Manchester Airport (MAN/EGCC) is the UK’s third busiest airport, behind Heathrow and Gatwick, handling almost 30 million passengers in 2019. The airport has three terminals, Terminal 1, 2 and 3. Terminal two is currently undergoing a 10 year, £1 billion major reconstruction project which hopes to significantly increase passenger numbers. The airport covers an area of 1,400 acres, surrounded to the South by National Trust land making Manchester Airport an exceptional place for Planespotters with a great variety of spotting locations available. Manchester Airport is widely regarded as one of the best airports for plane spotters due to number of spotting points available and the incredible views these offer.
The vast amount of action occurs at Manchester in the morning and evening. Between 6am and 13pm most of the transatlantic traffic arrives. Then, most of these aircraft departs between 9am and 12am. The afternoon is mostly basic traffic from UK, mostly the same that comes in the morning dominated by charters and budget airlines from around Europe. Overnight the airport is usually quiet, with a few charters from the Mediterranean arriving in the early/late hours.
Written by Gary Culpan, Gerrit Griem, Jeremy Denton, Paul Markman and Severin Hackenberger. Last update: January 2021
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|05R/23L||3.050 m (10.000 ft)|
|05L/23R||3.050 m (10.000 ft)|
|Terminal 1||Airliners scheduled and charter flying to European and other worldwide destinations.
Aer Lingus, Aegean, Air Transat, Austrian, Brussels, Cobalt, Easyjet, Emirates, Etihad, Eurowings, Finnar, Icelandair, Jet2, Lufthansa, Norweigan, SAS, Swiss, TAP, Turkish.
|Terminal 2||Variety of airlines. Most long haul flights depart from Terminal 2.
TUI, Singapore Airlines , Hainan, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, United, Saudia and Qatar, Oman Air and PIA.
|Terminal 3||Domestic routes, European and International flights.
Ryanair, Vueling, Loganair, KLM, FlyBe, Iberia, British Airways, American Airlines, Air France,
|Ladder||Not required and not recommend to use in the UK.|
|Car/Public Transport||Not essential however would come in handy depending on what spots you would like to visit. All spots to the South of the airport are in walking distance of each other. Public transport around the airport is limited. Many buses only run once an hour. However you will not struggle getting a taxi or Uber.|
|Restrooms||Inside the terminals and in shops and hotels around the airport. Spots to the south of the airport have no restrooms however there are lots of bushes!|
|Drinks/Food||Inside terminal and around the airport.|
|Hotels||A great variety and number of hotels located around the airport. We recommend staying at the ‘Airport Inn Hotel’ as the spots are most accessible from here.|
|Season||Spotting year round is possible however summer is the most pleasant time of year and when there is most movements.|
|General Info||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.
Dual Runway Usage:
Monday to Friday- 6am to 9pm (21:00)
|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.|
|WHERE||You have to go and park near the Airport Inn Hotel. From there, walk on the paved footpath as marked on the map and you can choose between these two positions:
Spot #1a: On the right there is a black tiny gate. Just pass this and simply follow the paved path behind it to get the spot. After a few minutes you will arrive close to the airport fence, but just continue walking on the right and a few meters on your right, you’ll see a wood gate who you can climb and follow the small way until the hill. (In case, please refer you to the map as we underline the way to follow).
Spot #1b: Go up till “Altrincham road” and climb over the iron gate on your right, then and walk up the street to get to spot #1b. The gate is just for cars and people are allowed to pass it, normally nobody cares of you while climbing aboce it. Once arrived at the fence and a gate there then, just continue climbing onto a small dirthill on your right and there you go.
|WHAT||Arrivals and departures both runways. Spot #1a offers better 23L Line-Up shots, therefore heavies are already in the air at spot #1b, so their gear isn’t covered by grass and signs.|
|TIME||From sunrise to late midday.|
|MISC.||There is nothing nearby, so take what you need with you. Do not throw any of your drinks/foods stuff as it’s a natural environment and theirs no rubbish. Keep in mind that pictures of the 05L and 23R may have some heat haze from the half-day. Can become muddy and slippery there.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Runway 05R/23L (taxiway, exit) : 210mm SB2, 50mm A380
Runway 05L/23R : 240mm A319 & 140mm B773
Recommend you 18-300mm
|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. If you go there on foot it’s free but if you go with a car, that’s the cost fee (£5 up to 2 hours, £10 from 2 hours up to 4 hours, and £12 for all stays over 4 hours).|
|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.
+++JUNE 2019: VIEW IS VERY LIMITED DUE TO A NEW FENCE AND THE MOUND’S NEW POSITION! TAXIWAY PICTURES NO LONGER POSSIBLE FROM THE MOUND. RUNWAY IS STILL CLEAR. THE AIRPORT IS GOING TO BILD A VIP TERMINAL NEXT TO THE PARK AND DUE TO THE CONSTRUCTIONS THE SIGHT IS LIMITED. MORE INFOS HERE+++
|TIME||Best light conditions are from 1500 to sunset.|
|MISC.||WC, games, aviation-shop, drinks, foods, chairs and visit aircraft are available if you book in advanced only. Ladder very useful and recommended to get all movements from here.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Runway 05L/23R : From 150mm to 400mm.
Taxiing to runway 05L : 18mm or less up to 200mm.
Taxiing to Terminal : 140mm B773 & 380mm ATR72.
Recommend you 18-300mm
|WHERE||The spot is on the roof, level 13, of the Terminal 1 Multi Storey car park. There is usually a group of spotters in the corner watching the action and chatting – it’s a pleasant and friendly atmosphere.
