Spotting at Dubai (DBX)

Update January 2, 2014

Dubai Airports has announced that it will conduct an extensive runway enhancement project at Dubai International (DXB) in 2014.

Update: January 29: three Dutch spotters in jail in Dubai charged for espionage

The work will begin on May 1  and take 80 days to complete. Dubai Airports said that in order for work to complete the number of scheduled flights will be reduced, while all freight, charter and general aviation traffic will be diverted to the new Dubai World Central airport near Jebel Ali.

The southern runway will be closed from May 1 to May 31, 2014 while the northern runway will be out of operation May 31 to July 20, 2014.


Dubai is a very interesting airport for spotters. It attracts lots of airlines from Africa which are very hard to see anywhere else. It is also very busy although lots of traffic arrives in the middle of the night. Recently Dubai International has been confirmed as the world’s second busiest airport for international passenger traffic.

This is a place you should not wait too long to visit if on your wishlist. Dubai has two airports now and sooner or later interesting traffic will move to the new one.

Dubai is building a new airport in the desert. Spotting locations might not improve here. The airport will have 5 parallel runways.  Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International (DWC) airport opened in 2010 and is used by freighters at the moment. The new airport will officially open for passenger flights on 26 October 2013 with Nas Air and Wizz Air as the two carriers to operate from the airport. In total around 17 airlines will move to DWC in 2013. Biz jets might go to DWC as  a VIP terminal is to be opened by the first quarter of 2015. This move will also free slot for larger aircraft. Also the Dubai Airshow moved to DWC. In 2013 the airshow will be held 17 – 21 November 2013. The airshow used to be at DBX and offered a unique chance to take pictures from the ramp with no hassles.
Emirates announced it will not move over to DWC in the next ten years. They believe with investments in DXB capacity can be increased.

Taken from ch-aviation:

Emirates (EK, Dubai Int’l) will switch its cargo operator’s, Emirates SkyCargo, freighter operations from Dubai Int’l to Dubai World Central on May 1, 2014, it has emerged. Currently five other scheduled airlines use the facility including three cargo operators Kalitta Air (K4, Detroit Willow Run), Saudi Arabian Airlines (SV, Jeddah) and Martinair (MP, Amsterdam). LCCs nasair (Saudi Arabia) (XY, Riyadh), Wizz Air (W6, Budapest) and Wizz Air Ukraine (WU, Kiev Zhulyany) will become the first passenger operators there come late October.

DBX has three terminals.Most major airlines arrive at Terminal 1 of Dubai International Airport.   Terminal 2 is used mostly by airlines coming in from Iran, CIS countries and those operating chartered flights.All Emirates flights arrive at and depart from Terminal 3, the Emirates-exclusive terminal at Dubai International Airport.

This was seen in December 2012 at DWC. Clearly the Russian freighters seems to be moved from DBX.
4K-AZ19 IL-76 Silk Way
4K-AZ40 IL-76 Silk Way
AP-BIV B742F n/t
EY701  IL-76 n/t
EY702 IL-76 n/t
N793CK B742F Kalitta
RA-76403 IL-76 n/t
RA-76951 IL-76 Volga-Dnepr
RA-82039 AN124 Russia Air Force
RA-82046 AN124 Volga-Dnepr
RA-82079 AN124 Volga-Dnepr
UR-BXS IL-76 Maximus
UR-ZYD AN124 Maximus

Taking pictures of aircraft is official not allowed in the UAE.

“Photography of certain government buildings and military installations is not allowed. Don’t photograph people without their permission. Men have been arrested for photographing women on beaches. Hobbies like bird watching and plane spotting, may be misunderstood – particularly near military sites, government buildings and airports.”

Along the perimeter fence of DBX are sign saying photos not allowed. There are also CCTV camera’s all over. And police drives by regulary. I have read some stories about spotters who were taken to the Dubai police for questioning. The worse what can happen is losing some time ( 4 hours) at the police station and your photos being deleted. Best advise: keep a low profile and do not stay too long at the same time.  If you work with Aviation, make sure to bring your ID-card and employees card, that can help you and save your time if the police questions you. I guess it helps to show aviation magazines as well.

update January 29:

Three Dutch plane spotter are put in jail charged for espionage. They have been in jail three days now. Nothing else is known except they might have taken pictures of forbidden objects. The place they took plctures is not known yet either. Could be DXB could be a military airport. More info here.

