs are usually a bit high, and Rwy 06 landings tend to vacate the runway before the end.
Focal Length 50-80mm should do for side-ons on the runway, more than 200mm will rarely be needed even for creative shots.
Best Time Sunrise until about 3PM (summer)
Attention The dirt road leading here is really bumpy, so take care. There isn't much space to park a care at the spot. Better park it right where the dirt road branches off from the main road.
Heat haze can become a nuisance on particularly hot days.

Overview of the line-up area (50mm)

Landing Rwy 24 (65mm)

Line-up Rwy 24 (240mm)

Acft taxiing to Rwy 24 (160mm)

Rwy 06 takeoff (105mm)
View of the spot (notice the fence moving up onto the wall)

 

 

Spot 2: Dirt Road

Following the dirt road from Spot 1 for another 600-800 meters to the west, you will reach a farm/plantation surrounded by a stone wall on the left. The two stone pillars at the western and eastern end of this stone wall can be used to stand on and look over the fence. The eastern end is better, however this leaves you virtually standing in the garden of a small neighbouring house (which seems to be a weekend home). As this is private property, please take extra care not to disturb anyone, not to litter, and be ready to leave if instructed to do so. I've never had any problems though.

Getting there From Spot 1, follow the dirt road to the west for about 600 to 800 meters, until you notice a long stone wall on the left this time.
Facilities Nothing; the closest places to buy food are inside the terminal or at the beach of Playa d'en Bossa.
Views Suitable for landings and takeoffs in both directions. Most Rwy 06 landings use the highspeed exit abeam the spot, but can still be photographed. Fantastic Rwy 06 take-off shots can be had especially from the eastern stone pillar. Rwy 24 movements will all be on the ground here and probably partially obstructed by the fence.
Focal Length 80-100mm will do for side-on shots, more than 200mm shouldn't be needed.
Best Time Sunrise until about 3PM (summer)
Attention
  • The dirt road leading here is really bumpy, so take care. There isn't much space to park a care at the spot. Better park it right where the dirt road branches off from the main road.
  • You're standing on private property (and on a private stone fence). Be extra kind and careful!
  • Heat haze can become a nuisance on particularly hot days.

Rwy 06 takeoff from the western stone pillar; note the fence (100mm)

Same situation from the eastern stone pillar - much better! (100mm)

Fantastic action shots can be had, too (275mm)

Runway shots can be had, too, especially from the eastern pillar (100mm)

Some short-hauls off 06 (this one to Milan) can be a bit high (200mm)
View from the eastern stone pillar down on the dirt road, fence and airport

 

 

Spot 3: Es Codols Beach

At the western end of the airport lies the pebbly beach of Es Codols. This is a great (and pretty scenic) location for approach shots when Rwy 06 is in use, as you can position yourself anywhere along the very long beach for your favourite photo angle. Limited views onto the runway can be had from an emergency gate in the southwestern corner of the perimeter fence.

Getting there

Either (paved road): At the roundabout behind the airport terminal, do not enter the airport complex but continue driving westwards just north of it, following the sign for Saint Josep. Follow this road around the terminal complex and it will start running parallel to the runway just north of it. Follow the road into a small forest (past Spot 4), and after two rights and lefts you will reach its end at two red high-rise apartment blocks. From there it's a 2 minute walk onto the beach (on the evening side in terms of light).

Or (dirt road): Coming from Spots 1 and 2, just follow the dirt road until it reaches the southwestern tip of the airport fence right at the beach.

Facilities Nothing; the closest places to buy food are inside the terminal or at the beach of Playa d'en Bossa.
Views Planes approaching Rwy 06, limited views of line-ups Rwy 06.
Focal Length Depending on your position on the beach, 50-400mm. 150-200mm for runway views.
Best Time All day, standing south of the runway until about 3PM and moving north of the approach axis until sunset.
Attention See notes on Spots 1 and 2 if you're using the dirt road. Severe heat haze on runway shots.

Beach views looking north and south (120mm)

Rwy 06 approach at 400mm

Rwy 06 approach at 135mm

Evening side at 400mm

Rwy 06 line-up (150mm)
This gate in the south-western corner is the best spot for line-up shots

 

 

Spot 4: Rwy 06 line-up hill

This is probably the second most popular spot. From a slightly elevated hill inside a tiny forest area just north of the beginning of Rwy 06, you can catch landings and departures on this runway in the evening.

