I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published June 27th 2017
Free Airshow Daily
I don't know about you but I definitely find myself consigned to that basket marked 'Plane Tragic'. After a life-time in aviation I still can't help myself 'Plane Spotting' every time an aircraft of any description flies overhead or nearby. My wife just sighs and rolls her eyes but I honestly can't help myself.
On approach to Melbourne's Runway 16 - almost close enough to reach out and touch. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Many, many years ago I was that kid who spent half his life sitting on the fence at airports anywhere and everywhere just watching aircraft come and go. I didn't need to take notes. The details of each and every plane were indelibly etched into my mind.
In stark contrast to the 'good old days' today you'd probably be judged a security threat and asked to move on if you lingered too long around the airport perimeter. Of course that's balanced out by modern technology and the phone app which, when you point the phone at a passing plane, gives you its type, radio call-sign, flight number and departure & destination points. And if you've got the right equipment you can to listen to air/ground radio communications anywhere.
This website lists Air Traffic Control and airline company frequencies around the world, including Melbourne, Essendon and Moorabbin Control Towers.
Most airports used to have public viewing areas overlooking the movement areas but today you'll only get limited views from within the terminal. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Despite the every tightening security net there are still some great spots to watch aircraft movements in close proximity to, if not right on, the aerodrome itself.
The most popular spot for plane spotting around Melbourne, and the busiest in terms of aircraft movements, is right under the approach path to Melbourne's Runwy 16, at the intersection of Bulla Road and Oaklands Rd, just opposite Woodlands Historic Park.
Here you're so close to the arriving aircraft you'll often feel the slightest spray, and certainly cop the smell, of jet fuel in the air. The other popular spot at Tullamarine is on Operations Road, leading to the Control Tower. About half way down the length of the north-south runway there's a parking area that looks across the movement area to the terminal complex and provides good views of both arriving and departing aircraft.
At nearby Essendon airport the best spot is in the DFO car park, at the northern end of Bulla Road. Aircraft movements here are far fewer than Tullamarine but you do get to see quite a few older and sometimes historic types coming & going.
Essendon Airport is home to a number of older aircraft types.....
..... and Emergency Service's helicopters. Photos: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Down at Moorabbin Airport there's a reasonable viewing area on Bundoora Parade, adjacent to the Control Tower. These are almost exclusively light aircraft movements but in sometimes quite considerable numbers so it's not a bad spot at all.
Go to any country aerodrome and you'll usually find a reasonable viewing point with little difficulty but again movement numbers are down and it's easy to sit around for long periods with not much happening.
You'll find some real gems parked behind the sheds at country aerodromes. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Fortunately though, Melbourne, or Avalon at least, is home to the Australian National Airshow, the world champion of plane spotting venues that provides a mega fix for enthusiasts. Unfortunately that only comes around every two years so it can be a long time between drinks for a Melbourne plane tragic like me.
But for the ultimate 'plane spotting' fix it has to be the thrills of a full-on airshow. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank