Milan's Airports: a spotter point of view


The economical capital of Italy, Milan, is located in northern Italy in the northern side of Po river valley (Pianura Padana) but not so far from the Alps. Milan (Milano in italian) has three airports:
  • Milano Linate (7 Km east of city centre)
    Milano Linate airport was until 1998 the main used because all domestic and european flight was using this airport. After the opening of the new "Malpensa 2000" airport, Linate now handle just the Milan-Rome shuttle and few others domestic and european connection. Anyway for passengers Linate is still the third Italian airport. Linate is the main biz-jets base in the area.  
  • Milano Malpensa (45 Km north-west of city centre)
    Milano Malpensa was in the past used only for intercontinental flights, charter and cargo. From October 25th 1998 the new Terminal is open and almost all the flights moved from Linate to the new hub. Now Malpensa is the second italian airport for passengers and the first for cargo. Malpensa host a large selection of scheduled and charter flights.
  • Bergamo airport (Bergamo Orio al Serio) is located just 50 Km east/north-east from city centre and it is normally considered the third Milano's airport.
    Bergamo (Milan) airport is the terminal for many low cost connections (Ryanair has a base here), the north Italian hub for many express and parcell couriers and has a good selection of domestic and European scheduled and charter connections.
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Malpensa is my home airport. I start to visit Malpensa in the late ’60. I was just a kid and my daddy take me to see the airplanes. I remember Alitalia DC-8 in old c/s and the first visit of Pan Am Jumbo Jet (it was the year 1970). At that time there was an excellent visitors terrace overlooking the main apron. Then when I was a boy, I start to go to Malpensa on sunny afternoons using my bike. In the early ’80 I bought my first reflex camera and the terrace was closed…. In the past the action in Malpensa was very slow: just few morning flights to USA (Pan Am, Twa and Alitalia), some charters and cargo flights.
The actual Malpensa is really different, the new Terminal 1 (T1), located on the west side, is used by almost all the scheduled airlines while the old terminal (now called T2), located on north side, is used for charters and VolareWeb low-cost connections.

Click here for more facts and figures about Malpensa.

Flight Information - Real Time up date

Domestic arrivals Domestic departures
International arrivals International departures

 Spotting in Malpensa

Malpensa airport do not have any dedicated area for spotting. Untill 1983 there was a very nice visitor's terrace over the Terminal (now Terminal 2 or Terminal North) but those days are gone.

Anyway Malpensa still offers some possibilities for the fans who like to take pictures of the plane (as well as for who just like to see the action). Unfortunately it is not possible to take pictures of ALL the planes, the combination of 2 runways, two main aprons, different procedures, sun position and spotting places available may lead you to a poor ratio between what you can see/what you take within your lens range.

Security

Before to start discussion about how to spot in Malpensa, just a few words about security. It seems that Italy do not have a good reputation among the International spotters. There are many spotter's reports about bad experiences with the Italian Police, but in my opinion the real situation is much better. Security measures are increased after 2001, September 11th as in all airports around the world. Spotting is not a diffused hobby in Italy, so the main problem is that Policemen do not understand those crazy people who just "waste their time" watching the planes and taking pictures. But Malpensa is a place where a spotter can spend nice days. Many International spotters come here every years and they go home having a good experience and some nice pictures! Just follows some easy rules:

  • Stay in pubblic areas, never try to move into privat properties and/or inside the airport boundary.
  • Do not damage any objetcs (i.e. do not open new holes in the fences).
  • If you are approached by the Police, explain to the Policeman who are you, where you came from and why you are there; Italian Policemen are (usually....) not so fluent in English. Usually Police only require to check your passport. If a Policeman ask you to move away, do it! Do not start any discussion with him about your right to take pictures; there are no any law against taking pictures in Italian civil airport but Police can always say "You have to move away for security reason".
  • If is possible stay together with other spotters, better is to stay together with a local spotter; this will also help you to comunicate with a "non English speaking Policeman" (contact me, usually I'm available to help any friends from around the world who came here).
  • Keep your log book inside your bag, Police can understand people who take pictures but they do not understand at all why you write down registrations on a logbook! This is absolutely uncommon here (Sorry, this is not UK!). Take care of this expecially when you are inside the Terminal and you are watching the aircrafts from the windows.
  • Do not use (and carry with you) scanners, they are not allowed by Italian law. Radio receivers can be tollerated, but I suggest you to leave this at home. Sometimes a binocular can do the same job.