Getting there At the roundabout behind the airport terminal, do not enter the airport complex but continue driving westwards just north of it, following the sign for Saint Josep. Follow this road around the terminal complex and it will start running parallel to the runway just north of it. Abeam the Rwy 06 threshold it will turn right into a small forest. Just past this right turn, turn right again into a short sand/dirt road leading slightly uphill to a tall antenna (see StreetView). From here you have a good view down on the runway. There is space to park about 2-3 cars on this dirt road.
Facilities Nothing; the closest places to buy food are inside the terminal or at the beach of Playa d'en Bossa.
Views Planes lining up and landing on Rwy 06. Unfortunately, lined up planes can only pictured slightly from behind. From the original spot it is also *not* possible to take pictures of aircraft approaching on the taxiway (which would have great light), as the fence and other obstacles are in your way. You *can* however move up to the fence and shoot through it, however this requires you to find your way through a 5 meter wide trench of brushes (and countless thorns) - bring long trousers. Check it out on Google Streetview.
Focal Length 100-150mm should do in most cases, up to 300mm are useful for close-ups of planes lining up.
Best Time Evening, from around 4PM till sunset.
Attention  

Looking at the holding bay of Rwy 06 (105mm)

This is the most side-on view to be had from the spot (170mm).

The best type of line-up picture that can be taken (260mm)

On the taxiway, shot through (under) the fence (40mm)

Fantastic approach pictures can be taken from here! (115mm)
View from the spot onto the Rwy 06 line-up.

 

 

Spot 5: Terminal

Photography is also possible from inside the terminal, although in limited ways.

Landside (before security): About 100 meters from the terminal's western end, head up the stairs following the signs for departing passengers. Right at the top of the stairs there is a waiting hall with large windows overlooking the western part of the apron and the runway. Unfortunately, these windows don't seem to have been cleaned for several years and they are very, very dirty. Still, if you find a rather clean spot, the pictures turn out reasonably sharp.

Airside (after security): There are windows looking out over the apron for almost the full length of the terminal, so you can easily shoot here before or after your flights. I don't have any pictures shot through those windwos but I do think they're a bit cleaner.

Getting there Departure level of the terminal
Facilities Only a small kiosk landside, several restaurants, fast-food joints and shops once you're airside.
Views View of apron/gate action as well as the runway in the back.
Focal Length 150-200mm should be more than enough even for runway shots
Best Time From about 4PM onwards
Attention Dirty windows

Landing Rwy 06, from the landside area (150mm)

Landing Rwy 06, from the landside area (180mm)

View of a remote stand from the landside area (150mm)
 

 

 

 

 

Spot 6: Rwy 24 evening spot

This one became my favorite spot instantly after I'd discovered it. It doesn't seem to be too well known, for I've never seen another spotter there. However, it allows good and pretty scenic views of both arrivals and departures on Rwy 24 in the evening. Once again, you will need to climb a stone wall surrounding a farm, and from up there you can see over the fence onto the beginning of Rwy 24.

Getting there

From the airport: Drive towards Ibiza town. After the second roundabout, just when the motorway is about to start and some warehouses appear on the right, take the right lane (signposted as Se Torre Blanca) which slowly climbs uphill parallel to the motorway (see it in StreetView). At the roundabout that follows, take the first exit to the right which will lead you down to the runway. After 100 meters you'll reach a T-junction with an old stone building at your 12 o'clock position. Park your car there. Notice the stone wall on your left? Climb up there to take pictures.

From Ibiza town: Driving on the motorway towards the airport, take the last exit before the motorway ends, labeled as "Can Frigoles, Zone Industrial". At the roundabout overhead the motorway that now follows, turn left onto the road that will take you down to the runway. After 100 meters you'll reach a T-junction with an old stone building at your 12 o'clock position. Park your car there. Notice the stone wall on your left? Climb up there to take pictures.

Facilities Nothing; the closest places to buy food are inside the terminal or at the beach of Playa d'en Bossa.
Views Planes holding short of, lining up on and landing on Rwy 24. Low departures off Rwy 06.
Focal Length 150-200mm will be needed for side-ons of planes in the runway axis, a bit more will be helpful for close-ups.
Best Time Evening, from 4PM onwards
Attention Even though you're away a bit from the next residential buildings, the stone wall is still private property. Please be careful and kind, and don't offend anyone. And please be gentle on the stone wall itself so that it's still standing for the next spotter to come by!

