Plane spotters will soon need to find a new spot to gaze at landing aircraft as a popular viewing site is set to close.

The aircraft viewing area on the corner of Sunbury and Oaklands roads will close at the end of January to make way for a staging area and site office for workers building a nearby 12-megawatt solar farm for Melbourne Airport.

The viewing area is a popular destination for locals and tourists to watch planes take off and land. The site is also home to food trucks and coffee vans.

Melbourne Airport spokesperson Grant Smith said the “temporary” closure could be up at 18 months.

“At this stage we’re anticipating the area will be closed for 12 to 18 months starting at the end of January 2020,” he said.

“We don’t have a specific date at this point but the project team will have one for us in the next couple of weeks.

“We understand that millions of Victorians all have their own plane spotting story and we appreciate that even the temporary closure of an area like this will be quite emotional for some of our community members.”

Mr Smith said alternative viewing spots will be available on Operations Road along the western and southern perimeters of the airfield.

However, the decision to close the popular destination has come under fire by staff at Airport Ice Cream and Kebabs. The food truck has called the aircraft viewing area home for nearly two decades and employee Eric said he was disappointed by the decision to close the “known Melbourne icon”.

“That’s like telling someone you are going to get sacked,” Eric said. “It’s hard, we have loans to pay, bills to pay. This is our full-time job. This is how we make a living. This is a family-run business that started from scratch and is doing well.

“When we started working here, there was no one. We would stay out all day and maybe sell two ice creams. We’ve made this what it is.

“This [the viewing area] is also for the public. You get the rich, you get the poor. It’s a meeting point for everyone. Everyone comes here. It’s a nice catch-up place.”

A petition to save the viewing area was created last Monday and has generated more than 3500 signatures. Details: bit.ly/2P6BJYF