Vancouver Intl. Airport & Seaplane Spotting Guide

Vancouver International Airport (YVR/CYVR) is the second busiest airport in Canada. The airport handles about 22 million passengers a year and is the Asian gateway to Canada. Both Air Canada and WestJet are based at Vancouver. Furthermore, there are a lot of smaller regional carriers flying to the north, like Air North and Pacific Coastal Airlines, starting from the South Terminal.

On the south side of the airport lays the Vancouver International Seaplane (CAM9) base. The Seaplane bays is located on the Fraser Rivers and is a hub for Harbour Air and Seair. On busy days, the base will be swarmed by Beavers, Turbo Beavers, Otters, Twin Otters and all kinds of Cessna floatplanes.

Written by Bas Velders, Achim Walter, Jan Seba and Stefan Bratner (visited 2016)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information Runways 08L/26R 08R/26L  12/30
3.030m (9,940 ft) 3,505m (11,500 ft) 2.225m (7,300 ft)
 Terminals Main Terminal South Terminal
Almost all domestic and international flights. All flights of Pacific Coastal and smaller charter airlines.
Spotting Information Ladder Not needed.
Car A car is advisable for most spots. But there is a courtesy between the main and south terminals.
Restrooms In the terminals and seaplane bases.
Drinks/Food There are a few restaurants in the vicinity. One of the best is the Flying Beaver Grill and Bar (at the Harbour Air Seaplane Terminal).
Hotels On the east side of the airport, there are a lot of affordable hotels.
Season The best weather season is from April untill Oktober. Also more charter traffic in the summer
Runway Usage  08L/26R Mostly used for landings.
08R/26L Mostly used for takoffs.

Spot #1 – Templeton Station Rd – Arrivals 26R
WHERE From the terminal, drive towards the city centre (Grand McConachie Way) until you cross Templeton St. Turn left here. Turn right on Templeton Station Road and park you car along the road near the shopping centre. Walk towards the Fraser River and find a nice spot tho take photos of the arriving traffic.
WHAT Arrivals on RWY 26R only.
TIME Almost all day long. In the summer backlit in the morning and evening.
MISC. Everything you need is at the shopping center.
FOCAL LENGTH 100 – 250 mm.
Spot #2 – Ferguson Rd – Arrivals 26R
WHERE This spot is located on Templeton St. Pass the Shopping Mall and park your car alongside the road once you have passed the approach path.
WHAT Arrivals on RWY 26R only.
TIME Late evenings in the summer only.
MISC. Everything you need is at the shopping mall.
FOCAL LENGTH 75 – 100 mm.
Spot #3 – Larry Berg Flight Path Park – Arrivals 26L
WHERE From the terminal, drive towards the city centre (Grand McConachie Way) until you cross Templeton St. Turn right here. Turn left on Miller Rd and right again on Rus Baker Way. The Larry Berg Flight Path Park will be on your right hand side.
WHAT Arrivals 26L only. The angle is pretty worse and its good for head-on shots in the evening.
There is also a crash gate next to the park where you might be able to photograph the line up for 26L.
TIME You are directly under the approach path.
MISC. South of this location is a McDonalds (see spot #4). This is more a place to relax (with the family) and watching the aircrafts passing by.
FOCAL LENGTH 50 – 100 mm.
Spot #4 – Gilbert Rd – Arrivals 26L
WHERE Just south of spot #3. Park your car on the parking lot near Gilbert Road. You can cross the street if needed.
WHAT Arrivals 26L only.
TIME Almost all day long. In the summer backlit in the morning and evening.
MISC. The McDonalds restaurant is a 2 minute walk.
FOCAL LENGTH 100 – 250 mm.

We can’t provide sample pictures from this location. If you have photos please don´t hesitate to contact us!

 

Spot #5 – South Terminal Viewing Platform
WHERE To reach the spot #5 and #6 you can follow the signs to the South Terminal. On the right hand side of the terminal, there is a public parking lot and an elevated observation area. There is also a courtesy shuttle between the main and south terminal you can use.
WHAT All South Terminal traffic. Departing/arriving traffic runway 08L/26R  (watch out for heat haze).
You can walk along the perimeter fence and photograph different kind of angles through the fence.
TIME Almost the whole day as you can shoot different angles. Runway is backlit in the summer in the morning and evening.
MISC. Everything you need is inside the South Terminal.
FOCAL LENGTH 80 – 200 mm for all movements on the apron. 300 – 400 mm for arriving and departing traffic.


