Manchester International Airport & The Runway Visitor Park
Friday 4 August 2017
Manchester International Airport ranks second only to Heathrow in the UK for volume of aircraft handled and it`s the busiest British airport outside London. There are three passenger terminals and a cargo terminal, along with an extensive maintenance area. There are two full-length parallel runways but the southern one only operates on a part time basis, most often during the peak morning and evening periods when the vast amount of action occurs. The bulk of transatlantic traffic arrives between 0700-0930hrs, most with a turnaround time of 2-3 hours.
Although I`d been to Manchester`s Runway Visitor Park twice before, this was the first time I had the chance to check out the excellent viewing area on the south side of the airfield.
Anyone can park on the road next to the entrance to the parkland but spaces are limited and likely to fill-up quickly, particularly on weekends when the sun is shining.
It only takes 10-15 minutes to walk to the most popular spot although there are other decent vantage points depending on the runway in use and angle of shot sought.
Having driven down to Manchester during the early hours, I was first to get set up just before 06:00 hrs but was joined by another photographer, Rob from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, just 15 minutes later. Although he stays around a ninety-minute drive away, Manchester Airport was his `local`and, as well as being a keen photographer, he was very knowledgeable about the comings and goings here and good company. Sure enough, the nearest runway was put into operation for departures around 06:30 and the planes were soon queuing directly in front, waiting for their slot to take-off. The long-haul heavies began to arrive too, apart from the US airliners which all suffered delays, having fallen victim to stormy conditions along the US Atlantic seaboard, so it was a hectic couple of hours.
Here, the weather forecast for the day was accurate in that there was to be an hour or so of heavy showers early on, clearing to sunny skies, however, the rain took far longer to clear than predicted. Even though I`d protected my camera and lens with a polythene sleeve, I later discovered that a large patch of condensation had formed behind the telephoto glass, spoiling many of the shots.
Manchester`s Runway Visitor Park offers the best official viewing facility at any UK international airport. Entry is free although car drivers have to pay for parking up to a maximum of £12 per day. The top floor of the Terminal One multi-storey car park is open air and offers excellent views over parts of the complex, as well as views of planes on approach depending on the runway in use, but with most of the larger aircraft departing before noon, there wouldn`t have been much to photograph by the time I drove round. I`m told the car park is quite expensive and costs £12 for a 2 hour stay - but worth it if there`s plenty going on.
Although the conditions early on meant that my south side spot stayed very quiet with just a handful of people appearing later, it`s a very popular spot, not only because there`s no admission charge, but on fine days, the sun is behind you up until early afternoon so it`s a far better location for photos. Plus, you can easily bring a deckchair along and sit in comfort as opposed to standing on one of the RVP mounds, essential if you want to see over the fence!
I waited until 14:00 hrs before driving round to the Runway Visitors Park and with things quietening down somewhat movement-wise, I only stayed there for 90 minutes before setting off for home. I`ve included a variety of images in this report, including some airliners which are based at or regularly fly in to Manchester with several aircraft featuring more than once. Hopefully, for anyone unfamiliar with the airport, this will give an idea of what can reasonably be expected on a typical summer`s day.
At the RVP, three raised areas, in close proximity to the main taxiways used by aircraft vacating Runway 23R after landing and by traffic taxiing to Runway 05 for departure, mean that you won`t miss much! The only drawback (apart from the crowds at peak times) is, as previously mentioned, that on bright days photographs must be taken directly into the sun until early afternoon, therefore in such conditions anyone with transport should consider heading to one of the south side locations first.
Only two of the three mounds at the RVP are high enough for shots over the fence but using a very wide aperture ground level shots through the thick mesh are also possible. An example is this pic of Loganair / Flybe Dornier 328-110 G-CCGS which was taken at F5.6.
North American Carriers
Asia & the Middle East
Above: Hainan Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner B-7837 begins its take-off run. This airline is headquartered in Haikou, Hainan, People's Republic of China, and is the largest civilian-run air transport company and the fourth-largest airline in terms of fleet size in the People's Republic of China. Hainan operates scheduled domestic and international services on 500 routes from Hainan and nine locations on the mainland, as well as charter services. Its main base is Haikou Meilan International Airport, with a hub at Beijing Capital International Airport and several focus cities.
Above: This Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner HZ-ARC had been on the ground at Manchester since going `tech` almost 2 weeks previously. Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner HZ-AR11 (below) arrived during the morning of the 4th.
The Saudi fleet currently comprises seven of eight Dreamliners ordered, the first of which arrived in January 2016, plus twenty-six Airbus A330-300s, thirteen Boeing 777-200s, thirty-two Boeing 777-300(ER)s, fifteen A321s and forty-two A320s. The carrier also has an outstanding order for thirty Airbus A320neos.
The above slideshow features the Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747s snapped on 4 August.
On 27 June 2017, Jet2.com Airbus A330-243, registration G-VYGL (above), was operating flight LS-917 from Manchester to Tenerife Sur Reina Sofia Airport in the Canary Islands. While landing on Runway 07, the aircraft burst its two aft left main tyres which disintegrated, deflated both aft right hand main tyres, and became disabled on the runway. At the time, 320 passengers and 11 crew were on board, some of whom suffered minor injuries as result of the occurrence. A number of other aircraft on approach to Tenerife South Airport needed to go around and divert as result.
At Manchester, just after midday on 4 August, I heard over the scanner the Captain of easyJet Airbus A319-111 G-EZDF declaring a `Pan` situation while on approach due to a low fuel state. The tower alerted the airport Fire & Rescue Service which stood by while the airliner landed safely. Three calls of `Pan-pan` are used in radiotelephone communications to signify that there is an urgency on board a boat, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle but that, for the time being at least, there is no immediate danger to anyone's life or to the vessel itself. This is referred to as a state of urgency.
G-EZDF has been specially repainted with `Spirit of James Baron 2014`titles to celebrate the achievements of one of easyJet`s Bristol-based cabin crew. James Baron, from the city was awarded the airline`s ‘Spirit of easyJet’ award at an annual ceremony. Just one of the company`s 10,000 employees across Europe receive the award each year for providing exceptional customer service.
Lufthansa Cargo Boeing 777F D-ALFA `Good Day, USA` taxis out for departure, passing Binair`s Fairchild Swearingen SA-227AT Merlin IVC D-CBIN. This aircraft has been on the ground at Manchester for some time, having been impounded by the airport authorities after the operator failed to pay landing fees.
Biz-jets, Biz-props & General Aviation