We all know this is nonsense but our hobby is not well understood in some countries. 

Runway usage
The airport has two parallel runways 12l/30R and 12R/30L. Landings are in the morning at 12R/L. In the afternoon they use 30L/R, 90% of the time 30L is used for landings because it is closer to the terminals.In summer it’s not unusual for them to be on 30s all day long. If they are, my recommendation would be to try shooting departures in the morning, then move the the east end in the afternoon to shoot approaches. Nearly all departures will be from 30L. You’ll need to be north of the runway until around 11am, between 11 and 12 the sun is almost straight down the runway. After about 12:30 you could move to the south side.

I am not sure if there is a pattern like airlines serving Terminal 2 land on 30L and using terminal 2 land on 30R. I guess it is a single runway operation for landings.

There is so much traffic so hard to make a timetable. I guess best is to see what you are looking for. Dubai airport has a list of airlines sorted per Terminal.

Cebu Pacific will start at October 7 with a daily Manila-Dubai flight using the new Airbus A330. flights arrive at 2140 and depart at 2310.
United Airways of Bangladesh also arrives and departes in the dark.
Mihin Lanka arrives and departes in the dark
TAAG Angola operates the B777 three times per week.
Arrival at 0820 on Tuesday (dep1030), Thursday (dep1030)  and Saturday (dep1100).


Sunsetcalc is a very handy website which shows sunset, sunrise, the position of the sun at any time in year. However times for dusk are not always correct. See this website for sunrise and sunset.

Dubai has good coverage by flightradar24. Using the playback feature it is easy to see the runway usage.

Aircraft photography at Dubai is officially not allowed. As long as you do not photograph buildings you are okay. Still it is best to keep a low profile. Stay in the car (it is too hot anyway outside) and keep away camera’s.

most traffic arrives after 22:00

The food court at the departures level of Terminal 1 offers some nice views of the aprons. The windowsare less tainted and there is no obstruction. It’s even to possible to shoot take off pics with approx. 300-400mm, but this is very challenging as the aircraft rise above the terminal opposite where you will be.

for some photo see

Emirates group Headquarters parking garage
Emirates Headquarters has a parking garage, mainly used for employees and visitors. Take either taxi and say you want to go to Emirates Headquarters Metro Station, or take the bus towards or that stops at Em.Hq; make sure to ask the driver first. This is a video showing the situation.

Walk through the tunnel over the main road called Marrakech St. and follow it until you get to the center of the Emirates HQ.
Go to the left when you come in towards security doors which lead to elevators, only used for employees. Then you can walk around it by going to the right and heading towards the garage. Walk strait through a tunnel until you get to the elevators and take either 10-12 level and you will get a nice view of T3, and get descent shots by taxiing aircraft.

This is a picture taken from the parking garage facing north. Search for Erik Grinsvall and you will see many pictures taken from the parking garage.
This is an example 
At University

Good spot for the early morning landings. old zayed university use a car here as well, between each landing you get in, incase the police will do drive-bys; which they will do.

This is best for when RWY30L is in use (best for landing); only landings when there is maintenance on RWY30R, otherwise take-offs only. You might not get the best shots since there is a fence which is pretty high. You will even see signs with photography not allowed.

(Always have a bag for you camera, so that the camera is not visible when you go to Em.Hq, otherwise they could get suspicious, and don’t look lost either^^)

Foodcourt Terminal1:
At the landside (so accessible for anyone) there is a large foodcourt overlooking concourse 1 and 2. from here photos can be made through tinted glass. So results can be not so good. Just follow the signs to foodcourt. take care when taking photos.  Just hide the camera when not in use. Examples of pictures taken here.

landing 30L looks like this

Movenpick Hotel Deira

Nojoum apartments info here,


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