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Manchester (MAN)

The UK's third busiest airport, with plenty to see. As well as the regular schedules, a number of which can't be seen elsewhere in the UK, summer brings a large influx of holiday charters, and there's quite a lot of foreign maintenance work that goes on, mostly in the winter. Combine this with the not-infrequent 'one-off' visitors and it's well worth a visit.
It's definitely busiest in the mornings, although there's a fairly steady stream of movements throughout the day during the week, together with a secondary peak in the late afternoon. There are quite a lot of 'business' flights, though, so weekend afternoons can be pretty quiet at times.

Photographically, Manchester has a lot of potential, and it's certainly one of the best airports in the UK from this point of view, although a certain amount of moving around during the day will be required to get the best shots.

a) The obvious starting point is the spectators viewing area, on the 13th floor of the multi-storey car park at Terminal 1. From here you should be able to get good shots of almost everything going to and from Terminal 2, together with some Terminal 1 flights that use the suitable gates (22, 24 and 26) on the north side of pier C. (Although certain airlines do seem to prefer these gates, it's really just pot luck as to what you'll actually get). Great in the morning, but progressively worse as the day moves on.

Air Toulouse Boeing 737
Iberia MD-87
('Feliz Navidad' markings)
Egyptair Boeing 747
KTHY Boeing 727
Onur A300

b) The other major area is the Aviation Viewing Park, on the northern side of runway 06. This is an excellent spot, with raised viewing mounds, shop and snackbar, and deservedly popular (especially when Concorde makes an appearance!). It's very close to the taxiway (a 747 almost needs a wide-angle lens), and close enough to the runway for a 737 to (just about) fill a 300mm frame. Although you'll get the best shots when there's an easterly (unfortunately less common) wind, it's quite acceptable whichever runway is in use. The best time is from about 3pm onwards in the summer, although in winter the sun doesn't really get far enough around to be of much use for more than an hour or two.

Air Mediterranee Boeing 737
Air Mauritius Boeing 767
Balair/CTA A310
Air Scandic A300

c) On the southern side of the runway, near the threshold of runway 24, there's a large field with a public footpath running through it, from where you can get excellent landing shots and reasonable take-offs. Although this is perfect for the prevailing westerly wind, it's rather a long way round, and not that easy to find. If you decide to get to it via the footpath you'll need good, stout boots in winter, and a machete(!) in summer to get through - it's a bit further, but much easier, to go round a bit more and walk back across the field. Bring a ladder if you've got one, otherwise there's a stile at the end of the field which is fine for landings, but not much good for take-offs. Good pretty much all day in winter (but cold!), and up to about 2-3pm in summer.

Emirates A300
PIA Boeing 747
Czech Air Force Tu-154
Airtours A320
LTE Boeng 757

d) The food concourse in Terminal 1 overlooks parts of Terminals 1 (commuters and regional flights) and 3 (BA) and the runway through large full-length windows. Unfortunately the glass is slightly tinted and you're looking into the sun most of the day, so photos from here are less than ideal, but it's certainly useful during the not infrequent rainy days here!

Air Kilroe Jetstream 31
BMA Saab 340
Luxair ERJ-145
BMA Saab 340
AOM/Cubana DC-10

e) The crash gate just at the far side of the British Airways apron is just about the only place where you can get taxiing shots of aircraft going to runway 24. Unfortunately, it's so close to the taxiway that anything bigger than a regional jet/ prop will need a wide-angle lens, and you're also facing into the sun until fairly late in the afternoon.

EK-85279 475 G-BNWU
Armenian Airlines Tu-154
RSaudiAF C-130
British Airways Boeing 767

f) 'The Airport' pub, just by the threshold of runway 24 is also popular (for obvious reasons!). It's VERY close to the taxiway - the only way you'll get closer to the planes is by going airside - quite spectacular in fact, but whether it's any good for your health is another matter! You can get pretty good landing shots from here, but nothing on the ground - you're much too close, and not surprisingly the fences are pretty big. It's also only really useful fairly late in the afternoon during summer.

