The RAF Fairford Air base (IATA: FFD / ICAO: EGVA) is located at next to Fairford, a small village south of the city of Gloucestershire. The air base was built in 1943 and in use since 1944 by the RAF and from 1950 by USAF. RAF Fairford used to serve as a Trans-Atlantic emergency site for the Space Shuttle program. The air base is currently a standby airfield and it’s not in daily use.
In the recent years the USAF deploys various aircraft types multiple times every year. This types are mostly B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B52H Startofortress and U-2 Dragon Lady. Rarely but you prior to a B1, B2 or B52 deployment you may often see some logistics which includes one of those types C17s, 747s, MD11s, 777s.
On the other hand, every year, they organise the Royal International Air Tattoo, RIAT, on the the world’s largest military air show! Check the official website for more infos and tickets.
Written by Christian Preinl, Csaba Czellinger and Drew Pinnock. Last Update December 2020.
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|09/27||3.046 m (9.997 ft)|
|Ladder||Highly recommended however be aware that the fence is very high and sensors are installed so we highly recommend not to put a ladder directly at the fence as security is at your position within 2 minutes. Otherwise you need at least 4 steps and more to clear it. See detailed description for each spot to get more infos.|
|Car/Public Transport||Car is mandatory as there is no public transport around. But be aware that FFD does not offer large place to park your car it is very limited. So we recommend to park in the surrounding villages and walk to the spotting locations if you do not find a correct place.|
|Restrooms||Not at the locations except some bushes.|
|Drinks/Food||In Fairford town you can find grocery shops where you can get refreshments.|
|Hotels||No hotels nearby. There is ” The Lakes By Yoo ” located 2 miles away from Fairford or there are some B&Bs and hotels in the surrounding towns.|
|Season||Weather is variable. Best time is during the active period which is usually around August-September during the Ample Strike but deployment can happen at any time.|
|Security||Security do not have issues with planespotters as long as you are NOT TOUCHING FENCES or putting a ladder against it due to sensors – DO NOT enter farms/fields or block crash gates with cars|
|General Info||West winds 80% of the time so rwy27 operations usually take place but be aware that it is often subject to pilots request.|
|Spot #1 – White Cottages – 09 arrivals|
|WHERE||Get into the town of Marston Meysey and drive past the Old Spotted Cow Pub northwards. Park on the side of the road at the end of the town and keep left by foot on a small road until you pass a estate which is shortly before the 09 approach. Parking directly at the location is not available.|
|WHAT||Runway 09 Arrivals only.|
|TIME||From 10:00-17:00 all year long. Backlit in summer mornings and evenings.|
|MISC.||Nothing nearby except the pub in the town.
Parking is very limited, do not park on the double yellow lines as can result fines and trouble for the locals also DO NOT block the bomb dump gate!. From the bomb dump entry area you might get moved if the MOD needs to have access.
B52 landing = 110mm
|Spot #2 – Runway 09 Crashgate – B-52 ramp, taxiway, 09 lineup|
|WHERE||Get into the town of Marston Meysey and drive past the Old Spotted Cow Pub northwards, as you near the end of “The Street,” there is an intersection. Choose the second exit (dead end road) and at the end parking is available on the side on the grass if not too busy (don`t block the two crash gates). Otherwise park in the town and walk to the end of the road.
Use a high ladder to clear the fence or use the gaps at the gates.
|WHAT||One crash gate (west side) is perfect to photograph the 09 arrivals and line ups. Another crash gate (east side) is good to see the B-52 ramp.|
|TIME||For the runway from 10:00-17:00 all year long. Backlit in summer mornings and evenings.
Ramp is okay from afternoon (depends on the planes positions)
|MISC.||Fences have sensors which set alarms off in the Security Office, they will arrive within a few minutes or less. Nothing nearby except the pub in the town.
Park sensibly as emergency vehicles might need to have access, do not block any of the gates, high ladders needed if you don’t like to shoot through the fence. Entering to the farm fields around is forbidden.
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-250mm for parked aircraft
B52 face taxiing = 230mm / B52 taxiway in front = 25mm
|Spot #3 – Dunfield Crash Gate/Fence – B-52 Ramp, Overview of runway, Taxiway|
|WHERE||Drive through Kempsford and get on Top Rd. Drive till the end to the crash gate and park at the side of the road on the grass (don’t block the gate!). From there you can walk to the east along the fence for the B-52 ramps or start at spot #2 for the journey.
Don`t stay for a long period at this location. Use a high ladder to clear the fence or use the gaps at the gates.
|WHAT||B-52 ramp is visible to the left and the taxiway and runway is in front.|
|TIME||For the runway and taxiway from 10:00-17:00 all year long. Backlit in summer mornings and evenings. Heat haze pop up in summer.
Ramp in the morning hours.
|MISC.||Fences have sensors which set alarms off in the Security Office, they will arrive within a few minutes or less.
No food, no drinks or bathrooms – DO NOT enter the farm to the left as the owners have the right to report anyone who has entered. Stay directly at the fence. DO NOT block the crash gate as might emergency vehicles needs access. Also it’s a double yellow line zone so you can be moved by the police for illegal parking
|FOCAL LENGTH||From the gate: 300mm B-52 Ramp; 90mm Runway depending on aircraft – Wide angle 18mm for Taxiway.
From the fence for the ramp: 50mm B-52
From the gate:
B-52 ramps along the fence:
|Spot #4 – Whelford Road – 27 arrivals and ground action|
|WHERE||This is a major spotting location as 27 is most time in use. It is at Whelford Road which runs along the eastern perimeter of the airfield. From Kempsford drive northwards on Whelford Road and park into a lay-by as marked on the map. From there you can position yourself as preferred on a bike lane which runs parallel to the road.|
|WHAT||Great for 27 arrivals or 09 take offs. Furthermore taxiway movements are possible, especially line-up on 27, if you place a ladder at the opposite side of the road to clear the fence. You are a little bit elevated there and a 2-3 step ladder is fine.|
|TIME||You can stay there the whole day.|
|MISC.||Nothing nearby. Security is no problem here as you stand not directly at the fence.
There is no car park and all along the road is a double yellow line so parking is not allowed. Hugh ladder recommended if you don’t want to shoot through the fence.
B52 departure face to face = 360mm
|Spot #5 – Crash Gate 14A – all runway movements, taxiway, B-52 ramp|
|WHERE||This location is on the north side of the field and usable only in the summer months. From Fairford drive westwards on the main road and turn left following the signs to Marston Meysey (spot 1). At the next junction keep left and past RNS Motors till where the road makes a u-turn at the crash gate. If you’re approaching from the other road, drive towards the south pass the Furzey Hill House to the gate. Park next to the crash gate without blocking it. Use a high ladder to clear the fence or use the gaps at the gates.You can also use the rooftop of your car to clear it as the road is next to the fence.|
|WHAT||All runway and northern taxiway movements. B-52 ramp visible on the opposite side but too far (haze).|
|TIME||Backlit in winter. Best time is during the summer evening and early morning hours.|
|MISC.||Fences have sensors which set alarms off in the Security Office, they will arrive within a few minutes or less. No food, drinks or bathrooms.
There is a very limited space for parking but need to make sure neither the crash gate or the farm entry is blocked. Also the farm is a NO GO area.
|FOCAL LENGTH||300mm for 27 touchdown – 90mm for 09 touchdown – 120mm for 27 Rotation depending on weight of the aircraft. (crop sensor camera)|