Manchester Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

Our member Jeremy Denton visited Manchester Airport in June 2011 and wrote a guide about it with a total of six spots. Manchester Airport is a major international airport located to the South of Manchester city centre. It is the third busiest airport in the UK and the busiest outside London. It has two runways both of 3,050m (10,000ft) in length, three passenger terminals, a cargo centre and several aircraft maintenance facilities.

The vast amount of action occurs at Manchester in the morning and evening. Between 7am and 9am most of the transatlantic traffic arrives, most of these aircraft then depart sometime between 9am and 12am. At lunchtime the daily Emirates Airbus A380 arrives from Dubai and departs again mid-afternoon. The afternoon is dominated by charters and budget airlines from around Europe but some “heavy” aircraft such as the ones from Qatar and Abu Dhabi make appearances. In the evening the budget airlines and charters return. Overnight the airport is usually quiet, with a few charters from the Mediterranean arriving in the early hours. Cargo aircraft are also regular at Manchester with near-daily appearances from Cathay Pacific Cargo and a few-times weekly Lufthansa Cargo MD-11F on a stopover between North America and Frankfurt. This Lufthansa Cargo service is scheduled to change to a brand new Boeing 777 Freighter from December 2013.

A very helpful tool for your spotting days is the official airport website, which gives you information about all the flights (even cargo!) and also accurate ETAs.

Written by Jeremy Denton and Gary Culpan (last update Oct. 2014)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Airport Information Runways 05R/23L 05L/23R
3.050 m (10.000 ft) 3.050 m (10.000 ft)
Terminals Terminal 1 Terminal 2 Terminal 3
Airliners scheduled and charter flying to European and other worldwide destinations Variety of airlines Domestic routes, European and International flights
Spotting Information Ladder Not required
Car It will be much better if you have the opportunities to rent a car.
Restrooms Inside terminal and restaurants around the airport.
Drinks/Food Inside terminal and around the airport.
Hotels Close to the airport there are many hotels.
Season Weather is best in Summer and Autumn/Fall.
Runway Usage  05L Take-offs during dual runway operations, take-offs and landings during single runway operations.
05R Landings during dual runway operations, closed during single runway operations.
23R Landings during dual runway operations, take-offs and landings during single runway operations.
23L Take-offs during dual runway operations, closed during single runway operations.
During quieter hours of operations the Southern “Runway 2” is closed completely because the extra capacity is not required. During these hours take-off and landings both occur on the North “Runway 1” – either runway 05L or 23R depending on the wind.

Spot #1 – Threshold – 23L Arrivals Morning
WHERE If you came from another hotel by taxi, tell him to go to the Airport Inn. From there, walk up and on the right is a black gate. Go through it and walk up the path under the trees and follow the small grass way. After a few minutes you will arrive close to the airport fence. Continue walking next to them. On your right, you’ll see a gate who you can climb and follow the small way until the hill.
WHAT Arrivals on rwy05R or departures from rwy23L in the morning.
TIME From sunrise to 13:30.
MISCELLANEOUS There is nothing nearby, so take what you need with you.
FOCAL LENGTH 18-300mm it’s perfect, you are really close to aircraft. Spot #2 – Runway Visitor Park – 05L & 23R Departures & Arrivals
WHERE From the spot 1, take the Wilmslow road (A538) direction airport, than take the first exit to your right (Sundbank Lane) and finally take the Wilmslow Old Road on the right, go strait and you will see the Trident. You can park your car for (£3 for up to 1 hours stay / £6 for up to 2 hours stay / £9 for up to 3 hours stay / £12 for over 3 hours stay)
WHAT The main purpose built viewing area is placed close to the taxiways that are used by aircraft vacating runway 23R after landing and by aircraft taxiing to Runway 05L for departure. There are 3 raised mounds that give a 180 degree unobstructed view of the complete airfield (excluding the Western Apron). From this point you have the possibilities to have everything on the 05R and 23R.
TIME Best light conditions are from 15:00 PM to sunset.
MISCELLANEOUS WC, games, aviation-shop, drinks, food and visit aircraft are available.
FOCAL LENGTH 18-300mm perfect  Spot #3 + 4 – Terminal 1
WHERE There are a few ways to get to this location, the most obvious being to drive up to the roof and park your own car up there and this is a great idea. It means that when there is a lull in traffic you can sit in your car with the air conditioning on and be free from the often harsh Manchester weather! Parking at T1 is not cheap though.Up to 30 minutes £2.50
Up to 1 hour £4.50
Up to 2 hours £8.00
Up to 4 hours £15.00
Up to 6 hours £20.00
Up to 24 hours £35.00
WHAT The roof or car rentals level, level 13, is the most popular part of the car park. There is usually a group of spotters in the corner watching the action and chatting – it’s a pleasant and friendly atmosphere. Located in this corner are large plastic bags which the airport has put up there as bins for the spotters to use, there are also many small ‘holes’ in the metal grill fencing – facing the ‘West Apron’ – that have been cut to allow photographers to poke lenses through and get a clear shot of the action. From this point only taxing aircraft or on static are possible except on the spot 5 you can have planes landing avec departing rwy 23R and 05L
TIME You will find a location to take some shots from sunrise to sunset.
MISCELLANEOUS There is nothing nearby, so take what you need with you.
FOCAL LENGTH 18-300mm is the best
Spot #5 – Airport Hotel Car Park – 23L arrivals
WHERE From Runway Visitor Park, take Wilmslow Old Road direction Wilmslow Rd/A538, you will arrived on a roundabout than take Runger Lane and Thorley Lane direction Ringway Road at Wythenshawe than continue on Ringway Rd, drive in Airport Hotel Car Park direction after take on the right on Ringway Rd and finally on the first on the left. About 10 minutes by car.
WHAT Nice place, you can take picture from a table drink a beer and eat at the same time. Only approach on rwy 23Rt is available at this point.
TIME 15:00 to the sunset.
MISCELLANEOUS WC, games, drinks, foods are available.
FOCAL LENGTH 50-300mm is the best
Spot #6 – Long Stay Car Park – 23L arrivals
WHERE Starting at Spot #5, turn right and continue on the Ringway Rd and then the second right into the B5166. After passing the railroad track turn right to the long stay car park. Don’t enter the lot and park at the entrance.
WHAT Only approach on rwy 23Rt is available at this point.
TIME From morning until early afternoon
MISCELLANEOUS Here is absolutely nothing.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-200mm is the best

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4 thoughts on “Manchester Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

    1. JulianJulian

      We never used one but regarding to the airports website there is indeed a free 24h shuttle service!


  1. Ultimo Tiger

    I’d like to state that you can get some good approach shots from Rose Vale Park about a mile to the north east of Runway 1, and also some great locations down the western end of Runway 2. I’d be very happy to email yuo some photos and the exact locations if it’s any help to your guide?

    1. JeremyJeremy Post author

      Thanks a lot for the information and we’d love to update MAN guide. I sent to you an e-mail the 30.07.15.
      Could you have a look please ?
      Thanks a lot
      Jeremy Denton

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