Andy - "Where are we going to go this summer then ?"
Anon - "Actually I fancy a nice relaxing holiday somewhere, not necessarily
Andy - "How about C'an Pastilla then ?"
Anon - "Where ? ……"
Thus began the planning for my first, supposedly non-spotting, holiday in 10
years, and where else to relax on a beach and forget about aeroplanes for a
week than the afore-mentioned resort on the island of Majorca. Wrong !.
For some time now we've kicked around ideas aimed at letting the aeroplanes
come to us, rather than chasing around after them - the German charter
fleets are obviously very attractive to those who don't regularly visit the
common tourist areas of the Mediterranean, and we'd spent too much time,
effort and money, making trips to the major German airports, only to come
away with one or two of each major operator, with the consequent obvious,
and very frustrating 'dropping' of frames amongst these few seen on each
Previous reports from spotters posted to the Internet were scrutinised, and
it seemed that there were definitely a couple of 'prime' resort hotels for
the purpose of spotting at Palma, namely the Luz Marina, and the Helios. The
Luz Marina is a Thomson hotel this summer, with the Helios a First Choice
hotel, so the brochures were scanned, and a very reasonable, pre-school
holidays rate was available from the latter tour company, with a discount
also available for booking direct on the telephone, and so by-passing Travel
Agencies. A request for a 'top floor room overlooking the airport' was put
into the booking, and a phone call to the hotel the day prior to our arrival
to confirm this was made, so hopefully everything was set. Just time to pack
the shorts, P20 etc, and it was off on a spotting holiday that I'd been
wanting to embark on for some time.
The sun goes down on the C'an Pastilla end of Playa de Palma beach .... and lo and behold, there's a 'NextGen' departing off 24R.
We arrived on an Air 2000 Boeing 757 from Gatwick just as the sun went down
on the evening of Thursday 13th July, and with the obviously very short
transfer to the resort completed, we were off to find our allotted room,
Number 550, with a certain amount of trepidation that it would indeed
overlook the airport. We were not disappointed, 550 being on the northerly
facing edge of the hotel, on the top floor. With a main road directly below
(the noise from which would prove to be annoying as the week progressed),
there was then a small patch of waste ground in front of us, with the main
dual-carriageway just past this, and then the airport perimeter. Almost the
whole length of runway 24L/6R was laid out in front of us, while about
two-thirds of the GA apron was visible, with the easterly corner of the main
terminal, and associated taxiways also in view. If it wasn't for the large
mound of earth at the end of 24L it would have been just perfect.
The view from room 550 of the Hotel Helios - it's late evening, and a Sterling European Boeing 737-800 is rolling off runway 06R while an Edelweiss A.320 taxies 'around the corner'.
Nevertheless it was going to suit our purposes. We had booked half board,
the food being adequate in the hotel - the management obviously knew we were
exec jet enthusiasts, putting us in room 550, and giving us table 125 for
the week !. All the north-facing rooms along our corridor would have had
good views of the airport, that is 540 thru 551. 540 might have been a
little better, with a better angle around the mound, and 551 appeared to be
a triple room, with a slightly larger balcony. The room was very clean and
comfortable, with SkyNews and Eurosport UK (handy for the Tour de France !),
but no air conditioning which meant the balcony door would have to remain
open throughout the night, and the frequent siesta's - take your earplugs !.
Interestingly I was never woken by aircraft noise however, but the constant
scooter noise was a bit wearing.
The benefit of hiring bikes is the opportunity to get out into rural Spain, just a few miles inland from the coast. The town of Sant Jordi is on a small hill close to the threshold of runway 24L.
The first few days, the very busy Friday, Saturday and Sunday, were largely
spent on the balcony, and just about everything can be read off from this
location. Runways in use during most of our visit were landings on 24L
(directly in front of us), and departures on 24R, quite a distance to the
west, but aircraft could be read off with a good telescope as they climbed
out - if you are quick. A telescope would seem pretty necessary for a lot of
the reading off, as aircraft are often fairly distant. A problem arises in
the mddle of the day with heat-haze building up, making it difficult to read
off arrivals on 24L that make the fast turn off - the daily lunch-time
Portugalia ERJ.145 arrival was a particular problem. For about a total of 2
days however, 06 was used, with 06L for landings, and 06R for take-offs.
Departures could be read off as they lined-up appearing from the right hand
side of 'the mound', however landings on 06L were a little more difficult,
but not impossible, but you possibly couldn't rely on reading everything
landing in the distance.
Anon reads off a Slovakia Airlines Tupolev Tu-154M on the rocky beach close to the Luz Marina hotel, leading towards the runway 06L approach and Palma town.
Other spots we found - the beach at C'an Pastilla is unfortunately no good
for spotting at all, which is a little disappointing as it's a lovely area.
Heading towards the approach for 06L, towards Palma town, is an area of
rocks/stoney beach which is directly under the 06L approach, and
consequently excellent for photos up until mid-day'ish. The Hotel Luz Marina
overlooks this area, at the extreme western end of C'an Pastilla, and we
could see spotters on the balcony's !. This would appear to be excellent for
arrivals on 06L, and possibly for departures on 24R too, as these go
'straight-ahead' for a number of miles before turning, but It wouldn't
appear to give any views of aircraft on the ground - I may be wrong. Other
Hotels - next-door to the Hotel Helios is the Hotel Leo, which is a very
similar building (looks like owned by the same company), but being just a
little further west the mound may obstruct views on runway 24L/6R, while on
the other side is the very large Hotel Java, a huge 'slab' of a building,
with eight floors. However all balconys face towards the sea, with the north
side of the hotel apparently being just corridors (with windows).
The GA apron is a 5 minute 'off-road' cycle ride from the Hotel Helios.
possible to walk to the GA apron from the area of the Helios, and it doesn't
take very long - a dirt track at the western edge of the waste ground behind
the hotel, leads to a pedestrian footbridge over the dual carriageway with
the GA apron at the other end of it. You can walk around to the west of the
apron, and you're almost at the terminal, and this spot gives good, but
un-sheltered views of the eastern airport runway 'complex'.
A small bend in the road close to the threshold of runway 24L allows cyclists to 'pull over' and take some photos. One of the more regular aircraft throughout the whole week is seen here on approach, a Condor Boeing 757-300.
venture to the west side of the airport, and the 'official' viewing area by
the Supermarket, but on a couple of days we did hire mountain bikes (about a
fiver for a day, from a place right at the C'an Pastilla end of Playa de
Palma beach) and cycled to the landing end of 24L, near a small (pretty and
very un-spoilt) town called Sant Jordi. Here you can get superb landing
shots up until lunch-time, although there didn't seem to be too many places
to 'pull off' the road if you were in a car. A roundabout almost underneath
the final approach looked the best option, but being on bikes we were able
to sit on the side of the road at a couple of spots close to the runway
threshold. A patch of waste ground with a mound of earth I'd used ten years
ago, was no longer there.
You do have to get up rather early (no chance for night-clubbing until 0500
!) as the German airlines do start to depart very early, often before 0700.
On the Friday morning we'd logged 25 D-'s up to 0900, while Saturday was
possibly even busier. There's obviously an awful lot of 'W' flights and
return visits however, as some of them came back again, sometimes three
times during the remainder of the day. Monday thru Thursday were in
comparison very quiet, and really if you only wanted a short stay, Friday
thru Sunday would suffice to get a very large proportion of the log below.