Cotswold Airport (GBA/EGBP), which was formerly known as Kemble Airfield, is a small airfield in the west of England between Bristol and Oxford. The airport mostly hosts general aviation and flying schools, however it is also well known for its big storage and aircraft part processing site. This is the main reason spotter visit Cotswold where aircraft are stored from B737 and A320 up to B747 and A340 including rareties like some B727s. Thanks to the local company called “Air Salvage International”, which is running this business, the airport experienced rapid increasement of interested people and visitors lately. But apart from this Cotswold is also famous for Top Gear shows and Formula 1 test drives as real air traffic is actually very rare.
GBA is actively trying to change the image that Kemble is just an aircraft scrapyard but also a very active general aviation field with several based flying schools and a growing number of biz jets. While the stored airliners are obviously the main reason for us to visit, we probably should encourage that Cotswolds airport isn’t called aircraft scrapyard in online reports appreciating the management this way for their support.
The airport was built in 1936 as a Royal Air Force base (“RAF Kemble”) and still had military connection till 1993. After the famous Red Arrows were used to be based at GBA till 1983 here, the USAF took over the airfield and run a maintenance facility before they Americans also left and the British Army stored equipment here. GBA only turned into a private airfield with aviation usage again once a local businessman bought the site in 2001. Only in 2009, the airfield was renamed from Kemble Airfield to today’s name Cotswold Airport, which all added its part to the airfield’s new appearance.
Under THIS LINK you will find a list with the latest sightings at Cotwold.
Written by Severin Hackenberger in cooperation with Sebastian Sowa, Michael Lutzenberger and Johannes Wirl. Thanks to the following guys for providing some pictures each: Jack Crompton, David Cook, Ian Simpson, David John Dillon and Michael Eaton. Last update: Mike Lutzenberger (Spot #1, #7, #8 and new photos) July 2022.
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| (7 votes, average: 3.57 out of 5)
|08/26||2009m / 6561ft – Asphalt|
|08/26||560m / 1837ft – Grass|
|Ladder||Needed at almost all places and thus definitely recommended. But keep it down as long as possible especially in the industrial area in the north in order to keep a low profile.|
|Car/Public Transport||Car absolutely needed. On the hand public transport is poor here, but the car is also good to sit in thus you can stay “undercover”/unseen here easily.|
|Restrooms||Nothing around except bushes/forest.|
|Drinks/Food||Nothing around here except in Kemble itsself, rather take all with you.|
|Hotels||Some facilities are close in Kemble, but non is a “special spotter” accommodation.|
|Season||Totally depends on what you wanna see, but summer may be better as you have more sunlight from various angles so you may have more chances also because most spots are located in the north. Heat haze is a problem, but as most spots are close to actions, this shouldn’t be that bad.|
|Security||This airfield is privately run and thus we recommend to keep a LOW PROFILE all the time although ladders are normally allowed, please only display and use them when actually needed. In addition, most spots in the north are located inside the airport industrial area, which is open from 9 till 17 as of July 2020 from tuesdays to saturdays. Of course, it is FORBIDDEN to sneak thru the gates like some idiots did in early 2020. Stay out once gates are closed! We are happy to be tolerated during opening times at least! Only go into the marked area on the map for taking pictures and LEAVE QUICKLY AGAIN once you are done – in our all interest…
However, the airport management is very friendly towards spotters, actively engaging with them on social media and also sharing times of arrivals when possible. So we just should reiterate that we all should behave responsibly and considerate.