Layout of the Airport

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Where to spot in Malpensa

The layout of the airport can be seen on the map above at right. It is not exactly update, but it is still a good reference to explain the spotting situation.
Having the two runways a North-South orientation, you can take pictures from the eastern side in the morning and from western side in the afternoon, may be difficult to take good pictures around noon. On the map you can see some numbers to indicate the main spotting area. Here below you can see a couple of aerial shots of the airport with the same numbers:

(click to open the picture in a new window)
View from South-East Original photo Copyright Bjorn A - www.airliners.net
View from South-East
Original photo Copyright Bjorn A - www.airliners.net
(click to open the picture in a new window)
Close view from Eastern side of the airport Original photo Copyright Denis Roschlau - www.airliners.net
Close view from Eastern side of the airport
Original photo Copyright Denis Roschlau - www.airliners.net
JS_MXP_aerial01
photo Copyright Jan Severijns
JS_MXP_aerial02
photo Copyright Jan Severijns
JS_MXP_aerial03
photo Copyright Jan Severijns

Morning Photo points - Eastern Side of the airport

To take pictures in the morning you have to move to the eastern side of the airport, the side opposite to the Terminal area. Unfortunately there is no possibilities to go on eastern side by pubblic transportation. You need a car or you have to walk for more than 5 Km (1,5 hours at least). There are 2 main Photo spots usefull in the morning:


Photo point 1

Which kind of picture you can get: action shots of the planes landing on Runway 35 R.

Hours: light is good from sunrise to around noon.

Lens: a 70-210 mm zoom is good for almost all the planes.

How to reach Photo point 1 from Terminal Area:

(see the map at right, follow the green line) Exit from the terminal area with your car and take the two lane motorway in south direction, follow "Novara" indication. Take the first exit after only 400 m (follow indication "Malpensa Cargo City"), continue on the road in South direction untill the first roundabout, turn left direction "Ferno" and "Lonate Pozzolo". You will have the airport fence at your left and you will cross both the landing paths. Turn left again. The road climb on the bridge over the railways. Photo point 1 is on the top of the bridge. Unfortunately is not possible to park the car on the bridge, if you park here Police will request to move away the car. You can try to park just before the bridge or you have to continue after the bridge for about 500 m untill the road make a sharp right turn, away from the airport fence; continue untill you reach the first houses of the village and find a place to park the car. Walk back to the airport fence. The small parking lot close to the fence (Photo point 2) has been closed to cars for security reasons.

Some example pictures from Photo Point 1:

Photo Point 1: landing shot on rwy 35R Photo Point 1: landing shot on rwy 35R Photo Point 1: landing shot on rwy 35R
photo Copyright Sascha Kamrau
Photo Point 1: spotters on duty
Spotters at Photo Point 1: hey the one
on  the left it's me, Sascha at right.
 photo Copyright Hendrik Heinze
Photo Point 1: spotters on duty
Spotters at Photo Point 1: Hendrik (on the left) and me. Photo Copyright Sascha Kamrau
Photo Point 1: view across the field
Cargo city and long term apron with Monte Rosa in the background from Point 1
Photo Copyright Sascha Kamrau

Photo point 2

Which kind of picture you can get: runway shots of the planes on Runway 35 R, touch down shots and take off roll shots.

Hours: light is good from sunrise to around noon.

Lens: a 70-210 mm zoom is good for almost all the planes. Planes taxing on central taxiway can be pictured with a long telelens (400 mm).

How to reach Photo point 2 from Terminal Area:
(see the map at right, follow the green line) From photo point 1 (the bridge over the railway) continue on the road for about 500 m untill the road make a sharp right turn, away from the airport fence; continue untill you reach the first houses of the village and find a place to park the car. Walk back to the airport fence. The small parking lot close to the fence (Photo point 2) has been closed to cars for security reasons (see below about how to take pictures from this parking lot). Walk in the pedestrian path along the airport fence and, after the fire station, turn left following the airport fence. After 200 meters you will be parallel to the runway 35R.

Additional Info: The fence in this area is new, tall and strong! There are only few (and small...) holes in the fence. A ladder (at least 3 steps) can help you but Police may request you to remove the ladder. The point is in the wood: it is nice because you stay in the shadows under the trees but beware of the mosquitos...

Some example pictures from Photo Point 2
:

Photo Point 2: touch down shot on rwy 35R Photo Point 2: touch down shot on rwy 35R Photo Point 2: touch down shot on rwy 35R
Photo Point 2: touch down shot on rwy 35R   Photo Point 2: spotters along the fence

 

map_mxp01
How to reach
Photo Points 1 and 2

(Click to enlarge in a new window)

Photo point 2 - Parking lot

Which kind of picture you can get: runway shots of the planes on Runway 35 R, Landing shots.

Hours: light is good from sunrise to around noon.

Lens: a long tele lens is needed, not less than 300 mm.

