What you can see, and where, at the Apple Isle’s biggest airport
For such a small airport, Hobart has quite a variety of aircraft and airlines, and is very spotter friendly, with fantastic spotting locations and some pretty rare aircraft. In this first post of what will hopefully become an informative, helpful series, I will cover a brief history of the airport, aircraft types and airlines that operate at HBA, and good spotting and photography locations.
A brief history of Hobart Airport
Opened in 1956, and originally known as Llanherne Airport, HBA was served by Trans Australian Airlines, and Ansett, both flying to a variety of cities, primarily, Melbourne, Sydney, Launceston, Burnie, Devonport and the Bass Strait Islands. A runway extension in 1964 to cater to TAA and Ansett’s 727s was followed by another in 1985 for capacity limited widebody ops. In the mid 80s TAA and Ansett operated their first ever International flights, from Hobart to Christchurch, every Saturday, mostly carrying gamblers to the only casino in AU/NZ, in Sandy Bay. (the flight was later taken over by Air NZ, using 737s) This foray into scheduled international flights from Hobart was brief, and apart from Qantas operating their Boeing 767-200 to Auckland for a season, there weren’t any until Air New Zealand’s announcement of flights to Auckland, beginning early April 2021.
With the exception of Ipec’s Armstrong Whitworth Argosy cargo flights, Ansett and TAA (Australian Airlines from 1986) were the only airlines permitted to operate interstate trunk route flights, up until deregulation and the end of the two airline policy in 1990. The 1990s were a period of immense change at Hobart Airport, Australian Airlines and their fleet of Boeing 737-300s and 400s became the domestic arm of Qantas, and a series of short-lived carriers such as Compass, East-West & Impulse, and later Ozjet & Strategic, all had brief forays into Hobart.
Then, in the early 2000s Ansett collapsed, leaving a gaping hole in capacity, which, over time, was filled with the new low cost carrier, Virgin Blue, Qantas’ new regional arm, made from the remnants of Impulse, QantasLink, and, from early 2004, Qantas’ own LCC, Jetstar. Since then, there has been little change, Virgin Blue became Virgin Australia, and their fleet of Embraers disappeared, Qantas’ Boeing 737-300s and -400s were replaced by -800s, and Jetstar’s Boeing 717s returned to QantasLink as they were replaced by A320s. The now defunct carrier, Tigerair (formerly Tiger Airways) had two fleeting stints at Hobart, with their A320s, and later their 737s, but never had more than two or three flights a day.
Covid has seen a number of firsts at Hobart Airport, the first Cathay Pacific visit, first 787 visit, first EuroAtlantic Airways visit, and the first visit of the Armee de l’Air, among others. Most of these visits wouldn’t have been possible without one final extension to the runway, completed in 2018, allowing for completely unrestricted operation of aircraft up to the size of the 787.
Airlines and aircraft types
From diminutive Metroliners heading to King and Flinders, to the behemoth that is the Globemaster III flying a government charter to Antarctica, a day of spotting at HBA will always be exciting. The vast majority of flights in and out of Hobart are to Melbourne and Sydney, operated by Jetstar A320s, Virgin 737s, and QantasLink 717s, with the other operators listed below flying in less frequently.
|Air New Zealand||Airbus A320neo, Airbus A321neo||Auckland4|
|Cathay Pacific1||Airbus A350-900||Hong Kong4, Sydney4, Melbourne4|
|Jetstar||Airbus A320-200, Airbus A321-200||Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney|
|Link Airways||Saab 340B||Canberra|
|Qantas||Boeing 737-800||Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney|
|QantasFreight||Boeing 737-300SF, Boeing 737-400SF||Launceston, Melbourne|
|QantasLink||Boeing 717-200, Embraer E1902||Adelaide2, Brisbane, Canberra2, Melbourne, Sydney|
|Royal Australian Air Force3||Boeing C-17A Globemaster III||Wilkins Runway|
|Sharp Airlines||Fairchild SA-227 Metroliner||Burnie, Flinders Island, King Island, Launceston5|
|Skytraders3||Airbus A319-100LR||Wilkins Runway|
|Virgin Australia||Airbus A320-2006, Boeing 737-700, Boeing 737-800||Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth6, Sydney|
|Royal Flying Doctor Service||Beechcraft King Air||Anywhere with a runway|
Hobart is surprisingly spotter friendly, for such as small airport, with a variety of locations with fantastic views, and some pretty rare aircraft types.
Undoubtedly the most popular plane spotting location at Hobart, is Tower Hill, where there is a large cleared area for car parking, although the surface is a bit uneven, so be careful in smaller vehicles. Tower Hill can be accessed by taking the first exit from the first roundabout when heading south-east along Holyman avenue towards the terminal, continue along Llanherne Drive and Tower Road, do not continue on to Loop Road, as this is road is for authorised use only. Additionally, Tasmanian Gourmet Seafoods sell fantastic Fish ‘n’ Chips at the lower part of Tower Road, the perfect lunch or dinner for a day of plane spotting.
The most unique spot at Hobart, where you can get right up close with aircraft taking off and landing, is at the Runway 30 end, along Seven Mile Beach. With the runway extension, this stretch of Surf Road was closed to cars, but is still open to pedestrians and bikes, allowing access to the top of the sand dunes. When spotting from the sand dunes for an extended period of time, it is important to be equipped with sunscreen, a hat, and good sunglasses, as there is no shade whatsoever, and the jet blast from departing aircraft can kick up a lot of sand! This area can be accessed by continuing past the airport along Holyman Avenue, and on to Grueber Avenue, before turing right on to the stub on Surf Road as the road curves round. There is a small turning circle at the end of the stub where your can park you car before heading out North East along the closed section of Surf Road. Alternatively, it is possible to take a Metro bus from either the Hobart City or Rosny Bus malls, and disembark just past the Seven Mile Beach Store, and walk along Surf Road towards the airport, be aware this is a 20-30 minute walk along the roadside.
One of the lesser known photography locations is along this new industrial cul-de-sac, that provides excellent views of aircraft parked on the cargo apron, and the tiny GA apron. Simply head south-east along Holyman Avenue, then Grueber Avenue past the airport, and turn left.
The Terminal itself is open to non-passengers as well as people travelling, as with all other domestic terminals in Australia, but views are limited and often obstructed by ground equipment, as Hobart has a single floor terminal. A few other spots, farther away from the airport, such as Cambridge Aerodrome, and the Mount Pleasant Radio Telescope & Grote Reiber Museum provide views of aircraft taking off and landing, but access is limited and you’ll want a 300mm lens at the very least.
Hobart Airport’s spotting community
Hobart has a thriving aviation photography and spotting community, and I’ve listed some local photographers and useful pages below. https://www.instagram.com/tomgoward.at/ https://www.instagram.com/hobart_spotter/ https://www.instagram.com/jfb.spotting/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/348323365352965 https://www.facebook.com/groups/171594163026505
I hope this has been a useful read, I’ve really enjoyed compiling all my knowledge and information on HBA onto a single page, and I might write similar guides for Tassie’s other airports if I get round to it.
Last updated 24/06/22
- Further reading