NOTE: The above information relates to the situation before Manchester's second runway was opened. I have not visited since then, but I believe all the above spots are still 'current', although not all may be useful at any particular time depending on which runway is in use. There are also now additional locations by the new runway, which apparently offer superb photographic opportunities.

Last visited on 17 October 1999 Top of page


Click on the icons below to see various maps and images relating to Manchester airport. Note that these are all external links to other sites, and will open in a new window.

MAN Map   Street Map   Area Map
Official CAA Manchester airport map

Courtesy of: NATS Ltd.

Note that you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader (v4.0 or later) installed in order to view this.
Click here to download this from the Adobe site if you need it.

  OS street map of the Manchester airport area

Courtesy of:

  General map of the Manchester area

Courtesy of:
Maps by Travel

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Manchester Airport (official)
A new update using the latest Web technology has produced a very snazzy site with a whole heap of problems. To be sure, it looks great (excellent graphic design), but it takes so long to access anything that most people are likely to be put off before actually finding what they want. You also need to download Shockwave to get the most out of it, which admittedly can look fantastic, but that takes plenty of time in the first place. If you do decide to persevere, you'll find all the usual stuff (destinations, real-time arrivals/ departures, transportation, passenger (and very limited spectator) facilities, shopping & eating possibilities, and facts about the general region), although the map is a particularly pointless example of something that could have been done much more efficiently if it had been 'low tech'. Make sure you have plenty of time!

Plane Crazy UK
Lots of photos here - not the best quality by any means, but good overall coverage of Manchester regulars (most seem to be taken from the Aviation Viewing Park). Also a number of links to photos taken at various other places (e.g. Filton, Gatwick, Melbourne, Madrid). Unfortunately it suffers from severe overkill - it's really not necessary to use every shot you've ever taken; just choose a selection of the best. If nothing else, this will improve download times no end.

Lee's Aviation Home Page
An interesting collection of shots of some of the more unusual Manchester visitors (mostly taken from the field - location c - or airside), together with a few other sections (Sharjah, bizjets etc.). Not the best quality, unfortunately (could be due to the scanning), and the layout could be better, but worth a look.

A large selection of variable quality shots taken at Manchester and Heathrow. Unfortunately no thumbnails, but indexed according to type.

Manchester Airport in Pictures
A new site that was still under construction when I last looked, but this one has a lot of potential. Looks like it's done by an enthusiast/historian, rather than an enthusiast/spotter, with space for a lot of more archive-type photos. Related sections on Barton and Woodford (with Liverpool and Blackpool to come), and a nice layout, too. Keep an eye on this one.

Mike Barth's Aviation Site
One of, if not the, best BA 'Utopia' dedicated pages, with lots of pictures and full c/s allocation details. Also includes a nice selection of good, recent Manchester photos, and many of the BA shots were taken here as well.

A good site mostly based around Birmingham news and photos, but also with quite a few shots taken at Manchester. They're all taken from the viewing park and generally good quality, but unfortunately all seem to have been taken in the morning (ie. into the sun). They're also in airline order, so you'll have to work your way through various other places to find them (but they are indexed).

Manchester Movements Archive
News about Manchester and fairly comprehensive movements details for spotters, but no photos.

Air Britain Merseyside Home Page
Mainly a site dedicated to Liverpool airport news and views, but there is a page with a very good and relatively up-to-date Manchester timetable - the best I've found on the Web anyway. Hopefully it'll be updated on a regular basis.

The Aviation Society (TAS)
A basic promotional page for the society, which is based at Manchester. It's OK if you live in the area, but there's not much information for visitors. The society itself is very good, though, and they do produce a excellent little magazine, along with arranging various trips and tours, both in and around Manchester and further afield.

Manchester Tower and Area Control Centre
An interesting site describing what goes on at the Manchester air traffic control system. No photos of aircraft as such, but still worth a look.

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