Trip Report : Cologne Airport

Article originally published by Aviation News in January 2023


Cologne Bonn Airport or to give the airport’s full name of Köln- Bonn Konrad Adenauer Airport (IATA: CGN, ICAO: EDDK) is ranked as Germany’s 6th busiest in terms of passenger numbers and located 9 miles to the south of the city of Cologne in the Rhine-Sieg and Rheinisch-Bergirsch district. It sits on the edge of the Wahner Heide nature reserve. The airport employs around 14,000 employees.
In 2019 the airport was used by in excess of 12 million passengers and in 2020 around 800,000 tonnes of cargo passed through the airport, securing it as the top cargo airport in Europe.
The airport has excellent transports links to the surrounding region thanks to a train station located beneath the car park outside of the airport terminal. This means neighbouring airports, such as Dusseldorf, are within easy reach.

What Airlines will be seen

Passenger movements are predominantly Eurowings operating their short haul scheduled and charter flights using Airbus A319/A320 aircraft and Ryanair, although there is a good selection of other European airlines that you will see on your visit. More than 30 airlines connect the Airport with more than 120 destinations in almost 30 countries.
Cargo flights also play a big part at the airport with a large number of flights each day, although a lot of the arrivals and departures are later in the evening and into the early morning.
UPS has a major European hub here and flights operate with type such as Boeing 747 and 767 together with FedEx operating numerous types, including Boeing 757/767 and 777 from its European and middle eastern hub.
Collocated at Köln- Bonn Konrad Adenauer Airport is Köln- Bonn – Military, ICAO: ETCW, located in the western side of the is the Luftwaffe’s Flugbereitschaft des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung otherwise known as the Executive Transport Wing (ETW) of the German Air Force. Formed in April 1957 and relocating to Köln- Bonn in July 1959 originally as part of LTG-62 before becoming an independent unit in April 1963. Based here are six Bombardier Global Express 5000/6000 for short-medium range governmental air transport, three Airbus A319’s one of which (15+03) is operated in the Open Skies role. Three Airbus A321’s which operate several roles including medium range governmental air transport, aeromedical evacuation and troop transport, 2 soon to be retired A340’s used for long range governmental air transport with the 340’s being replaced by 3 Airbus A350’s of which 1 has been delivered so far. Added to this Köln- Bonn is a Forward Operating Base for the NATO Operated Airbus A330 Multi Role Transport Tankers. Whilst Military movement are much harder to predict, the ETW aircraft were very active with multiple aircraft flying most days. Military visitors both domestic and international are also quite frequent.

Airport Viewing Terrace

There are a number of locations around the airfield perimeter which allow for photography of the aircraft movements, but one of the best locations where you can view from is from the excellent viewing terrace on top of terminal 1. This gives a good vantage point of the arrivals and departures on runway 14L/32R, aircraft using the other runways of 14R/32R and 25/07 although visible are a little more distant for photography.
The orientation of the viewing terrace gives views to the south across the majority of the airport and the cargo ramp area. Runway 14L/32L is to the east of terrace with the taxy way to terminal 1 between the runway and the viewing terrace. To the west are slightly more distant views towards the general aviation ramp and beyond runway 14R/32R are views of the military ramp.
In the early morning, the sun will rise beyond runway 14L/32L meaning that your shots will tend to be backlit, although once the sun has passed across the runway line, this will give the opportunity for much better lighting of the aircraft landing with some excellent lighting in the early evening.
To access the viewing terrace from within Terminal 1, there is a staircase at Stern C or a lift from staircase area 4 which will give you step free access to the 5th floor. The terrace is split over 3 levels with the top level giving the best uninterrupted views. The lower-level viewing will be from behind glass.
Seating benches are available on all floors of the terrace and the top level also has some limited overhead cover to shield you from any inclement weather.
The viewing terrace is open from 06.30 to 22:00 each day, although on one of day of our visit it did not open until 08:30am. The Cologne Bonn airport website has details of the opening times, and it is worth checking before your visit to make sure it is not closed for any special events. There is no charge for accessing the viewing terrace and no security checks are required.
A number of food outlets for food and drink can also be found in the terminal just a short lift ride away.
The majority of the passenger aircraft movements will pass in front of the terrace on the close taxiway, although some of the general aviation movements may use runway 14R/32R which will make photographing them more difficult due to the distance and the airport infrastructure in the way.
To capture an aircraft landing on runway 14L/32L a lens of around 200-300mm will be required for a Boeing 737 size aircraft.
Aircraft that are parked on the cargo ramp can also been seen clearly from the terrace with the closer parked aircraft able to be photographed. The view of the cargo ramp is excellent, especially in the dark.
For those visitors who are looking to stay for more than one day then there are couple of hotels in the vicinity which are close to the airport terminal, the Leonardo Hotel Köln – Bonn Airport and Moxy Cologne Bonn Airport.


Cologne Airport is well worth a visit for both aircraft spotters and photographers and offers easy viewing of the aircraft movements together with the varied operators for passenger, cargo, general aviation and the based military aircraft. Low-cost flights are available from a number of UK airports at reasonable prices.

Report and images by Gary Morris

© South West Aviation Photographers 2022