|General Info||26 is the main direction of air traffic at Cotswold.|
|08/26 – Asphalt||Used by all airliner and bizzer.|
|08/26 – Grass||Only used by the local gliding and GA clubs.|
A320 just in front close-up = 18mm
|Spot #2 – A429 roadside fence – Taxiway C|
|WHERE||Along the highway A429 you will find some really interesting aircraft sometimes and this spot is just along the roadside at the fence. DO NOT stop by the roadside, which is very risky due to the fast traffic passing by, rather park at spot #3 and walk back here. Then there is also no rush to take your pictures fast, so rather just come back here by foot and park away…|
|WHAT||From here you have a nice view onto taxiways c – the one which runs paralelly to A429 and the former runway 31. On both normally B747s/A340s are parked.|
|TIME||Sunrise till noon.|
|MISC.||Ladder needed. DO NOT STOP by the roadside with your car as it is very dangerous.|
B744 just in front full shot = 20mm / KLM B744 “farer away” = 75mm
|Spot #3 – A429 parking bay – Belfast apron + Runway 08/26 movements|
|WHERE||On the southern side of A429 – just where the runway begins – you will find a small parking bay, where you can stop your car and then either take pictures from there or change the streetside and search your favourite position along the fence.|
|WHAT||Runway 08/26 movements as well as the Belfast apron which can be found just directly on the other site of the runway.|
|TIME||Runway: late morning till early afternoon in summer and all day in winter.
Belfast apron: Depending on the exact parking spot and your position, but can be good all day as you can easily change sides by walking along the fence.
-> Some planes might be parked in a way that they can be shot from both sides in the morning and evening but to get everything, it’s best to visit both times.
|MISC.||Ladder recommended in order to avoid the fence, high grass and cars in your picture. Be careful when crossing the street. Due to the runway, the Belfast apron is easily hazy from here.|
|Spot #4 – Fieldside – Belfast apron + 26 Line-Ups/Arrivals|
|WHERE||As this spot can’t be reached easily by car, it is the best option to leave it in the parking bay at spot #3 and then walk to the east by foot till the fence on the left ends and you can walk upwards along the field. Then you just reached the spot as this is located all along the fence at the runway’s end regarding your favourite angle/aircraft parked on the apron…|
|WHAT||From here you have a nice view onto the Eastern parts of Belfast apron as well as runway 26 Line-Ups and if you go up north enough also a nice angle for 26 arrivals.|
|TIME||Regarding your exact position, but best on early summer mornings or late summer evenings.|
|MISC.||Ladder needed. Heat haze may be a problem.
In order to get to the fenceline east of the runway you will have to pass a metal gate once you leave the A429 northwards. Thereby you will pass a property’s border to foreign property. There are no signs that treepassing is highly forbidden, but you may obviously face problems if the owner does not like it and sees you. We did not heard about any problems here yet though…
parked B727 = 120mm
|Spot #5 – Tower – Belfast Apron|
|WHERE||Exit the highway A433 north of the airport to the south into an unnamed street, but the street’s “entrance” from the highway looks like the overview below this spot. Follow this street till its end, wheere you will end up at the a gate and fence, which surrounds the airport industrial area (marked on the map). However, this spot can be found just outside the airport gate. As such the spot is also accessible when the gate is closed. But do not park directly at the spot opposite the airport entry and the crash gate but a little bit further down the road. There have been several reports recently of cars blocking lorry access to the airport and again we obviously don’t want to piss the management off. So park a bit away and come back here by foot…|
|WHAT||From here you can see the stands in the west of Belfast apron as well as the runway’s eastern end – the aircraft parked here are regularly moved so you may get different aircraft parked here within a short timespan.|
|TIME||On late evenings, summer is the best time – in winter months sun may set too early.|
|MISC.||Ladder needed. Heat haze may be a problem.|
B727 = 55mm
|Spot #6 – Airport Area East – Apron D + H|
|WHERE||Exit the highway A433 north of the airport to the south into an unnamed street, but the street’s “entrance” from the highway looks like the overview below this spot. Follow this street till its end, wheere you will end up at the a gate and fence, which surrounds the airport industrial area (marked on the map).This zone is only open from 9 till 17 as of July 2020 from tuesdays to saturdays and needs to be entered in order to reach the spot. So pass the gate and enter the mentioned area, just afterwards turn right and keep going for a while: pass two hangars on the left and shortly after this you will see a little parking bay which lasts till the fence. From there you will have a nice view and thus you reached the spot there – you can park your car there quickly or a bit to the northwest behind a little barrier, which can be passed easily.|
|WHAT||Good view on Apron D and H.|
|TIME||Best on summer mornings. Summer is best as in winter you’ll only have backlit here.
