While the number of flights in and out of Aotearoa has dropped dramatically due to COVID-19, Auckland International Airport remains an amazing place to do a bit of plane spotting.
Before we get started, you may be thinking this guide is just for aviation geeks - but it's not, for two reasons.
Firstly, aircraft spotting can be a really fun, free activity for all kinds of people. When I'm at the airport, there are more families with young kids having a great time watching planes take off than there are more intense enthusiasts with scanners and cameras in (I'm one of those).
Secondly, true aviation geeks already know the best places to spot airplanes at every airport they can easily access.
Where to spot planes from
Since the public observation deck closed down some years ago, Auckland Airport's best public viewing area is located on Puhinui Road. It's about a five minute drive or 6km from the centre of the Auckland Airport precinct.
There are parking areas on both sides of the road but moving between them isn't allowed, so make sure you pick a side and stick to it. Puhinui Road is very busy and traffic is often travelling at high speed, so just be aware of this when arriving, departing and when you're out of your vehicles.
Until the pandemic, Auckland was one of the busiest airports for its size in the world. At one point it was servicing as many as five Airbus A380s every day. During the summer months, picnics on the grass in the evening were a common occurrence and with space for picnic blankets quite limited, people would protect their patch much like the pukekos who also call this spot home.
The view you are going to get from the Puhinui Road lookout depends entirely on wind direction. The aircraft will either be taking off towards you, or away from you.
Both directions have advantages and disadvantages.
If you specifically want to see the aircraft taking off toward you, check the weather forecast and wait for a day with easterly winds forecast. Anything from a north-easterly to a south-easterly and you will be in luck.
However, if you want to watch the flights fly across you as they come in to land, then look for a westerly wind forecast - this is much more common as Auckland's prevailing wind is from the southwest.
What aircraft will I see taking off from Auckland Airport?
The easiest way to know the origin or destination of the aircraft you're watching is to download an app such as FlightRadar24.com. Even the free version of this app will allow you to see all of the aircraft and flight information for each plane that passes you.
You just need to zoom in on the map to your location.
What time should I go plane spotting?
Even with a much reduced schedule due to COVID-19, there are still special and exciting aircraft to be seen coming into and flying out of Auckland.
The best way to find out when to see them is to download a flight tracking or airport timetable app, but you could also just check online.
Don't let the timetable trick you
Flight timetables often show many flights arriving at the same time from the same place. For example, the screenshot below shows four flights all coming from Singapore and arriving in Auckland at 12:15am.
This information is a bit disceving. These are codeshare flights (link to explainer on codeshare flights) meaning different airlines have agreed to sell seats on each other's flights. So in this case, there aren’t four flights arriving - just one.
SQ282, the Singapore Airlines flight with the shorter flight number, is the actual aircraft and flight that will actually touch down. So don’t expect four planes at the same time, or a Swiss aircraft to be randomly landing in Auckland.
You can also turn the plane spotting into a bit of a competition. Give one of your family members a phone with the previously mentioned FlightRadar app installed, then as each flight comes in, the rest of the family can try and guess where it has flown from. Or, if you want to make it more competitive, see if they can also guess the type of aircraft too.
A warning: this game can get addictive so you may end up spending hours there.
The nearest public toilets are located in the same block as The Warehouse Airport store, or inside the airport itself. There are no bathrooms at the lookout site.
Food and drink:
There are plenty of fast food restaurants within a few minutes drive of the lookout including McDonalds, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts and Carl's Jnr.
Do you have any plane spotting tips for Aucklanders? Send an email to email@example.com or comment in our Newshub Travel Facebook Group.