Landing Rwy 24 (160mm)

Close-up while waiting on the taxiway (250mm)

Arrival and departure (100mm)

Lined up on Rwy 24 (150mm)

Low climbout off Rwy 06 (285mm)

Picture of the spot (Google Streetview)

 

 

Spot 7: Playa d'en Bossa and hotels

One great thing about Ibiza airport's location is that the approach path to Rwy 24 leads right over one of the most popular beaches on the island, Playa d'en Bossa. This 5km long stretch of sand is framed by dozens of beach hotels, giving you ample possibilities to stay near the airport - and even spot from the comfort of your room! The whole of the beach is public, so you can relax anywhere you like and take pictures of all the planes from there. Now that sounds like a great holiday, eh?

Getting there Get to the western end of Playa d'en Bossa: From the airport, join the motorway from downtown Ibiza, but take the first exit. At the roundabout, take the second exit (to the right), which will lead you down towards the beach and all the hotels.
Facilities Lots of restaurants, supermarkets and hotels along the beach and main street.
Views Planes approaching Rwy 24: Just walk along the beach till you find a good angle. If you're too far away from the runway axis (near the Grand Palladium Hotel), heat haze from the warmed up sand will affect your pictures from around 11AM. 
Planes departing Rwy 06: Here you want to be as far away from the runway axis as you can: Try the area around the Grand Palladium Hotel or climb up to the small white tower located on a hill at the southern end of the beach.
Focal Length Depending on your location on the beach, but having at least 300mm (better 400mm) is recommended.
Best Time Early morning until about 3PM
Attention  

Looking down on the beach and its hotels during approach to Rwy 24 (Robin G.)

Views from the beach (Palladium area) and tower (100mm and 130mm)

View of a Rwy 24 arrival from Grand Palladium's room 4237 (50mm)

An arrival seen from room 4237 at the Grand Palladium (beach would be similar) (330mm)

A climbout seen from the Grand Palladium room (beach would be similar) (400mm)

 

 

 

Places to stay

 

The Grand Palladium Hotel *****

Website | Tripadvisor (84% rating)

Our choice for the holidays was this 5-star hotel resort and spa located at the very southern end of Playa d'en Bossa. All rooms in Block Nr. 4 facing east (rooms 4227 to 4244 to be on the top floor) have a good view of the extended runway axis, i.e. of planes on approach to Rwy 24 or on climbout from Rwy 06.

A small public balcony at the northern end of Block 4 allows you to see the apron and the planes parked there. Due to the heat haze you won't be able to read registrations, but it's still good just to see what's on site.

The hotel's location a bit further away from the runway axis (compared to the other hotels) means that even planes climbing out from Rwy 06 can still be captured at a reasonably good angle. This applies especially to planes headed for the UK and Northern Europe, i.e. fuelled up for over three hours of flight and therefore climbing out lower. This location also gives you a nice and flat angle for approach shots, however because of the considerable distance, heat haze will become noticeable from about 11AM (at a temperature of around 25 degrees).

If you're staying at this hotel, it's advisable to bring a 400mm lens. For the hotels closer to the approach path, a 300mm lens might do.

The quality of the hotel was very good (it's one of the only 5-stars on this beach), however the rates were fairly high, too. It's in a calmer area of the beach, so if you're looking for a lot of action in the evening, you should choose to stay at a more central location. For trips to the airport its location is formidable though: 5 minutes by taxi and 15 minutes by bike is all it takes to get to the terminal!

Below a few pictures taken at the Grand Palladium:

 


Looking down on the beach and its hotels during approach to Rwy 24 (Robin G.)

Looking toward the airport from the public balcony in Block 4 (285mm).

View of a Rwy 24 arrival from Grand Palladium's room 4237 (50mm)

An arrival seen from room 4237 (330mm)

A climbout seen from the Block 4 balcony (400mm)

 

Other Hotels

I haven't tried those hotels myself, but considering their location, they could be quite suitable for planespotting as well, as they all lie south of the runway axis (i.e. shooting north). Check the links below to gather more information about them:

As you can imagine, there are dozens of other hotels scattered along Playa d'en Bossa. While you may not be able to photograph airplanes directly from there, they're all located very close to the airport and therefore very suitable for planespotting holidays.

Also keep an eye on the Ibiza site over at plane-spotting-hotels.com!

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