Amsterdam is a big airport. As a private pilot, this is about as big as you are likely to fly into.
Flying there requires some planning. The GA terminal is on the Northeast corner of the field and there is a runway right next to it. If you go in VFR, the approach is fiddly and low-level but you arrive right next to the terminal and have a pretty straightforward time of it. It means approaching a point several miles east of the field called Point Victor just below 1,500 feet. This is an easily-identified intersection of roads and canals. From there you turn towards the airport and begin a gentle descent to Point Bravo which is on the corner of a park. Once you report Bravo the tower will tell send you to either end of the runway 04-22 for a threshold join or to the centre for a mid-point join. The runway is long enough to turn at one end at 500 feet as if turning final and still land with plenty of room left. Avoid aiming at the wrong runway – the one you want is partially obscured by hangars until you get pretty close.
I’m told that flying into Amsterdam IFR in a light aircraft is a pain unless you have to do it because the controllers tend to vector you around a lot to sequence you with faster aircraft and then they land you on the runway on the very opposite side of the airport leading to a 40-minute taxi to the GA ramp. Just reading through the forty-odd pages of plates was enough to put me off an IFR approach.
On the ground, you’ll be met by a follow me truck and then a van to drive you from the ramp to the terminal. You can book in over the internet, although be careful to check if you need an arrival slot as well. Handling was pretty efficient and the terminal was pretty smart with a pilot’s lounge and other facilities. If you call them on the radio when you are fifteen minutes out they will call a taxi and have it waiting for you. From plane to taxi took about ten minutes. However, getting back to the plane was a real problem.
If you want 100LL fuel, you have to taxi to the pumps yourself, they don’t have a bowser. Best to settle your landing fee, drive out to the plane and taxi it over and pay the fuel guy separately. We didn’t and it took us an hour of back and forth to settle up and get out. Considering the handling charge, excluding fuel, was over £150 this is pretty lousy service.
Schiphol was opened as a military airfield in 1916 but quickly switched to civil use after the first world war with the national airline KLM beginning operation in 1920 and a hut for passengers arrived in 1921. In 1926 the Amsterdam municipality bought the airport.
A proposal to close both Amsterdam and Rotterdam airport in favour of a new centralised airport didn’t meet with much favour from Amsterdam residents. In July 1938 more than 15,000 people rallied at the airport in favour of keeping the airport. This is surely a first.
During the war the Germans attacked the airfield and then used it. By 1945, it had become virtually unusable and it took heroic efforts to allow the first DC-3 to land on 8th July.
Since then the airport has grown and grown with the result that it is one of the largest and busiest airports in Europe and becoming, in the words of the operating company, an Airportcity.
KLM Jet Center
Department : SPL/WH
P.O. Box 7700
1117 ZL SCHIPHOL
Phone: +31(0)20 6492455
International airport: www.schiphol.nl
GA Handling: www.jetcenter.nl
Handling requests can be made online or by phone.
Note that slots are required at busy times. These can be booked with handling. See also: www.slotcoordination.nl