Vancouver International Airport

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Continent: North America Country: Canada Region: British Columbia
Vancouver International Airport
Location Richmond, British Columbia
Airport type Commercial
Overview map Vancouver Airport Authority
Tower 119.55 (North) + 118.7 (South)
Ground 127.15 (N) + 121.7 (S)
Clearance 121.4
Plane Spotting Hotels guide

Official Spotting Locations

Flight Path Park

Flight Path Park is a park off Russ Baker Way under the apporach to 26L, a runway primarily used for airline departures and private aircraft. All movements can be logged from here with decent optics, but photography is limited.

The park has a small, humped map of earth, giving you the effect of standing "on the top of the world." Aircraft fly directly overhead, as the park is directly in their "flightpath."

To the north of this place is the Institute of Technology in which you can log WestJets' B-737-200 C-GWJT.

Main Terminal

Only ticketed passengers are allowed on the concourses. There are two 'public' locations from which the action can be watched, but not satisfactorily photographed. On the main floor by the entrance to the C gates are a few chairs facing the window. In the basement food court there are tables and chairs with a somewhat constricted view.

Just follow the "Observation Area" signs. The location is facing west.

If you are just logging airplanes without photographing this might be the ideal location for you as all landings of 26R will have to pass by here in order to get to 26L for takeoff and you can read of the registrations of all departing aircraft (use 26L). If you're taking pictures it might only be of interest as a refuge on a (frequent) rainy day but even then I personally would prefer the Templeton Stop of the Canada Line (see "Templeton Road" comment).

Other Spotting Locations

Templeton Street

Best location if you want to take airborne shots of the arriving aircraft as most landings are on 26R. You will only miss a few landing aircraft (the bizzjets + freighters + about 2/3 of the flights going to the south terminal = local Props).

How to get there: 1) By car: Left at the second traffic light from the airport (15-20 minutes walk). You will see many cars parked on a dirt track beside the road. The subjects are a bit high and the smaller types (Dash-8 etc.) will require a long lens (about 400mm on a fullformat sensor).

2) By foot: The "Templeton" stop of the Canada-Line Sky Train is a 2min walk from this location and on a rainy day you might even stay and hide from the rain in this stop, but it's tricky to keep the lightpoles out of the picture).

You won't be able to log or even see the departures which always use 26L.

"Avis" Lot

The most desirable location if you want to take pictures and have the coastal mountains as the background. This is the first turn left out of the airport by the blast screens. Excellent photos over the fence and all 08L/26R movements can be seen. However (there had to be one didn't there ?), the businesses on this road are private property and not very tolerant. You can get lucky and be left alone for hours or be unlucky and thrown out immediately. Worth the gamble though.

Requires a ladder due to the fence.

South Terminal

This is on the other (South) side of the airport from the main terminal and there is a parking lot which overlooks the ramp and the rather distant 08R/26L runway. Good for logging as everything at Vancouver passes this location sooner or later, and there are reasonable photographic opportunities through the fence.

Floatplanes come and go on the Fraser River to the S. of the small terminal, and most of the aircraft parked on the ramps can be logged and some photographed by walking around.

There is a free shuttle bus connecting the south terminal to the main terminal.

East of the South Terminal is a "boneyard" in which some older Pacific Coastal and a Quebecair SF-340s + a SH-360 are stored engineless but in full colors (as of Sep. 2009).

Ferguson Road

When arrivals are on 08L, a long drive from the airport via Templeton Road (above) will eventually lead to a small gravel pull-off at the seashore and close to the threshold. All arrivals as well as those using runway 12 can be logged and photographed although the location faces South and so is best in the early morning/late evening in the summer. Also along Ferguson Road past the UPS facility there is a raised hill area. Good to photograph on sunny summer evenings when the airport is landing west.

Locations to Avoid

Multi-story car park

Anyone spotting from the top floor is visible to the control tower, with predictable results.

Regular Traffic

Airline Aircraft Terminal/Concourse
Aeroméxico 737-800 D
Air Canada (sometimes Rouge) A319, A320, A321, A330-300, 767-300, 777-200, 777-300ER, 787-800, 787-900, E190 C, D, E
Air Canada Express (operated by Jazz Air) CRJ-700, CRJ-900, Dash 8 Q300 (twin-turboprop), Dash 8 Q400 (twin-turboprop) C, E
Air China 777-300ER D
Air France 777-200 D
Air New Zealand 777-200 D
Air North 737-200, 737-400, 737-500 B (or South)
Air Transat A330-200, 737-800 B, D
Alaska Airlines Dash 8 Q400 (twin-turboprop, operated by Horizon Air) E
All Nippon Airways 787-900 D
American Airlines 737-800 E
American Eagle E175 E
Beijing Capital Airlines D
British Airways A380-800, 747-400 D
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER D
Central Mountain Air Beechcraft 1900 (twin-turboprop), Dornier 328 (twin-turboprop), Dash 8 Q100 (twin-turboprop) B
China Airlines 747-400 D
China Eastern Airlines A330-200 D
China Southern Airlines A330-200, 777-300 D
Condor Flugdienst (seasonal) D
Delta Air Lines (seasonal) A320, 737-800, 757-200 E
Delta Connection CRJ-700, E175 E
Edelweiss Airlines (seasonal) A330-200 D
EVA Air 747-400 D
Icelandair (seasonal) 757-200 D
Island Express Air Beechcraft King Air 100 (twin-turboprop) South
Japan Airlines 787-800 D
KLM 777-200 D
Korean Air 777-200 D
Lufthansa A330-300, 747-400 D
Orca Airways Piper Navajo (twin-piston) South
Pacific Coastal Airlines Beechcraft 1900 (twin-turboprop), Saab 340 (twin-turboprop) South
Philippine Airlines 777-200, 777-300ER D
Qantas (seasonal) 747-400 D
Sichuan Airlines A330-200 D
Sunwing Airlines 737-800 B, D
United Airlines A320, 737-800, 737-900 E
United Express CRJ-700, E170 E
WestJet 737-600, 737-700, 737-800, 767-300 B, D, E
WestJet Encore Dash 8 Q400 (twin-turboprop) A
Xiamen Air 787-800 D

Facilities and Transportation

The SkyTrain's Canada Line connects the airport with downtown (26min ($3.75) to Waterfront Station which is next to the Sea Plane Port and has quite a lot of traffic but the registrations (approx. 20 different) start to repeat after about 2 hours).

Cash fares from the main terminal include a $5.00 surcharge- go to the Pharmasave pharmacy below the domestic arrivals area and purchase a book of "FareSavers" tickets. One zone will do- and then upgrade to a 2-zone fare to enter into Vancouver from Richmond when you get to Bridgeport. (A couple of extra steps but saves you five bucks.) Travel across zone boundaries after 6:30pm on weekdays and all day on weekends and holidays is only $2.50. The Airport Surcharge applies to cash fares 24/7.

Stations at the airport are: Templeton (Templeton Road), Sea Island Way (Air Canada hangars) and the main terminal.

There are some buses as well: At the airport- there is bus service but it is sporadic.

The South Terminal is connected to the main Terminal by a shuttle bus operated by the airport authority.