Multi-Storey Car Park and T2 East Multi-Storey Car Park are restricted to pre-booked customers only! You cant just drive up there and park! If you don’t wanna book in advance you now have to use T1 Short Stay Car Park which is right behind it and the prices are as followUp to 30 minutes £4.50
Up to 30 mins = £4.50
+++ UPDATE JULY 2020: Basically this car is pre book only so cant just drive up there and park, the lifts and stairs to the car park are located inside the terminal building, you can access the lifts through and entrance which is next to the car park entrance for cars on the terminal 3 end of terminal 1, also you could try walking through the terminal, I have and haven’t been challenged so far and think this is more of an advisory rather than a rule, but facemasks must be worn if you do go inside +++
|WHAT||From this point only taxing aircraft or on static are possible except on the other spot of the parking you can have planes landing and departing rwy 23R and 05L.
The authorities locked the holes through the fence so it is impossible to take pictures through the fences. But, if you have a look at the overview picture you can still get pictures from the right (next to the white BMW) theirs a open view but only for one person. Otherwise, you can get some if you lay down theirs some holes.
|TIME||Any time. Runways activities afternoon, terminal best in the morning.|
|MISC.||You can take the elevator and go to the arrivals of the T2 theirs a small supermarket. Located in this corner are large plastic bags which the airport has put up there as bins for the spotters to use.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Recommend you 18-300mm|
|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.|
|MISC.||WC, games, drinks, foods are available.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-300mm is the best|
|WHERE||Starting at Spot #4, 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. You can risk to park there but there are signs everywhere that say you’ll be towed if you park. Expect a visit from the police if you linger here, even without a car.|
|WHAT||Only approach on rwy 23R is available at this point.|
|TIME||From morning until late midday/early afternoon.|
|MISC.||Here is absolutely nothing. Normally there won’t be a problem while parking here, but you never know.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-300mm is the best
B752 = 170mm / A321 = 185mm
|WHERE||Follow Woodend Ln but not to the end and park your car next to the road. There is a small hidden path westwards (see entrance picture below). Follow it for about two minutes untill you see the runway. You are on a higher position than the runway so no ladder needed.|
|WHAT||RWY 05R arrvials only|
|TIME||From morning until early afternoon|
|MISC.||Here is absolutely nothing.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A332 55mm; ATR-42 125mm|
|WHERE||Park your car at the Airport Inn Manchester, you have to pay there for parking but it is not too expensive, and follow A538 westwards. Behind the roundabout is a small path to the left with a few steps, follow this one. After ten minutes on your right side is the Manchester Airport Southside Fire Station and two minutes later you can cross 05R/25L through a tunnel (see picture below). Behind the tunnel turn right and go on until you see the airport fence.|
|WHAT||Best for RWY 05L arrivals. You might be able to photograph 05R/23L movements through the fence but we did not checked it.|
|TIME||From morning until early afternoon|
|MISC.||Stay away three meters from the fence by request of the airport security.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70mm A333; 125mm A320|
|WHERE||This spot is located on the top floor (number 5 here) of Terminal 3’s carpark, which is located just infront this one only a bit to the northwest. Easily enter it, go up to the top floor by using the stairs or the elevator and search your favourite position along the front there at the carpark’s northeastern corner. You should also be able to enter the garage with your own car and park there inside.|
|WHAT||Arrivals, departures and Line-Ups on/from runway 23R.|
|TIME||From late midday till sunset – most Line-Ups will be possible earlier then the rest.|
|MISC.||Nothing here in the carpark, but everything you need inside the terminal. No ladder needed, enough shadow around and we had no problems with the carpark’s security.
As you can see, your view might be disturbed by other planes or parked groundstuff infront. Heat haze can be a problem as well on hot days generally or due to the running APUs.
On runway: B757 = 205mm / ATR72 = 270mm
On taxiway: B757 = 120mm
|WHERE||End of Runway 23R. This spot is located in a field where the approach lights for the reciprocal runway, 05L, are situated. It is not possible to drive close to this area, as there are no roads close by. A good walk is required. It is possible to reach the area from Mill Land/Castle Mill Lane, which leaves the A538 to the right shortly before the tunnels under the runways (when heading south) but there is no obvious parking on these roads. Footpaths can be followed by walking towards the farm down Castle Mill Lane and across fields, following public footpath signs, for about 15 minutes. Another walking route is to follow the instructions for Spot #7, and then follow paths to the field.|
|WHAT||This spot provides excellent photographs of aircraft departing and landing on Runway 23R, towards you. It is possible to photograph aircraft landing on Runway 05L, but this is a much less popular motive. The runway is some distance away, and so a long focal length is required. ‘Heavy’ wide bodied aircraft provide the best subjects in general due to their larger size in the frame and increased likelihood of using more runway length to depart – hence they are closer to you when they climb out.|
|TIME||Although photographs throughout the day are possible, the sun will be off to the right and increasingly to the rear right as the day goes on. Thus lighting for departing aircraft is at its best during the morning/early afternoon. Also, depending on airport procedures, Runway 23R is only used for arrivals when Runway 23L is in use.|
|MISC.||Inspections of runway lighting occur by the airport authority. It is not appropriate to trespass into the fenced area where the approach lights themselves stand. Regularly when Runway 23R is in use for take off the approach and runway lights for 05L are switched on for visual inspection. This provides an extra welcome ingredient to photographs of the departing aircraft.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||The longer the focal length the better, for departing aircraft. Minimum 300mm, and cropping will be required.|