How to reach Photo point 2 Parking lot from Terminal Area:
(see the map at right, follow the green line) From photo point 1 (the bridge over the railway) continue on the road for about 500 m untill the road make a sharp right turn, away from the airport fence; continue untill you reach the first houses of the village and find a place to park the car. Walk back to the airport fence. The small parking lot close to the fence (Photo point 2) has been closed to cars for security reasons

Additional Info: The fence in this area is new and strong, but not so tall! There are no holes in the fence. A ladder (at least 3 steps) can help you but Police may request you to remove the ladder. You can find some alternatives: bins or the ladder of a small children game. Otherwise you can go on the other side of the parking lot and climb a liuttle bit on the small hill to take picture over the fence.

Some example pictures from Photo Point 2 - Parking lot
:

A.330-243 c/n 551 I-LIVM LIVINGSTON B.747-4R7F c/n 30400 c/l 1235 LX-RCV CARGOLUX B.757-200 c/n ????? c/l ??? OM-SNA AIR SLOVAKIA
JS_MXP_Park01
photo Copyright Jan Severijns
A.310-300 c/n ??? EP-IBK IRAN AIR
photo Copyright Jan Severijns
BaE 146-200 c/n E2054 ZA-MAL ALBANIAN AL
photo Copyright Jan Severijns

Afternoon Photo points - Western Side of the airport

To take pictures in the afternoon you can stayon the Terminal side. All the shooting point are in the Terminal area or can be easily reached by the free shuttle bus between the two terminals. There are 2 main Photo spots usefull in the afternoon:


Photo point 3 - Terminal 1

Malpensa new Terminal (Terminal 1) is a glass structure and it is possible to see the whole airport from inside the terminal. The upper level (used for check in operations) is accessible to everyone and from here is possible to control all the actions on the two runways and on both T1 and T2 aprons. The northern side of the level - check in area for US carriers - is not accessible. The two satellites (accessible only with a boarding card) allows also a superb views. 

Which kind of picture you can get: Planes at gates and some movements on the apron.

Hours: light is good from noon to the sunset.

Lens: from 70 up to 400 mm.

Additional Info: While Terminal 1 is excellent if you love just to see the planes, it isnít the best for photography (points 3.1). The windows are slightly tinted and only few stands are close enough for take pictures. You can take picture of planes taxing on "K" and "W" parallel taxiways but a long tele lens is required for medium size aircraft. Best place is located close to McDonalds reasturant. Beside the terminal, at departure level, there are two terraces where is possible to take some shots without glass. The northern one is the best (point 3.2). Unfortunately there are now construction works for the Terminal extension that are just in front of the terrace: the view is still good but not exactly for taking pictures.....
Leaving the Terminal and going south, from the employees car park between the Terminal and the Control Tower, there is an excellent view of Alpha Apron and some good pictures can be taken to aircarfts on closest stand. The fence is high and you need a 3/4 steps ladder (Police may comply with the ladder).

Some example pictures from Photo Points 3 on Terminal area:

Photo Point 3.1: push back from the gate at Satellite A
From the window: you can see the reflection on the glass, a ghost A.319 close to the real one! 
Photo Point 3.1: parked at the gate
From the window: this DC-10 is parked at the gate 
Photo Point 3.3: taxing into the stand
From the window:taxing into the stand
Photo Point 3.1: taxing in front of the Terminal - photo with a long telelens
From the window: small planes taxi in the distance, you need a very long telelens! 
photo Copyright Sascha Kamrau
Photo Point 3.1: taxing at the gate
From the window: taxing to the gate
photo Copyright Sascha Kamrau
Photo Point 3.1: take off on rwy 35L
From the window:take off on rwy 35L.
photo Copyright Sascha Kamrau
Photo Point 3.3: taxing on the apron
From the small terrace on Northern side of the Terminal: In the background T2 ramp.
 photo Copyright Hendrik Heinze
Photo Point 3.3: night view at the gate
From the small terrace on Northern side of the Terminal: night shots at the gate.
 photo Copyright Sascha Kamrau
Malpensa Terminal 1 land side at night
Night view of Terminal 1, land side.
photo Copyright Sascha Kamrau

 

map_mxp02

Map of terminal area
(Click to enlarge in a new window)


Photo point 4

All the spots on Southern side are no more accessible after the opening of the new cargo city.

Photo point 5

North of terminal 1, close to Alitalia Crew Centre, is probably the best spotting spot in Malpensa.

Which kind of picture you can get: Planes taxing to Terminal 1 after landing, runway pictures on 35L, take-off pictures on 35L.

Hours: light is good from early afternoon to the sunset.

Lens: 35-70 and 70-210 400 mm.

