Spotting Guide: Four Ways to Enjoy Aviation on Kish Island

Four Ways to Enjoy Aviation on Kish Island

Besides its beaches and shopping malls, Kish Island has a number of things to offer to aviation enthusiasts. This article looks at what Kish has to offer to aviation enthusiasts based on my visit to the island in November 2016.

Kish Island is a small resort island in Persian Gulf that is part of Iran. The island is a free trade zone, and foreign visitors are not required to obtain visa if arriving at the island directly from other countries.

The island is served by Kish International airport that handles almost three million passengers a year. The airport, located in the middle of the island, has two parallel runways – 09L/27R and 09R/27L. Most of the flights are from other airports in Iran, however, there are also some international flights – especially from Dubai.

While not worth a trip in itself (except for when there is an airshow, but more on that below), Kish Island is certainly a worthwhile one or two-day side-trip to make on your next vacation to Dubai or Iran.

Aviation Enthusiast’s Map of Kish Island

#1: Iran Air Show

The best time to visit the island from an aviation enthusiast’s point of view is during Iran Air Show (a.k.a. Kish Air Show). The airshow was first held in 2002, and it has been held bi-anually since 2006. With the last airshow being held from 16th until 19th November 2016, the next one is expected to take place around the same time in 2018.

The airshow consists of two parts – an indoor exhibition and an outdoor display. Entrance to either of those is free. At the entrance to the exhibition hall, upon showing passport, visitors are issued a pass valid for both areas.

In the indoor exhibition hall, many Iranian and global aviation companies ranging from airlines to maintenance and catering providers open their booths. Besides learning about the companies, it is also a great opportunity to collect aviation-related memorabilia.

Kish Airshow

Most of Iranian airlines were present at the exhibition.
Lufthansa Technik

Several foreign companies made an appearance as well.

The outdoor display, both static and flying, takes place in the afternoon on the apron. Light aircraft, as well as military aircraft make appearance with the Iranian Air Force 707 being the highlight for me this year. In 2016, the Russian Knights and Baltic Bees display teams premiered at the airshow.

Kish Air A321

During the 2016 airshow, it was also possible to photograph some aircraft on the Kish Air apron.
Russian Knights

Two of the Russian Knights Sukhoi Su-27s on the flight line of Kish Air Show 2016.

Unfortunately, the official airshow venue is backlit during the airshow, and so for the best photos it is often better to be outside the perimeter (see point #4).


A Lockheed C-130 Hercules of Iranian Air Force taken from point #3.
Boeing 707

Personal highlight of the airshow – a fly-by of the Iranian Air Force Boeing 707.

#2: Preserved Kish Air Tu-154M

Before being cleaned up and moved to its current location, EP-LBR – a Tupolev Tu-154M – has been stored inside the airport just like the aircraft mentioned below in point #3.

Currently, the Tu-154M is displayed in one of the main tourist locations of the island – the Greek Ship Park. The aircraft can be photographed nicely throughout the day, and even during the night as lights have been installed by the authorities.


The right side of the aircraft can be photographed with good light throughout the day.
Tu-154 Kish Air Preserved

At night, only the left side of the aircraft is lit. The other side is still photographable.

#3: Stored Kish Air and Qeshm Air Aircraft

Before continuing, please keep in mind that spotting is a hobby that is not well-understood by the Iranian authorities, and I cannot be held responsible if you get questioned or detained, or if your equipment is confiscated by the authorities.

Along the western perimeter of the aircraft, five aircraft in various stages of deterioration are parked.

During my visit, there was one section of the fence that was a single fence instead of double making it possible to photograph the aircraft either with a small lens through the mesh or with any lens if photographing above the fence. In case of photographing above the lens, a camera with rotating screen is more than useful.

Single Fence

Currently, the fence around the storage area is low enough to allow for taking photos.
Qeshm Air and Kish Air

At the time of my visit, Qeshm Air and Kish Air aircraft were present next to the fence.

The aircraft stored there during my visit were:

EP-FQA … Fokker 50 … Qeshm Air … cn 20274
EP-FQC … Fokker 50 … Qeshm Air … cn 20275
EP-LBS … Tupolev Tu-154M … Kish Air … cn 91A901
EP-LCG … Fokker 50 … Kish Air … cn 20236
LZ-LDD … McDonnell Douglas MD-82 … Kish Airlines … cn 49218 [previously used as a coffee shop for a period of time]

Kish Air Tupolev Tu-154

Unlike the aircraft preserved in the Greek Ship Park, this Tu-154 is covered with sand.
McDonnell Douglas MD-82

After finishing operations for Kish Airlines and before being stored, this aircraft was used as a coffe shop.

The aircraft seem to be towed around every now and then, however, it is worth checking out the location during your visit, as in the current parking configuration, all of them are photographable reasonably well.

#4: Arriving Traffic

That said, during my stay in Kish during this year’s airshow, I did not encounter any problems with photographing aircraft from outside the perimeter. I do not know what the situation is like outside of the airshow time.

During my visit, 27s were used. As such, the driver took me and the group near a roundabout on the Persian Gulf highway under the approach path. In case of 09s in use, a similar approach spot on the other side of the island might be available.

Kish Air A321

Kish Air’s A321 on runway 27L arriving from Tehran.
Zagros MD-83

Zagros Airlines MD-83 arriving on runway 27L from Tehran.

Most of the domestic airlines can be seen at the airport. However, as the traffic can be scarce at times, it is best to check the airport website’s arrival board before going for a photo session:


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