It has happened to everybody. You go to the airport to pick up someone and find that their plane has been delayed.

So, there you are stuck at the airport with a couple of hours to burn and nothing to do.

Well, if you are waiting at the Frankfurt Airport in Germany, there is a place to spend that extra time: the Visitors’ Terrace.

From a platform at Terminal 1, above Concourse B, you can watch the action on the runways, taxi ways and aprons of one of the world’s busiest airports.

The airport has the seventh-highest annual volume of passengers, handling 48.5 million in 2002. You can imagine how many airplanes need to take off and land to handle that load.

You do not need to be waiting for someone to visit the terrace. If you are just fascinated with flying, it is quite the place to be.

Just check out the gentlemen with binoculars scanning the airport and scribbling notes into a little book. They are not spies, but tail watchers. Watching planes take off and land is a hobby. They are noting the type of aircraft, airline and tail number of the planes coming and going, hoping to see every plane that flies the skies.

The Visitors’ Terrace is a place to dream about going to far away places. Some of the airlines are familiar, like Delta, US Airways, Continental or Germany’s own Lufthansa. But at this airport, an international hub, plenty of exotic airlines touch down. Like Air Mauritius, Royal Brunei Airlines or Omskavia. From all four corners of the globe, they arrive and depart at Frankfurt Airport.

It is not just people on the move either — 1.63 million metric tons of cargo moved through the airport last year, enough to make it No. 1 in Europe. And from Rhein-Main Air Base on the south side of the airport, giant U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxies rumble past.

On the aprons below the terrace, travelers board or disembark. Cleaning crews scurry aboard to ready the planes for their next flight. Aircraft are fueled and windshields are wiped clean. Small tractors pull wagonloads of baggage to and from the planes. Food for passengers is loaded aboard trucks that pull right up to the plane’s galley. The captain and his co-pilot check instruments and flight plans before guiding the plane down the taxi way towards take-off.

Come out and watch the comings and goings from the visitors’ terrace. It is as close to the action you can get without a boarding pass.

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