Manchester Airport

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Continent: Europe Country: United Kingdom Region: England
Manchester Airport
Location Manchester, England
Airport type Commercial
Overview map Google Maps
Tower 118.625 (23R/05L)119.4 (23L/05R
Ground 121.85 (Primary) 125.375 (Secondary)
Clearance 121.7 (delivery)
Approach 118.575 & Director 121.35
Departure118.625 & 119.4
ATIS 128.175 (Arrivals) 121.975 (Departures)

In 2004, Manchester International Airport (Ringway) was voted Britain’s premier spotting airport by a well-known aviation magazine, and anyone who has been there will probably agree with them. It is not a question of which is the best place to watch planes at Manchester, more a question of which spot do I want to choose?

MAN has 2 parallel runways, 23R / 05L (Runway 1) and 23L / 05R (Runway 2) . Aircraft movements are generally inbound on 23R and outbound on 23L. However the wind direction shifts approx 20% of the year and this flow is reversed. During the quieter period of each day from 12.00hrs to 15.00hrs and at night between 22:00hrs and 06:00hrs the airport reverts to single runway use and uses 23R / 05L (Runway 1) for both inbound and outbound flights. Single Runway operations data sheet.

Official Spotting Locations

Multi Storey Car Park Terminal 1

Terminal 2 from the top of the Multi-Story.

13th Floor of the multi-storey car park - Terminal 1 - Views of Runway 1 where you can view aircraft landing and taking off, also close views of aircraft parking and moving from Terminals 1 & 2 plus a good view of the Cargo area. Level 13 now being used by the Car Rental Companies. But there isn't any facilities here any more. Toilets are situated in the Terminal 1 arrivals area, just get the lift down from Level 12. Some thoughtfully provided camera holes are in the security fences. Be warned however that this is a short-stay car park and is very expensive to park your car:

The Aviation shop is now situated in Terminal 1 arrivals and stocks everything for the enthusiast, binoculars, telescopes, models, airband radios, scanners, DVDs, notebooks, pens, postcards, and the SBS Radar System.

A.V.P. - Aviation viewing park

China Airlines Cargo Boeing 747-400 photographed from the Aviation Viewing Park.
A PIA 777 taxying past the Viewing Park

The A.V.P is located approx 2/3 way along Runway 23R (Runway 1) and offers excellent views of both flying and taxiing aircraft,and is widely recognised as the best facility for enthusiasts in the UK. It has 3 raised platforms for better viewing and photography, a very good snack bar, Family picnic areas and clean Male and Female toilet facilities. There is also a well-stocked aviation shop selling books, aircraft models, binoculars and radios etc.

Signposted from main terminal areas and railway station. This A.V.P also contains a British Airways Concorde G-BOAC (for details of tours see below), BAe Avro 146-RX100, Monarch DC-10 nose section, De Havilland Vampire jet fighter (at the moment been removed for restoration), and a BEA British European Airways Hawker Siddley HS-121 Trident 3B G-AZWK aircraft resplendent in full BEA Colours, which you can have a tour of (at cost).

The A.V.P is situated off the A538 between Junction 6 of the M56 motorway and the airport tunnels.

From the Junction 6 Roundabout follow signs for Wilmslow. After a very short distance you will see Sunbank Lane on the left with a sign post for “Concorde”. Turn left here and then immediately right at the crossroads onto Wilmslow Old Road and follow to the end.

You can get to the A.V.P by bus from the "The Station" at the Airport, which is situated mid-way between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 . Journey time by bus is approximately 5 minutes. The Swans Shuttle bus 200 operates year round on weekends and Bank Holidays. Buses leave The Station at 09:16, then every hour until 17.16. Buses leave the Viewing Park every hour 09.25 until 17.25. The fare is around £1.50 for a return ticket.

