Vientiane (Wattay International) Airport is the only airport of any consequence in Laos, and is the origin/destination of almost all flights in the country, with only a very small number of services not routing through here. It's also the base for Laos's entire civil transport fleet, and probably all the military transport assets too. However, all this doesn't mean it's busy - an average of 3-4 international flights (with half of these being Lao Aviation) and perhaps 10-15 domestic schedules a day, together with a military helicopter or two if you're lucky, is all you'll get!
Photographic possibilities are pretty limited for the casual visitor, but, perhaps surprisingly, seem to be completely acceptable as long as you keep to the civilian areas of the airport. Don't even think about trying to get a shot near the military facilities, though - the guards are armed and any 'unusual' behaviour will provoke a very unwelcome response.
a) Upstairs in the small domestic terminal is a row of
windows looking out onto the domestic/Lao Aviation ramp. Although these are rather dirty they can
be used, and anyway, one of them was broken during my visit with no glass in the frame, and didn't
look as though it would be replaced anytime soon! As mentioned above, taking photos from here
seemed to be no problem whatsoever (security-wise), and some very good results can be obtained,
although you might have to wait for something to move before being able to get that shot. The only
real problem is the serious lack of movements - if you get here at the wrong time you could
literally wait an hour or more before you even see an aircraft!
You're facing almost directly north here, so photos are posssible all day. A reasonable zoom lens should be sufficient for most movements, although if you're lucky enough to see one of the military machines on the go you'll probably require at least a 300mm.
Lao Aviation ATR-72
Lao Aviation Y-7
Lao Aviation Y-12
Lao Air Force Mil-8
Lao Aviation Boeing 737
b) The very flashy new international terminal was actually built with an 'observation deck' at each end on the top floor - if only more places had the same idea. Unfortunately, a major design flaw (building large parts of the structure directly in front of the deck) means that it's practically impossible to 'observe' anything whatsoever from here, and certainly not the apron. If you're hoping for photos, don't bother - it's not even worth the walk up the stairs (although for purely spotting purposes you do get a slightly different view of other parts of the airfield). What a waste!
c) Check the apron to the left of the international terminal as there may be something parked here, probably invisible from all other vantage points.
Lao Flying Service Cessna 206
d) If you're very lucky you may be able to get
permission for ramp access around the Lao Aviation facilities. Your best bet is probably to write
in advance to the general manager of Lao Aviation and hope for the best. If you don't get a reply,
try again - it probably just didn't reach the right person. If your request gets lost in the
system somewhere (as mine presumably did), try submitting a written request to the authorities on
arrival. You'll need to be patient, though - if you're in Laos for anything less than a week or
so, you'll likely have problems. This is due not so much to any unwillingness to grant such a
request (indeed, everyone involved seemed very helpful), but rather to the fact that nobody has
any idea who might be authorised to deal with such an 'unusual' request, so it'll take time for
it to be passed around until a suitable person gets hold of it.
If you've got the time, though, it's well worth the wait, as you can see. I was allowed to photograph anything in the Lao Aviation area quite freely, much of which (the wfu stuff) is not even visible from anywhere outside. Quality rather than quantity is the order of the day here. Go for it!
Lao Aviation Mil-8
Lao Aviation An-24
Piper PA-18 Super Cub
Lao Aviation An-24
|Last visited 3 February 2001||Top of page|
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