Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom located in the northern part of the island of Eire, to the north of the Republic of Ireland.
This region is dominated by the city of Belfast, but there are other places of interest – particularly for tourists, including the Giant’s Causeway and Antrim Coast. Many also visit because of the area’s links with the Titanic and Game of Thrones TV series.
For aviation enthusiasts there are a number of things worth seeing.
George Best Belfast City Airport
Located right at the heart of Belfast, near the docks and famous ‘David and Goliath’ cranes with their Harland & Wolff symbols.
The airport is limited by its surroundings, and as such has a shorter runway and smaller terminal. Nevertheless, the airport still plays host to many airlines and aircraft up to Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 size.
The main carriers here are Aer Lingus Regional, British Airways, easyJet, Loganair and KLM Cityhopper.
To the north of the terminal, alongside the runway, is a large IKEA store with a multi-storey car park which can be used for logging aircraft on the runway during store opening hours, providing you don’t draw too much attention. It is accessed from the next exit of the A2 after the airport (follow signposts for Holywood Exchange). Photography is a bit limited due to trees.
Belfast International Airport
The larger airport serving Belfast is actually 11 miles away to the north west.
It shares the site with a military helicopter base on the site of the former RAF Aldergrove which closed in 2008 and occupied the southern part of the airport.
The majority of passenger operations are by easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair, and TUI Airways.
Cargo flights are provided by DHL and some of its partners. It’s easy to see these aircraft by walking left out of the passenger terminal. A private jet terminal and apron are located in the north-west corner of the airfield.
Fairly decent opportunities to photograph aircraft approaching runway 25 can be found about half a mile before touchdown. To reach the spot, drive east from the airport on Airport Road and turn right onto Drennans Road. You’ll come to Killead Church, which has a car park that may be used if not obstructing anyone. Looking north, aircraft will pass close by on approach.
Ulster Aviation Society
Gate 3 — Maze Long Kesh, 94-b Halftown Road, Lisburn, BT27 5RF, Northern Ireland | www.ulsteraviationsociety.org
The premier aviation museum in Northern Ireland, situated at the former RAF Lisburn, south west of Belfast. The collection includes fast jets, helicopters, trainers, wartime aircraft, and aircraft produced locally by Shorts Brothers.
Visits by prior arrangement only (see website). Up to 4 slots available daily.
City of Derry Airport
A quiet airport in the north west of Northern Ireland around 7 miles east of Derry. It has a single active runway with two disused cross runways. The passenger terminal and parking apron is to the south of the runway, with flights provided by Loganair and Ryanair.
You can try following Clooney Road from the airport entrance, then turning right onto Airfield Road (postcode BT47 3PZ) towards the flying club where the road splits and runs to two different crash gates, where the runway can be seen.
On the north side of the airfield is another road leading to a crash gate close to a local equestrian centre (postcode BT47 3PZ).
The main general aviation airfield in Northern Ireland is situated at Newtownards, at the northern end of Strangford Lough, to the east of Belfast. It is close to the town centre, and has three runways.
You can usually see anything of interest parked up on the apron outside the Ulster Flying Club (off Portaferry Road), or by driving along the A21 (Comber Road) which runs down the western perimeter.
A former RAF base in the south west of Northern Ireland. It has a single runway in use today.
Scheduled passenger services ended nearly 20 years ago, but the airport is used regularly by light aircraft, helicopters, and the occasional biz jets.
You can see the main parking apron and runway through the fence alongside the control tower.
Our updated guide, Airport Spotting Guides UK & Ireland covers all major airports and airfields in Northern Ireland, as well as other parts of the UK. It details the best spotting and photography locations, spotting hotels, aviation museums and collections, and even covers spotting at the best military airfields.
To order your copy, visit this link