Arriva North West operates a regular daily service (bus 18, 18A, 20, 20A) stopping at the rear of the World Freight Terminal from where the Aviation Viewing Park is approximately a 10 minute walk. Full timetables for the service can be found at but generally there are four services per hour in each direction between The Station (Stand K) and the Freight Terminal. Some evening services are operated by service number 19. The adult single fare is £1. From the Freight Terminal bus stop, turn left out of Viscount Drive on to Avro Way and follow the road to where it bends round to the left. Walk into the junction on the right - you should see LSG SkyChefs on your right hand side, and a yellow and black car barrier ahead with a bollard to allow pedestrians through. Pass the barrier and turn left up the lane (Wilmslow Old Road, as in the directions above.) The AVP is about 6-7 minutes walk, right at the end of this lane.

Other Spotting Locations

South Side (Runway 2 - 23L/05R)

Manchester Airport's Terminal area from the mound behind the new fire station on the South side.

A disadvantage of the official Aviation Viewing Park (AVP) is that it faces into the sun until late in the day, making photography more difficult. Better photography is often offered by heading around to Runway 2 on the South side of the airport. Going there is easy by car. By public transport is possible too, but a bit of a handful.

The closest bus stop to Runway 2 is at the Moat House Hotel (Holiday inn) on the A538 Wilmslow road . Bus service no 288 runs along the A538 and there is a stop near to the AVP at the junction with Sunbank lane – from the AVP this means walking back towards the main road (approx ½ mile). From this bus stop it is then 2 stops along to the Moat House Hotel (Holiday inn). The bus runs every 30 mins.

By car, from the Junction 6 Roundabout off the M56, follow signs for Wilmslow along the A538. Approximately 1 mile along this road you will drive under the 2 runway tunnels. As you exit the 2nd tunnel you will come to a roundabout. Turn left at this roundabout and then turn immediately right before the gate - Then park up on the left before the bridge, as this road becomes the Moat House hotel car park beyond the bridge. Do try to tuck your car into the hedge, as the hotel mini-bus screams up and down here every half-hour or so and its a narrow road!!

DO NOT park anywhere between the roundabout and the gate - you WILL get a ticket or a TOW - even on the grass verge.

Once you have reach the Hotel, you have two options. There are raised viewing mounds running the length of runway 23L. These are segregated by the road tunnels which allow the A538 to go under the runways. So your choice is to cross the road and go left and past the new fire station to get to the mid point and beyond of runway 23L for views of aircraft rotating and taking-off OR go right to the start of runway 23L for close-up taxiing and line-up views of aircraft.

Runway 23L - taxi and line-up

The Elevated Mound next to the Runway 23L threshold

From the Hotel entrance, turn right and walk through the car park, over the small stone bridge and up to the top of this road. On the right is a black cattle gate. Walk through the gate and follow this footpath for approx half-a-mile. The path finishes at the runway security fence and you will see long earth mounds either side of you which offer superb elevated views of the first 1/3 of runway 2.Further around to the right is an elevated mound which is directly in front of the link taxi-way between runway 1 and 2 - you can practically count the rivets on the aircraft as they line-up !!!

Runway 23L - rotation and take-off

A 737-300 lands on Runway 05R

The second option is to walk from the hotel back to the roundabout. On the other side of the road you just came in on, you will see a footpath of steep steps rising to the top of the hill. Follow this path for roughly 15 minutes past the side of the new fire station and up to the runway security fence.

From here, you can go left and follow the path parallel to runway 2 down into a valley and then back up again to raised mounds which offer superb views of aircraft rotating on runway 2 for take-off.

As an alternative, turn left after the fire station and follow the path downhill to the lowest lowest point of the valley. Then turn right and follow the river through the tunnel under runway 2. As you exit the tunnel turn right up the hill for a viewing spot half way between runway 1 and runway 2

Please note that runway 2 is usually closed between 12:00 and 15:00 hours. Also check before making any journey which way the aircraft are flying!. For approx 20% of the year, the wind shifts and the flying changes direction.

South Side (Runway 1 - 05L/23R)

Runway 05L - approach and landing, rotation and take-off

The Runway 05L Lights Field
The River Bollin tunnel under Runway 2 (23L/05R)

From the Moat House hotel, cross the A538 and head back to the roundabout. On the other side of the road, there is a footpath with steep steps leading up a hill. Follow this path for roughly 15 minutes past the rear side of the new fire station and follow the path on the left side fence of the fire station. Follow this path (it goes a bit up and down) until you descend into a valley and the River Bollin tunnel.