However, D apron has backlit 99% of the time with the current airport opening times even on summer days… So only H apron can be shot nicely with light on mornings.
|MISC.||Ladder not needed here as the fence has huge gaps and all lenses will fit through.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Apron D -> 50-150mm (80mm = A320/B737)
Apron H -> 100-150mm (120mm = A319)
|Spot #7 – Airport Area North – Apron D + H|
|WHERE||Pass a barrier just after spot #6 and just after you have passed the three hangars on the left, you will find a little fencekink next to a former taxiway from where you can greatly see the preserved B727. There you can also park your car easily and reached this spot already along this fencepart. The preserved B727 fuselage has been sold and is now in use as an office outside Bristol|
|WHAT||Nice view onto Apron D and northern parts of apron H as well as the mentioned preserved B727 in front. The preserved B727 fuselage has been sold and is now in use as offices outside Bristol|
|TIME||Early summer mornings or late summer evenings. Summer is best, in winter you’ll mostly have backlit here.|
|MISC.||See instructions at #6! Ladder needed.|
B727 = 24mm
|Spot #8 – Airport Area West – Apron D + H|
|WHERE||Pass a barrier just after spot #6 and pass three more hangars before passing spot #7. Keep going to the left, pass two big hangars on your left and you’ll find yourself south of Apron H on a little parking strip just close to the GA area with its restaurant. Park your car around here and search your favourite position along the fence here.|
|WHAT||Nice view onto southern parts of Apron H as well as the opposite Apron D. Most aircraft will be from behind due to the way they are parked.
Outside the Terminal building the former BA B747-400 in Negus retro colours is now preserved. Unfortunately, the side without stairs has only good light late or early in the summer when the airfield access is closed. The side with stairs has sun most of the day in summer and all day in winter
|TIME||Good from late noon till sunset.|
|MISC.||See instructions at #6!|
B733 in front = 14mm
|Spot #9 – Model Car Club – North Apron / Taxiway B + D|
|WHERE||Pass a barrier just after spot #6 and pass three more hangars before passing spot #7. Keep going straight onwards thus you pass the forest on your left. Also pass the Model car club on your left and just afterwards you’ll reach the fence again. Park your car there and then walk along the fence to the southeast, where you can search your favourite position…
At the south-eastern end the fence is low enough to cover with a 2 step ladder but a high one needed further along as the fence is very high and as the aircraft are quite close lenses can’t fit through the mesh. Keep this in mind when choosing your position here.
|WHAT||View onto parking/storage on Taxiway B (also called North Apron) as well as the Taxiway D, which runs towards the GA area east of this spot.|
|TIME||Depending on what you wanna shoot, but either early morning is best or late afternoon.|
|MISC.||See instructions at #6! Ladder needed – high one needed here as the fence is very high and due to the aircraft, which are parked quite close here, lenses can’t fit through the mesh.|
Gulfstream = 55mm
Excellent guide, I have visited many times without any bother – just be respectful. AND don’t forget to visit the AV8 cafe, the sausage and chips are extremely good and the price is great (near the tower}. If you walk along the fence @ southermost storage industrial units you WILL get grief from the security, but try not to be seen cos when you’ve got the pics it don’t matter!
Regarding spot number 4.
From Google maps, I see that the way to the fenceline of the A429 is through a gate that seems to be locked from maps, was this the case for anyone that used it?
Many thanks for any help.
I have not been there yet but as author of the article here I hope the following experiences I was told will help:
“There is a gate, yes. But it does rather just look like a solid one in order to avoid foreign cars entering the way. There are no signs of “no entry” etc (as you can see here: https://email@example.com,-2.0389937,3a,57.4y,312.39h,81.47t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1slVXjEZM-bbAkf1pG2gIqPA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192). Obviously you will treepass a property’s border to foreign properties, so you always have to decide about the risk of possible problems for yourself.”
Hope this helps,
What a brilliantly helpful guide to spotting airliners at this airport. I am about to set off today and will use your guide and advice.
I’ll let this post know how I get on!