London Gatwick Airport has become notoriously difficult to spot at since the viewing terraces closed in 2002. However, a solution is imminent in the form of a new hotel due to open early next year.
The Bloc Hotel has been constructed on the site of the former terraces, atop the South Terminal. As a result, guests can expect views from some of the rooms to be similar to the views that used to be enjoyed in the old days of spotting at the airport.
Other rooms will face the approach to the runway.
The Bloc Hotel is due to open in April 2014, and is keen to welcome spotters. It will offer a special day rate for viewing aircraft and using the hotel’s facilities between 7am-4pm.
Keep an eye on the Bloc Hotel website here.
Chicago O’Hare opened its new runway 10C/28C opened on 17th October in the hope that it will instantly improve the crippling delays experienced at the airport.
The new 10,800ft runway is the sixth parallel runway at the airport and hopes to allow it to offer up to 90,000 extra movements per year. Its construction has meant the relocation of a cemetery and section of railroad, amongst other ground infrastructure.
You will find the new runway close to the existing runway 10L/28R, and just to the north of the cargo terminals.
In terms of spotting, the new runway does not really offer any new opportunities to those existing already (see our book Airport Spotting Guides USA). The nearest unofficial spotting location is on Balmoral Avenue, just off Mannheim Road, with parking at the Rosemont Metra Station.
Alec Wilson recently visited a little-known museum close to Tokyo’s Narita Airport in Japan and provided this report.
The Museum of Aeronautical Science displays artefacts that are relevant to the aviation history of Japan, including a number of full aircraft exhibits.
The museum is located to the south of Narita airport.
Access from the airport is by bus from stop no.30 outside the south wing of terminal 1 – there are only 4 buses out per day (5 return).
To Museum: 0935; 1135; 1335; 1535.
From Museum: 1010; 1310; 1410; 1610; 1710.
Trip takes about 20 mins. JPY200 each way.
The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday 1000 – 1700. Entry fee is JPY500.
All the exhibits are outside. Inside there is various regalia etc.
Also of note is that the museum offers an observation deck with views over Narita Airport. From here you can watch aircraft landing and departing, log numbers, and take photographs.
JA3007 Cessna 195 7870
JA3117 Piper PA-18150 18-6626 (Storage shed at back of main building.)
JA3440 Beech E33 CD-1196 (Code 440)
JA3848 Fuji FA-200160 294
JA3944 Cessna 172P 172-74964
JA4177 Mooney M.20M 27-0121
JA5074 Aero Commander Twin Commander680E 872
JA5151 Cessna 411A 411A-0280
JA5159 Beech 56TC TG-77
JA5238 Cessna 421B 421B-0602
JA5258 Fuji FA.300 30001
JA7758 Robinson R22 0961
JA7990 Kamov Ka-26D 7303804
JA8611 NAMC YS-11 1001/2001
JA8628 Mitsubishi MU-2B 005
JA8711 NAMC YS-11 115 2048 (Nose only. Storage shed at back of main building)
JA8767 Mitsubishi MU-2G 520 (Nose only. Storage shed at back of main building)
JA9156 Mitsubishi S-62A M62014
JA9298 Hughes 369HS 04235 (Storage shed at back of main building.)
JA9512 Aerospatiale SA.330F 1141
N67HB Learjet 25B 25-189
N642NW Boeing 747212B 21942 (Nose/cockpit section outside with small cross section of fuselage inside.)
JA8001 Douglas DC-832 45418 (Small cross section of fuselage inside.)
This had slipped my attention until I read about it on George Hamlin’s excellent Observation Deck blog, but it turns out Helsinki Vantaa Airport in Finland has opened a new viewing area for spotters to watch aircraft movements.
The ‘Scenic Terrace’ actually replaces the older terrace which had closed down. It reopened in April 2013 and sits atop a building next to Terminal 2, giving elevated views over the aircraft parking ramps and of the two main runways.
The terrace is open from 7am to 10pm daily, but make sure you wrap up warm in the winter months! It is free to enter, and there are vending machines for snacks.
A hotel I recently stayed at was the Radisson Blu at East Midlands airport, and got to check out the spotting opportunities there.
I had requested a room with a view of the airport, and upon arrival this was confirmed. My visit was planned to make the most of the evening cargo flights, which are busiest on weekdays. Odd-numbered rooms in the range 301-319 and 401-419 all face the airport and are close enough to read off aircraft registrations. All airport movements are visible, however after dark a SBS or flight tracking website is required to log the aircraft identities. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi with all room rates.
Photography is also possible from the rooms with a 250mm lens, particularly in the daytime when aircraft are landing or departing on runway 09. However, the glass may cause distortion in some cases.
The photos on this page are from my stay, and show the views that are possible from the room. All movements on the runway are visible.
