Airside adventures at Melbourne Airport

On the Sunday just gone, I headed off to Melbourne Airport for the first time in years – I had an 7am date with a Qantas A380, having been lucky enough to win a spot on an airside tour to mark it returning to Melbourne after the Covid-19 triggered disruption to aviation.

Our group of airside planespotters photograph a Jetstar A320 after take off from runway 34

Paperwork ahoy

The morning starting when I pulled into the airport car park at 6.30am.

Multistorey T4 car park overlooks the ground level long term car park

Then off to the terminal, where I and the other lucky winners met the staff from Melbourne Airport, and filled in the paperwork required to be issued with visitors passes so we could enter the airside security restricted area.

"No Trespassing or Interference" sign at Melbourne Airport

Almost an hour later the paper shuffling was finally done and passes issued, so time to go – upstairs, downstairs, around the bend and then through a staff only door, leading to the security checkpoint leading airside. Time to bring out our ID and visitors passes, have them cross-referenced against the Aviation Security Identification Card of our Melbourne Airport sponsor, photo taken, bags x-rayed and put through the explosive detection swab, and we were in.

Or not – we were greeted by the baggage handing room.


Kane Constructions photo

Down another corridor, out a door, along the apron, and there it was – the bus that would take us out beside the runway.

Carbridge bus #43 BS04UB waiting beneath Melbourne Airport terminal 4 to take us out airside

And the Melbourne Airport airside safety car that would escort us there.

Melbourne Airport airside safety car waiting beneath terminal 4 to lead our bus out airside

But a piece of bad news – the Qantas A380 arrival we had came here to photograph had been cancelled, the plane stuck in Sydney due to technical issues.

None the less, there was still a busy morning of both international and domestic arrivals and departures to see, so all aboard!

Headed airside

Off we went driving along the taxiways.

Melbourne Airport airside safety car waiting to lead our bus out to the next photo spot airside

Having to give way to taxiing planes.

Our bus gives way to a Jetstar A320 using the taxiway ahead of us

But we made it – the bus pulled up beside the arrival end of runway 34.

Carbridge bus #43 BS04UB waiting airside while us planespotters are busy photographing the passing planes

A taxiway on the other.

Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 VH-YFK taxis past our group of airside planespotters

And aircraft lighting beneath our feet.

Detail of a taxiway centre light inset into the pavement

Our instructions from our airfield safety escort were quite simple – “don’t go past the gable markers in the grass over there or the runway gets shut down, but you can go behind the bus, just not onto the taxiway”.

Time for some planespotting

The first arrival was a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 freighter.

Singapore Airlines 747-412F freighter 9V-SFO on final approach to Melbourne Airport runway 34

Touching down a short distance away from us.

Singapore Airlines 747-412F freighter 9V-SFO touches down at Melbourne Airport runway 34

Rolling past with full reverse thrust.

Singapore Airlines 747-412F freighter 9V-SFO touches down at Melbourne Airport runway 34

Next up was a far smaller QantasLink DHC Dash 8 Q300.

QantasLink Bombardier DHC-8-315Q VH-TQZ on the takeoff roll along runway 34

A Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800.

Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 VH-VUP

And a Xiamen Air Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Xiamen Air Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner B-1567 on touchdown to runway 34

Who were amused by our group of photographers standing out beside the runway.

Crew onboard Xiamen Air Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner B-1567 have spotted our group of planespotters airside

The stream of inbound flights led to a queue of planes waiting to take off.

Qantas Boeing 737-838 VH-VXJ and Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANJ waiting to take off from runway 34

First to take off was an Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANJ on the take off roll along runway 32

Soaring off into the grey skies.

Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANJ after take off from runway 32

From out in the middle of the airfield, this landing Jetstar Airways Airbus A320 looked quite tall and lanky.

Jetstar Airways Airbus A320-232 VH-VFP touches down on runway 34

But the noisiest plane was this relatively small 125-seater QantasLink Boeing 717.

QantasLink Boeing 717-2BL VH-YQS after takeoff from runway 34

I swear the pilot had wound the two rear-mounted engines up as far as they could go, and launched the plane right off the runway in no time at all.

“Change places!”

With the international arrivals finished for the morning, we climbed back onboard the bus and drove a little further down runway 34 to where departing pilots call “rotate” and take off.

Our group of airside planespotters photograph a passing Qantas 737

The first take off to greet us – another run of the mill domestic Boeing 737. 😂

"Just another 737" - Virgin Australia Boeing 737-8FE VH-VUJ  takes off from runway 34

A Jetstar A320 that rotated much earlier along the runway.

Our group of airside planespotters photograph a Jetstar A320 after take off from runway 34

Another yet another 737, but with far more photogenic lighting.

Virgin Australia Boeing 737-8KG VH-VUY takes off from runway 34

But it was cameras out for the next departure.

Our group of airside planespotters photograph United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner N29981 taking off from runway 34

A United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner N29981 taking off from runway 34

Off to the USA.

Our group of airside planespotters photograph United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner N29981 taking off from runway 34

Next up, a Thai Airways International Airbus A350.

Thai Airways International Airbus A350-941 HS-THB after takeoff from runway 34

And the last international departure.

Our group of airside planespotters await Bamboo Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner VN-A829

A Bamboo Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner off to Vietnam.

Bamboo Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner VN-A829 takes off from runway 34

And with that, time to go back to the bus.

Time for us planespotters to head back to the bus, as a Qantas 737 passes overhead

Our final stop, taxiway Sierra.

Carbridge bus #43 BS04UB waiting on taxiway Sierra while us planespotters are busy photographing the parked planes up ahead

To inspect the Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER parked for the weekend.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER B-KQT parked on the taxiway on Sierra taxiway at Melbourne Airport

And with that, our morning airside was over – back onto the bus for the trip back to the terminal.

Footnote: car parking at Melbourne Airport

My usual trick at Melbourne Airport is to head to the cheaper long term car park, rather than park at the terminal. It’s currently branded the ‘Value Car Park‘ and costs $12 a day.

Melbourne Airport bus #505 BS01NG waits for passengers at stop 'A' in the Long Term Car Park

But try and find a space at the northern end, where you can walk direct to the terminals, instead of waiting for the shuttle bus.

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2 Responses to “Airside adventures at Melbourne Airport”

  1. alogan says:

    Where are these tours advertised?
    Regards

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