Spotting in the UK has many highlights for aviation enthusiasts.
First ports of call tend to be London Heathrow for all the great airliners, plus Luton for the biz jets, Manchester for the viewing facilities and East Midlands for the cargo aircraft.
In this post I want to show you a few other airports worth visiting for different reasons. You may have heard of them, but not considered what they have to offer.
A small regional airport in East Anglia, around 115 miles from London. Norwich still has a few regional scheduled services around the UK, and to Amsterdam. It also sees summer charter flights to the sun.
What makes it an interesting place is the presence of an engineering base which often sees airliners come in for work. There are also stored airliners around the airport on occasion.
The car park and roads around the terminal are usually sufficient for seeing any aircraft parked on the aprons.
There are small laybys on the roads at either end of the runway for good views and photographic opportunities of approaching aircraft. For runway 09 head to Holt Road (postcode NR10 3DD), and for runway 27 heard to St. Faith’s Road (postcode NR12 7BH).
The City of Norwich Aviation Museum occupies a site on the northern boundary of the airport. It has a number of historic aircraft, including both a Fokker F-27 and Handley Page Herald of Air UK, which have significance to the airport. The museum is open daily in the summer and Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays in the winter. See www.cnam.org.uk
Bruntingthorpe in Leicestershire is quite a hidden airfield. It has no airline service and is not a licenced airport for general aviation activity. It does, however, have a very long runway which is used for car testing and other activities.
Bruntingthorpe is home to the Cold War Jets collection of retired aircraft from that era, including fast jets, bombers and transport types.
The Cold War Jets Open Days are a big draw to enthusiasts, where the collection of active aircraft are taken onto the runway for fast taxis. These are usually held a couple of times per year, but the museum is always open on a Sunday for viewing the aircraft (see www.bruntingthorpeaviation.com). Doing so gives you distant views of the stored aircraft on the airfield, which include former Olympic Airways and Transaero Boeing 747s and the Royal Air Force L1011 TriStar fleet.
Public Transport: Bus #661 from nearby Lutterworth (which is linked to long distance buses) passes the entrance to Bruntingthorpe.
This airport has tried many times to take off as a base for passenger flights. They have come and gone, and today seem to be forgotten as the terminal has recently been demolished.
Coventry is interesting as a base for light aircraft and biz jets, and was also home to the classic Air Atlantique fleet for many years.
Coventry has a number of stored BAe ATP aircraft on the south side of the runway, and to the north is the DC-6 Diner, set inside a former Air Atlantique Douglas DC-6.
Next to the site you’ll also find the Midland Air Museum, which has a nice collection of vintage civil and military aircraft. The museum opens daily www.midlandairmuseum.co.uk.
Rowley Road runs along the northern boundary of the airport, passing the museum. Follow it west until you come to Coventry Road. Turn left along it, passing through Bagington village. Pass the end of the runway and turn left onto a small road running parallel to the airport fence. From here you can see most aircraft on the airfield, and the runway.
Doncaster Sheffield Airport
This former RAF bomber base (Finningley) was redeveloped into a modern passenger airport in 2005, with a shiny new terminal. It’s a base for small focus operations by Thomson Airways and Wizz Air.
More interesting is the presence of the last airworthy Vulcan bomber (which has recently been moved into storage at the airport) which was retired here.
There’s also a Cessna Citation maintenance facility in one of the hangars, which always has some interested occupants from around the world.
Finally, Doncaster Sheffield is a base for T2 Aviation and its Boeing 727 freighter fleet, and also sees numerous large cargo aircraft coming in on charters each month.
From the passenger terminal, drive or walk north past the hangars to reach the Vulcan Experience. Further along from here you can see aircraft parked at the Citation centre.
Aberdeen AirportAberdeen is a busy airport in north east Scotland which is a hub of activity surrounding the offshore oil industry, with much of its traffic made up from helicopters ferrying workers to and from rigs.
Airline flights to Aberdeen are often related to this also, with links to all regional airports across the UK, to Norway, and many European financial centres. A link has also been opened up recently to Reykjavik with Air Iceland DHC-8 Q400s. Some seasonal flights exist to holiday destinations, and cargo flights are operated by Loganair, Ben Air and West Atlantic.
The passenger terminal is to the west of the runway, with a dedicated helicopter terminal on the east side. Bristow and other helicopter operators have maintenance bases to the north of the passenger terminal.
At the southern corner of the terminal building is a shelter and some benches with views over part of the airliner parking apron and the runway beyond. You can see all movements from here and take some good photographs through the fence.
There is no parking here, so you’ll need to walk from the terminal car park along the track/disused road next to the car rental building.
Public Transport: Bus #727 links the airport to the city, whilst Dyce railway station links the city to the helicopter terminal. Bus #80 travels between the passenger terminal and helicopter terminal.
Gloucestershire Airport has gained something of a reputation in recent years as a centre for general aviation following a concerted effort by its management to carve a niche. After years following elusive scheduled services, the former wartime training base now only has daily links to the Isle of Man with Citywing, but is instead a hive of activity for light aircraft. It is also common to see biz jets present, especially with on-site training for these types.
The Aviator café is probably the best place for views. It serves food and drink and has outdoor seating with views over the airfield, flying clubs and runway 27 threshold, which is great for photographs. You can find it next to the airport entrance, off Bamfurlong Lane (postcode GL51 6SR).
At the north west corner of the airport site, in Meteor Business Park (postcode GL2 9QL) is the small Jet Age Museum (www.jetagemuseum.org) with a number of aircraft exhibits on display. Open weekends and public holidays from 10am to 4pm.
Probably Britain’s best-known storage and scrapping airfield (also check out Lasham and St. Athan), Kemble always seems to be rammed full of old airframes going through the chop or long-term storage. Few ever seem to leave, and some interesting examples arrive from all corners of the globe.
Kemble is also a friend GA airfield with a good café at the heart of the site offering views all around.
Rumour has it Kemble is to be turned into a housing estate, so make use of it while it lasts!
The busiest airport in Scotland in terms of passenger airline flights, but always competing with nearby Glasgow International.
Edinburgh has blossomed in recent years thanks to new owners who have harnessed popular flights from based airlines like easyJet and Ryanair, and long-haul links with airlines such as Etihad and Qatar Airways. As well as the regular mix of domestic and regional aircraft, it makes Edinburgh an interesting UK airport to spot at.
A 15 minute walk west of the passenger terminal leads to a large open air car park which fronts the perimeter fence alongside the taxiway and runway 06 threshold. Head for the Holiday Inn Express hotel and continue past it. There are also viewpoints to the north and east of the main runway.
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