An improved Observation Gallery at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI Marshall) is now open to the public. The gallery was temporarily closed in June 2012 for construction of a series of terminal enhancements. The work included improvements and new exhibits for the Observation Gallery and the installation of Sky Azure, a new food and beverage concession.
“The Observation Gallery is an important part of the travel experience for our passengers,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, Chief Executive Officer of BWI Marshall Airport. “The improvements feature new and updated exhibits that showcase Maryland’s rich aviation and aerospace history.”
Similar to the outdoor observation deck that was part of the original Friendship International Airport, the Observation Gallery was first created in 1995 to offer views of airport operations. The public space included a number of exhibits related to aviation and air travel, including large sections of a Boeing 737-200 aircraft.
Views from the gallery include aircraft parked at the nearby terminal gates, and using the distant runways beyond. Photographs are through glass, and binoculars are required for reading registrations. There are some binoculars provided for public use.
The BWI Marshall Observation Gallery is adjacent to the new B/C security checkpoint on the upper level. It is open to the public and located prior to the security checkpoint. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
I recently had the opportunity to check out the Radisson Blu hotel at Manchester Airport in the UK, spending a night in an airport view room.
The hotel is known as probably the best at Manchester Airport for spotting, since it is located between terminals 1 and 2. It is linked via walkway to both, and also to the airport train station.
I was surprised to get a good rate for a room when I booked. It was around £65 for a Saturday night in July.
Unfortunately I was only able to get a room on the fifth floor, but with an airport view all the same. At this level, Terminal 2 partly blocks the view. However, I was still able to see some of the parking stands at Terminal 1, and all movements were visible on the runway. Combined with SBS or Flightradar24, you won’t miss anything from here.
To try and catch what was parked opposite Terminal 2, I checked out the stairwells at both ends of the building. This let me see some aircraft on the remote stands and cargo ramp, but not those parked at the terminal.
The best rooms to try are even-numbered ones, on as high a floor as possible. The check-in staff are helpful and able to give you what you’re looking for if it’s available.
Although the hotel was going through renovation when I stayed, I still enjoyed eating at the restaurant, and the room was adequate and comfortable.
The pictures in this report are from my stay.
Raleigh Durham Airport is one of the few in the United States to offer a dedication place to watch aircraft movements without being hassled by security or police personnel. This is the Observation Park (which has recently been refurbished).
However, there is a lesser known SECOND official location at the airport which is also good for watching and spotting aircraft.
The General Aviation Terminal is situated to the north east of the passenger terminal complexes, adjacent to the end of runway 23L. It offers a balcony on the second floor which overlooks the GA ramp and runway, and is good for photography of aircraft close by.
It is also possible to see aircraft using the main runway behind, and also taxiing to and from the main terminals. The main draw of the location is seeing the various light and executive aircraft parked at the terminal which wouldn’t usually be seen from the main terminals.
Parking is free at the GA Terminal, and there’s a cafe for you to use.
I recently visited London Stansted Airport and chose to use the Belmer Road spotting location as a base for watching the action.
Whilst there are no official spotting locations at Stansted Airport, this spot is kept in a good condition with cut grass and car parking permitted alongside the road. ‘Plane Watch’ signs attached to the fence also hints that the airport know this is a well-used spot.
After parking up alongside the road (there are usually other cars parked there, particularly at weekends), it is a short walk through one of the gaps in the trees to reach the open area which runs alongside a significant part of the fence on the northern side of the airport.
The airport’s runway runs in front of you, and it is possible to take pictures through the fence or as aircraft climb above it.
Most aircraft movements can be seen from this location, however you’ll usually have to wait for aircraft to move away from the passenger terminal before they can be identified.
Directly opposite the spotting location is the cargo ramp, which is often home to a number of Boeing 747-8s. To the right is the VIP terminal and parking area. The aircraft can not be seen from Belmer Road, but it is a short drive or a 20 minute walk to reach the area.
To reach Belmer Road by car, follow directions for the Long Stay Car Park, but continue past their entrance along the narrow country road (Bury Lodge Lane). It eventually becomes Belmer Road, which has the postcode CM24.
The pictures on this post are from my recent visit and show what is possible from this location.
Budapest Airport‘s spotting terrace is to be reopene following renovation work.
The terrace is atop Terminal 2A, and was closed a few years ago when work was being carried out to expand the building.
Now, work is being undertaken to install a glass frontage and netting to protect aircraft from foreign objects, ahead of it reopening in July. The terrace will be open 24 hours with an entrance fee of HUF 400 (EUR 1.35)
The terrace offers views over the airport’s two runways and aircraft using the terminal. Photographs are possible, however the new glass frontage may limit how your pictures turn out.