How to reach Photo point 5 from Terminal Area:

(see the map at right, follow the green line) Exit from the arrival lane in front of the terminal and turn right exactly at the end of the building, going down to the roundabout close to Parking P2. Continue on North direction, beside Parking P2 and following the indication "Terminal 2". The road turn right in the back of the new big hangar. After 300 m, at the second roundabout you have to turn left. At this roundabout you have a small parking lot just in front of you, exactly righside of Alitalia Crew Centre and the Gate to enter into the airport. Photo Point 5 is located inside at the end of that parking lot. Now is become difficult to park the car, the existing free car park is now closed (To park the car continue to drive after the roundabout leaving the AZ crew centre at your right. 300 m after you can enter the unpaved parking lot at your right used by a lot of employees). Walk back to Photo point 5. Photo point 5 is accessible also by free shuttle bus that run between the two terminals: the stop is exactly in front of Alitalia crew Center and it is the first from Terminal 1.

Additional Info: is possible to take shots of airplanes landed on runway 35L that use "E" and then "W" taxiway as entrance to T1 main apron (but many of them use the "D" taxiway to reach the apron). A 35-70 mm lens is enough.This point is also good for taking pictures of charters and cargos just before they leave the runway via "B" taxiway to T2 apron, remember that this is the only opportunity to shot charter and cargo with the wheels on the ground. When 35L is used for take-off you can take fine action shots of heavy planes just airborne. Planes land on 35R going to Terminal 1 sometimes taxi via "E" and so exactly in front of you. Using a long telelens (300 - 400 mm) it is possible also to take pictures of plane taxing from Terminal 2 to the holding points 35R or 35L via central taxiway.
There are always some holes in the fence, a ladder will help you to take take-off shots.

Some example pictures from Photo Points 5 on Terminal area:

Photo Point 5: taxing to Terminal 1 on "W"
Taxing to Terrminal 1 just in front of the fence 
Photo Point 5: take off from rwy 35L
Take-off from 35L 
Photo Point 5: vacating rwy 35L to T2 apron
Charter planes vacate the runway 35L
on their way to T2 apron 
Photo Point 5: reverse action on rwy 35L
On runway 35L
A.321-112 (c/n 488) I-BIXE ALITALIA TEAM
Taxing to 17R for departure: great but it happens only 1 day per year!
Photo Point 5: taxing to Terminal 1 on "W", spotters on duty.
Spotters on duty on Photo point 5

 

 

 

 

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Map of terminal area
(Click to enlarge in a new window)


Photo point 6 - Terminal 2 area

Terminal 2 aprons, used for charters and Cargos, usually handle the most interesting planes. Unfortunately there is only one photo point. At right side of Arrival Building, before car parkings, a road leads to terminal 1 (the road is used by shuttle bus between the two terminals). Following this road, just 150 meters after the Arrival Buildings, You will have a good view of half of the main apron. In late summer afternoons, you can try to get a picture of the planes parked on closest stand. These stands are used only by medium size (B.737, A.320) charters, mainly from Italian operators (Neos, Volare, Eurofly and so on). The fence is high and you absolutely need 3/4 steps ladder. Try to make a visit here at the end of the spotting days, just before sunset.

 


Some general informations

There are very limited opportunities for taking pictures from Terminal 2 area.

Charter and Cargo flights (usually the most interesting ones) can be photographed only while landing in the morning (photo points 1 and 2), or just after landing on 35L in the afternoon from photo point 5 on the map. They use T2 Apron and on departures go to 35L or 35R runways using the central "C" taxiway that is in the middle of the airport and so far for any photo.

runway 35R is mainly used for landing while 35L for departures. This isn’t a strong rule and you can see landings and take off on both runways at the same time.
The Official procedure is: from 02.30 hour to 10.30, runway 35R is used for Landing and 35L for take-off. From 10.30 to 18.30, 35L for landing and 35R for take-off. At 18.30 o’clock the last switch of the day: 35R for landing and 35R for take-off. This is repeated the following day but changing the order: from 02.30 to 10.30 landing on 35L and take off on 35R. At 10.30 35R start to be used for Landing and 35L for take-off. Final change at 18.30. This (complicated) system is used  to reduce noise pollution.

There are no taxiways "usually" used and there are no a standard taxi procedure.

This means that you could never be sure to take picture of a specific plane. If you wait so long for a specific aircraft, be sure that it will use the "wrong" runway for landing, the "wrong" taxiway, the "wrong" stand and the "wrong" runway for take-off (Murphy law, Malpensa spotter version).

If you are planning to visit Malpensa, just E-mail me, it will be a pleasure to give you more information and, why not, to take some shots together.

 

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Last update: 29-04-2007

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