Whether you’re just flying through or coming to Prague specifically for plane spotting, PRG airport is a great place for a day out. As a relatively busy airport in the Prague countryside, PRG has interesting and growing traffic, coming mainly from the East. The airport is accomodating to planespotters, and it even has airside bus tours for photographers. I’ve been taking photos in Prague for about 13 years, and I love coming back every time!
In this article, we’ll go through all the spots, how to reach them, atc frequencies, the local perticularities, and useful links, so that you can get the best out of your trip. I also prepared a new printable map showing all the best spots. So let’s dive in!
The Airport Situation, facilities and traffic
Prague Ruzyne Airport (as we “oldtimers” call it), also known as Vaclav Havel, is situated about 10 km North-West from the centre of Prague. From its modest beginnings in 1937, house of one of the oldest airlines in the world, CSA, it has grown to today’s 15 Milion passengers, about 8 daily flights, 3 terminals and respected ATC centre that handles the whole country’s traffic.
PRG has two runways: 24/06 and 30/12. Most of the time, aiplanes use runway 24. Runway 30/12 is sometimes used by private jets or Czech ATR flights that fly towards Slovakia or Easter Europe. Runway 12 operations are the rarest, but also very enjoyable to watch from the official viewing mount.
Prague recieves anything between 6 and 8 heavy flights every day, mostly from North America (Detla, AA, Air Transat, United) and Asia (Korean Air, Sichuan Airlines, China Eastern, Hainan). There are also two regulars from the middle east, namely Emirates, who added a second daily flight this summer, and Qatar who will be soon launching the first 787 scheduled flight to Prague.
Airband Radio scanners legality and frequencies at Prague airport
Here are all the frequencies of all the facilities (up to date August 2018):
Planespotting at Prague Airport
Being in the countryside, the airport is mostly surrounded by fields or private roads, so it is possible to circle a good part of the perimetre by foot or bike. The North side of the airport is surrounded by small towns, so most of the spots can be accessed by car. We’ll look into accessibility in the spot by spot details below.
The airport has created arrangements for photographers, there are multiple official spots. Two of the spots have been equipped with viewing mounds, which offer a great view over the fence. All of the official spots also have special holes for cameras, which are also present at various other points of interest.
New (jan 2019): The new runway 24 viewing mound has opened in january 2019. It is 4.5m high (or twice as high as the old one above).
There is also a viewing terrace, free of access, situated landside between Terminal 1 and 2.
Expected visitors at Prague Airport and other useful links
The main aviation enthousiast website in the Czech Republic is Planes.cz. It has been up for many years, and has user uploaded images, spotting reports, aviation stories, and offers constantly updated, curated interesting arrivals and departures. You can find them on their Expected visitors page.
The page shows the usual daily heavies or otherwise interesting airplanes. They also publish unscheduled flights and charters, but also government and military visitors.
Here is also the official website of the airport with live arrivals and departures: Vaclav Havel Airport Prague.
Prague airport bus tour for photographers
I made an article about the tour, which I took in 2016 with my friend Keishi (KNAviation). The airport runs daily bus tours for families or individuals, which will take you airside, around various facilities like the the cargo terminal, the fire station, gates, etc.
All the tours are detailed on the airport official website, you can book the tours as well on the tour booking page. The photo tours run only a few tours a month – look for the camera icon on the calendar.
The price of the tour for photographers (Trasa F) is 300 Kč, which is around 12 euros – a bargain for a 2.5h tour! You will also need a reflective yellow or orange vest. In case you don’t have one, you can purchase one before the tour begin at Terminal 3 for 100 Kč.
Prague airport plane spotting map
He is the detailed map showing the best spots, access routes and other points of interest. Click on the map to enlarge it.
Photos from some of the best spots at PRG airport
Spot 1 – Runway 24 touchdowns – ex official viewing mound
This is one of the best spots in Prague hands down. It was good before the mound was built in 2012, after it it became even better. Especially for sunny summer evenings. It’s simply ideal light – front and low, a bit to the side. Sometimes the background can get in the way, but since you can move along the fence and into the field, you can pick and choose your angles.
Standing far way from the fence makes it almost invisible as the runway is slightly higher. Given that this is the place where most people come, especially during the weekend, the enthousiasts make for nice foregrounds.
The proximity to the runway makes it a nice place to just hang out and have a drink as the sun is going down…
Spot 2 – Short final runway 24 – field next to Cargo Terminal
This side of the airport is not as good as the northern side, but up until the sideshot position, this spot offers a great view towards the approaching aircraft, that at this point are less than 50 m high. The spot is a large field, and you can fine tune your position to get the best angle for your photos.
This place is great especially in the winter for runway 24 ops, when the light is at a low angle almost all day. From about 10 am until the afternoon, this spot has good light in the winter, and it becomes great before sunset.
Since the runway is oriented towards sunset, it means that it is possible to get sunset shots like the one below pretty much all year long. It helps that you can position yourself on both sides of the extended centreline.
Spot 3 – Menzies parking lot – taxi to runway 24
This spot is best suited for taxi photos, and is conveniently located a 5 min walk away from Terminal 1. Aircraft taxi on one of the two taxiways for takeoff from runway 24, and in the winter, this is where de-icing is conducted. A 70-200 mm lens is largely enough for the taxiing planes, but 70 mm is a bit too long for widebodies. If you have a lens longer than 200mm, you can also get the action on the runway, but the background is not the best.
Light is best here duning the winter, as it stays on the right size of the aircraft all day. Summer mornings are also good for aircraft taxiing to rwy 24.
Spot 8 – The official planespotter’s viewing mound – runways crossing
This is possibly one of my favourite spots, as you can come there any day, and see airplane from up close. Whe runway 24/06 is in use, you’ll see takeoffs and aircraft taxiing very close as they are vacating via Delta or taxiing for takeoff from 06. For runway 30 ops, heavy rotations to Asia are gorgeous, especially in the afternoon (see Korean Jumbo below). Runway 12 ops, although very rare, ale also very enjoyable, as the airplanes touch down directly in front of you, like the HiFly A310 above.
Spot 13 – Angled fence near the fuel tanks – runway 24 and 06 rotations
This is another great spot for action photos! It is best for rotating aircraft from runway 06. The A380 to Dubai rotated usually as it fills 200 mm on a 1.6 crop factor, and it’s a blast! Longer haul flights like the Korean 747-8 take a bit longer to rotate but they are usually rotating before passing the spot.
Most narrowbody planes are rotating from runway 24 at this position. If you get further away from the runway, you can get some nice touchdown photos on 24 as well, as there is a slight downwards bend in the field with a clear view of the runway.
A long lens, 70-200 mm or more is good for this spot, which allows to make nice tight compositions.
Printable prague airport plane spotting guide PDF
Listed for all spots is:
– what you can expect to see at each spot
– when is the best light
– how to reach the position
The map is in high resolution for printing, and it’s in pdf format. Here is a low resolution preview:
Expected visitors page on Planes.cz: see all the interesting airplanes that are schedules for the next few days
Planespotting is allowed, as well as use of air band scanners.
If you want a pocket pdf or printed map of all the spots with details, download the high resolution pdf map (created in aug 2018).
Having just passed 15 milion passengers in 2017, and added at least 3 new longhaul scheduled flights, Prague airport is now planning a new parallel runway. Needless to say, it’s on a roll. It’s going to be interesting to see how PRG develops in the next few years, and how the new parallel runway will change spotting at the airport.
I hope you enjoyed this guide, let me know your PRG spotting stories. If you know about any temporary spot that would be worth mentioning here, like the ephemerous runway 06 centreline hill spot from 2008, let me know below!
Til next time!