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Planespotting - London Heathrow

Thanks to Kelvin Davies for providing the content (and pictures!) for this page.

When spotting at Heathrow, there are a couple of local factors that need to be taken into consideration.

  1. Wind direction (naturally!)
  2. Time of day and which week

Wind Direction

Most of the year, winds are from the West so aircraft will be landing and taking off from East to West.

Time of day and week of the month now affect these departures & arrivals.

Heathrow operates an alternating runway scheme which sees the runways being switched at 15:00 ever day. For example, aircraft may use 27L for departures up to 15:00 today with 27R being used for arrivals. At 15:00 this will switch and departures will start using 27R. Simple enough but then the week comes into play. This means that the rotation is reversed. So, if 27L is being used for departures up to 15:00 today, then next week this will change to 27R being used for departures up to 15:00.

If that is not complicated enough all this is irrelevant when the wind is coming from the East. In this case, arrivals will land on 09L all day and departures will leave from 09R all day. There is no 15:00 runway switch with an easterly wind.

You can access our interactive map below..

Departures from 27L:

The best place to park is at the spot marked "Parking runway 27L".

To get there, take the Southern Perimeter Road and turn left at the roundabout roughly mid-way between the cargo area and terminal 4, into Beacon Road. Turn right at the next roundabout and follow Bedfont Road until you come to the first available right turn. Take that right turn and after a couple of hundred yards you will arrive at the Rising Sun pub. Park anywhere near there.

Leave the car and walk through the iron gate toward the main road; turn left and walk for a couple of hundred yards toward the West. Anywhere along there is good but I think the better spots are near the Esso garage. See "Runway 27L departures".

Photos taken from this spot:

Arrivals on 27L:

The most popular spot for arrivals on this runway is Myrtle Avenue. See "Runway 27L arrivals". This is very close to the threshold and aircraft are very close as they arrive so you get only a short period in which to photograph the aircraft. As this spot is quite close to the airport fence, you can not get shots of them actually touching down, unless you bring a big step ladder!

Parking for this spot is a tricky issue. The residents of Myrtle Avenue are generally not too happy about parking in front of their houses so alternatives need to be found. Sometimes, you can park in nearby Cains Lane but you can also be hit with a fine of more than £100 for parking with your wheels on the verge! The best advice is to look around the area on the day and find somewhere safe and suitable.

Photos taken from this spot:

Arrivals on 09L:

When aircraft are arriving from the West, you can get some good side-on or head-on views.

"Runway 09 arrivals (Beneath the Flyover)" is ideal for approach and side-on shots.
"Runway 09 arrivals (alt)" is good for more head-on shots.

Getting there "Runway 09 arrivals":

Leave the M25, following the directions for Terminal 3, Terminal 4 etc. Do not follow the Terminal 5 directions as that is exactly where you will end up!

Follow the A3113 to the first roundabout. Turn left here into Stanwell Moor Road.  Follow this road for a mile or so until you see the flyover heading into Terminal 5. Park beneath the flyover, off the road. Try to ensure you leave space on the pavement for cyclists. This will generally keep you out of trouble with the local police. "Parking Runway 09L"

Go through the wooden fence and head up the rather steep embankment. You can either go straight up or follow the path round the base for a more gentle climb. At the top you can get photos like these:

A note of caution: Emirates almost always land on the other runway, as this puts them closer to Terminal 4. When time and space dictate, some other aircraft may also land on 09R while the majority are quite happy on 09L!
Alternative Arrivals 09L:

Follow the same directions as for the above but park a little further along the road. You will see some patches of grass off the road and probably a couple of cars will already be parked there.

You need to get into the field adjacent to the road and from this spot you can see shots like these:

You can get full side-on views of the smaller aircraft but not much chance of the bigger ones.
Departures on 27R:

Exactly the same directions as for arrivals but you will not get any decent shots of the smaller aircraft as they will already be too high by the time they reach you.
You can sometimes get decent shots of the heavy aircraft from this spot such as:

This was the inaugural BA A380 flight to Los Angeles.

Map Link:

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z2TdUmtma-Lc.kkAUapAFy3bs

Kelvin's Website: http://www.kelvindavies.co.uk

Comment by keven smith on April 7, 2015 at 5:54

can you recommend a hotel to stay at i am coming in from the states and will not get a rent a car i spot a lot at lax thanks for your help

Comment by Baz Manning on April 30, 2015 at 7:52

Excellent drivers' directions list. Well done. The issue of parking near Myrtle Av or Cains Ln is a real one as the traffic wardens take no prisoners! It is now standard throughout London boroughs that vehicles cannot park on the pavement, including any part of a wheel on the curb. Park with your tyres touching the side of the curb and you will be fine. Cains Ln has a grass verge on the side most enthusiasts use, and where the road stops and the verge starts is open to conjecture. 

Be careful people as you never see the wardens, just the tickets they leave on your windscreen.

When 27R is in use, roads around Byron Ave and Woodfield Rd are useful. Easy parking on the residential roads at most times. (Park with consideration!) The planes go over at a good height for photography and it is easy to walk to a good spot. Be aware, though, that you can see them approach through trees lining the adjacent A312 but only have a couple of seconds to get your shots before they disappear over roofs. You can get 3 shots in this time if you are pre-focused.

Enjoy!

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