Spot #6 – Vancouver International Seaplane (CAM9)
WHERE Follow the signs to the South Terminal and park on the Float Plane parking.
WHAT All movements on the Fraser River are visible.
TIME Depends on the angle you prefer. For planes on the rive late afternoon – sunset
MISC. The Harbour Air Terminal also houses the Flying Beaver Bar & Grill. Also the South Terminal is nearby. There are some benches along the riverside.
FOCAL LENGTH 100 – 300 mm.
Spot #7 – Turning area Ferguson Rd – 08L arrivals
WHERE Driving the Ferguson Rd., pass spot #8, to the end of the airport and you see a big turning area and some trucks parking . Just stay there and start spotting.
WHAT 08L arrivals only.
TIME Only useful in the summer in the morning.
MISC.  Everything you need is at the shopping mall.
FOCAL LENGTH 789 = 90mm; A333 = 150mm
Spot #8 – Sandhill Ferguson Rd – 08L/26R movements
WHERE Coming from spot #2 follow Ferguson Rd. After the last building you’ll see a sandhill on the left side where you can climb up to shoot over the fence. You can park in the entrance or at the street.
WHAT All movements on RWY 08L/26R. Due to the sun position 90 degree shots are difficult. Better for shots with the sun shining on the front of the plane.
The northern taxiways are in range too.
TIME Only useful in the summer. Best for 08L in the early morning, 26R in the evening.
MISC. Everything you need is at the shopping mall.
FOCAL LENGTH 150 to 300mm


Spot #9 – Miller neighbourhood Park – 26R arrivals
WHERE This is an alternative to #1. You need a higher focal length but the angle is slightly better. Coming from Grant McConachie Way use exit to Russ Baker way. Turn right into Miller Rd and follow the street until you see the dog playground on the right. Park you car and go north until you have a postion you like. Address fpr navigation: 6800 Miller Road
WHAT Arrivals on RWY 26R only.
TIME Almost all day long. In the summer backlit in the morning and evening.
MISC. Everything you need is at the shopping mall.
FOCAL LENGTH 763 = 300mm


Spot #10 – Avis Parking – 26R arrivals & departures
WHERE The spot is situtated at the end of McDonald Rd, next to the Avis Car Park. There are some “free” parking slots next to the Avis property where may find a place. You have to enter private property so its possible that you were asked to leave. A few steps are necessary here to shoot over the fence.
The location is also in walking distance from the terminals.
WHAT Best for 26R movements, arrivals and departures. Taxiway M for lineup on 26R. Also 08L arrivals are possible if they exit the runway.
TIME Almost all day long. In the summer backlit in the morning and evening.
MISC. Heat haze is an issue in the summer for runway photos. Everything you need is at the terminal.
FOCAL LENGTH Runway = 150-300, Taxiway maximum of 200mm for small props.
Spot #11 – Hangars – South Terminal movements
WHERE The position is on the opposite site of the south terminal in a corner next to some hangars. Just continue the road from spot #6 and park your car next to the fence where you have to shoot through.
WHAT Best for aircrafts coming from the runway and heading to their parking position.
TIME Good location from afternoon till sunset.
MISC. As usual on the ground, heat haze is an issue, especially in the summer. Everything you need within the south terminal.
FOCAL LENGTH 737 = 140mm; Beech = 110mm
Spot #12 – Fraser River – Seaplane movements
WHERE There is a nice location across the Fraser River where you can photograph the seaplanes. Its on the opposite site from #6. To get there continue the road from #3 and #4 southwards and cross the river. Turn the next right into Westminster and then once again right to get to the river road. There is a dyke where you find plenty of photo positions.
WHAT All seaplane movements on the fraser river and heavy 08R departures.

For seaplane movement it is better to stand more in the western side of the marked path but for the heavy departures you need to move more to the east, otherwise the planes will still be too low.

TIME Almost all day long. In the summer backlit in the morning and evening.
MISC. Heat haze is an issue in the summer. Nothing special nearby.
FOCAL LENGTH Seaplanes on the river = 300-400mm; A345 departure = 350mm

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2 thoughts on “Vancouver Intl. Airport & Seaplane Spotting Guide

  1. Greg Bredell

    Great site! I’ve a few good clips of YVR from about 12 years ago. Wrapped up every 747 Canadian operated there
    but I think the Canadian 747 taking off from Manila to YVR via Tokyo is the only vid I have on Youtube (I’m Starboard76 on YT btw)
    I’m writing you because I’ve a huge fixation on 1960-1980s commercial aviation. And I’m asking, are you aware of
    any YVR film (8mm 16mm 35mm) or video shooters who may have been capturing images at YVR from 1970 – 1988?
    Why? I’m seeking out as much CP Air footage as possible. I’m amazed at no videographers managed to get any
    CP Air 747s, DC-10s or DC-8s wearing the illustrious Orange in action – I can’t be too mad at YVR spotters when
    Manchester UK, Hong Kong, Amsterdam spotters saw this stuff EVERY DAY – and with 100s of shooters at each place
    None of did CP Air any facetime justice! A crying shame if you ask me! So I’m at wits end intensely combing thru the internet
    trying for footage. The tourist board managed to get a few seconds of decent CP Air footage…not nowhere near enough.

    So you you can point me in the right direction or assist in anyway, I’m be very grateful!

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