London Gatwick is a major international airport 47.5km (29.5 miles) south of Central London. After Heathrow, it’s the second busiest airport in the UK, and it’s the eighth busiest in Europe. Until 2016 it was also the busiest single-use runway airport in the world, but it has now lost this title to Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji in India. 43.1 million passengers passed through Gatwick in 2016, an increase of 7.1% over the previous year.
Unlike London Heathrow, Gatwick is mainly used by charter/tourist traffic and low cost carriers. In terms of passenger numbers, easyJet is by far the largest operator, followed by British Airways, TUI, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian. Latter use the airport as a hub for their new long haul network offering flights on the 787 to destinations all over the world. You will also get some interesting operators which you won´t see at Heathrow like Westjet, Rwand Air, Med-View Airlines or Tianjin Airlines.
Cargo traffic and General Aviation plays no major role at LGW.
Written by Bas Velders, Alan Edwards (#4) and Clive Grant (last visit May 2018)
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|3,316m (10,879ft)||2,551m (8,369ft)|
|easyJet, TUI, Virgin||British Airways, Norwegian, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, flybe|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||Not needed, though useful at Spot #3|
|Car||Necessary for Spots #2 & 3 as these locations are a long distance from the terminals, and the perimeter road is not served by local buses. It may be possible to take a free bus between the terminals and the Purple Parking car park nearby, walking to and from these two spots from there.|
|Restrooms||In the South Terminal for Spot #1. The Maple Manor Hotel on Charlwood Road for Spots #2 & 3.|
|Drinks/Food||In the South Terminal for Spot #1. The Maple Manor Hotel restaurant on Charlwood Road for Spots #2 & 3.|
|Hotels||The Hampton by Hilton, Sofitel and Premier Inn hotels are all alongside the North Terminal and there are several others close by. The BLOC Hotel in the South Terminal provides views of the airport, with the Hilton and Courtyard by Marriott nearby. South of the airport, there is the recently refurbished Maple Manor Hotel on Charlwood Road. This hotel is also convenient for Spots #2 & 3 when Gatwick is on easterly operations.|
|Season||Whilst Gatwick is a busy airport year round, the summer months between May and October see higher movement levels with a greater variety of traffic, and of course longer days and hopefully better weather.|
|Runway Usage||General Info||There is only one runway in use at any time and opportunities for photography, of landing traffic in particular, are available whichever end is in use.
Usage: As the main runway, 08R/26L will always be used unless it’s closed due to an emergency or when runway maintenance is scheduled. In this case 08L/26R will be brought into use. There is no preference for either easterly or westerly operations so the runway end in use will depend on the wind direction. However, as the prevailing winds are westerly, 26L is likely to be in operation approximately two-thirds of the time.
|#1 – Perimeter Road East – 26 arrivals
|WHERE||From inside the South Termnal (there is a shuttle between both terminals), go to the departure hall and walk to the southwest corner of the building (British Airways check-in). Near the toilets (big signs), you will find a small sign to “Concord House”. This will lead you to a staircase which will take you to the Perimeter Road East. Walk alongside this road until you have reached the spot (10 minute walk). Spotting is also possible in the late evening (summer): just walk underneath the landing lights back towards the South Terminal. If driving to Gatwick, park in one of the South Terminal car parks and use description as stated above.|
|WHAT||All arrivals on Runways 26L/26R. Don’t hang out near the fence, but stay near the roadside.|
|TIME||All day during the winter. In the summer the light’s OK from about 09:00 until about 16:00 from the south side of the approach and from 18:00 till sunset from the north side.|
|MISC.||You can find everything you need in the terminal building.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Depending on your location: ~ 60 – 150 mm
From the entrance of the staff carpark: ~ 200 – 250 mm
|Spot #2 – Lowfield Heath Road – 08 arrivals|
|WHERE||Driving from the South Terminal, take the A23 London Road towards Lowfield Heath. Turn right at Lowfield Heath Roundabout and then left onto Charlwood Road. Follow this road to its junction with Bonnetts Lane on the left with the Purple Parking depot on the right. The Road then bends around to the right where it changes to Lowfield Heath Road and Spot #2 is on the left.
Although there is a lay-by alongside Spot #2, the police may sometimes move drivers on from here, so it may be better to park in Bonnetts Lane and walk around to this spot.
I you’re on foot, you may be able to catch the free bus from the terminals to Purple Parking and walk to the postion from there. The bus runs every twenty minutes.
|WHAT||All arrivals on Runways 08R/08L|
|TIME||All day during the winter. In the summer the light’s OK from about 09:00 until about 16:00.|
|MISC.||Apart from the Maple Manor Hotel back along Charlwood Road, there are no facilities here so bring what you need.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||100-300mm should cover most things. You can adjust your position to suit the angle you prefer.|
|Spot #3 – Western End Crash Gate – 08R departures|
|WHERE||From Spot #2 walk further north along Lowfield Heath Road to reach the Crash Gate on the right hand side.|
|WHAT||Through a single latch between the pole and the door of the crash gate it’s possible to take photos of aircraft lining up on 08R.|
|TIME||From early afternoon until sunset.|
|MISC.||Just inside the crash gate, the yellow metal barriers can get in the way of photos. At busy times and especially at weekends, this area gets pretty crowded so spaces to take photos is limited. The crash gate is secured so don´t touch it too strong. A ladder is useful to help avoid both of these problems but they are not popular with the authorities who are likely to ask you to remove it.
Apart from the Maple Manor Hotel back along Charlwood Road, there are no facilities here so bring what you need.
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-200mm should cover most things.|
|Spot #4 – South Parking Garage – 26L arrivals|
|WHERE||The spot is on the top level of the first South Terminal multi-storey car park. Parking Also is not cheap (£12 for 2 hours) so check what’s due before you go!|
|WHAT||All arrivals on 26L|
|TIME||After about 1700 in the Summer only|
|MISC.||Nearest facilities are in the terminal.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200mm will cover most things (ATR72 200mm , 738 135mm)|