Cross the Bollin using the metal bridge and head North through the tunnel. Then, turn left up the steep hill with Crash Gate No. 12 at the top. Carry on up there until ground levels out and you're beside Runway 2. Then, go right through a gate. Follow the long path past the dead tree (on your right) and then go through the gate at the end of the path. Turn left at this gate and then take the next right turn. This will lead to a field with the lights for Runway 05L. This is a really good place to photograph and film from.

If 05L is being used for landings, aircraft come straight over your head and if the same runway is being used for take-offs, the aircraft take off away from you. Alternatively, if 23R is being used for take-offs, the aircraft will take off directly at you. This spot is especially interesting during the curfew of runway 2 (23L/05R) when all movements are on runway 1 (23R/05L).

(This spot is usually quite quiet and there's normally nobody about.)

Junction of Ringway Road & Shadowmoss road

Not far from Terminal 1, this area gives excellent views of aircraft on final approach to Runway 23R. Be warned that car parking is limited because of parking restrictions. The local residents get rightly annoyed when thoughtless spotters park cars that partially block access to their driveways and the hand-painted yellow lines outside some houses show the level of feeling about this – please be considerate.

Airport Hotel Public House

Next to the final approach to Runway 23R, the beer garden of this pub offer great views of landing aircraft and also aircraft holding for departure. This spot is especially interesting during the 12PM - 3PM curfew of Runway 2(23L/06R). Because the public house and it's beer garden have become so popular with spotters, the pub has a pay-and-display car park. It's essential to pay-and-display if you don't wanted to be fined £60.

Locations to Avoid

Crash Gate No. 6 on the South side of the airport.

None really - just be sensible - don't park in-front of crash gates and stay on the public side of the security fences and you will be ok.

The areas offered as alternatives to the AVP (the mounds and the area beyond the new fire station) are public footpaths and you wont get more than a passing glance from the security staff when they are patrolling airside.

The airport and council have always been fairly spotter-friendly so just read the notices and don't go or park where it says you shouldn't.

Spotting Locations Map

Manchester Spotting Map.JPG

Regular Traffic

Scheduled/Charter Airlines

  • British Airways - Boeing 737, Airbus A319/320/321
  • American Airlines - Boeing 767
  • Continental Airlines - Boeing 757
  • Delta Air Lines - Boeing 757/767
  • PIA - Boeing 777, Airbus A310
  • US Airways - Airbus A330
  • Monarch Airlines - Airbus A300/320/321/330, Boeing 767
  • First Choice Airways - Boeing 757/767
  • Flybe - Dash 8-400, Embraer 145/195
  • - Boeing 737/757
  • Thomsonfly - Boeing 737/767
  • Air France - Airbus A318/319/320, Embraer 195, Fokker 100
  • KLM - Boeing 737, Embraer 190
  • Lufthansa - Boeing 737, Airbus A319/320/321, CRJ-100/200/700/900
  • BMI & bmibaby - Boeing 737, Airbus A319/320/321, Embraer 135/145
  • Finnair - Airbus A319/320, Embraer 170/190
  • Turkish Airlines - Airbus A320/321, Boeing 737
  • CSA Czech Airlines - Boeing 737
  • Ryanair - Boeing 737-800
  • Aer Lingus - Airbus A320
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways - Boeing 747-400

plus many more, for a full list (and of which Terminal) click on this link:

Cargo Airlines

  • Cathay Pacific Cargo - Boeing 747-400
  • Great Wall Airlines - Boeing 747-400
  • Air China Cargo - Boeing 747-400

Plus you never know what will turn up, the A380 has done a missed approach at Manchester, the Antonov An-225 and An-124 have been to Manchester, there are always a few surprises!

Facilities and Transportation

Public Transport

The Railway Station is situated at the Airport between Terminals 1 & 2. Services from most of the UK mainline stations. The Bus & Coach Station is adjacent to railway station. Also served by National Express. Bus service number 200 serves the viewing park from the airport bus station every Saturday and Sunday at 15 minutes past the hour from the bus station and 25 minutes past the hour from the viewing park at a cost of approx £1.50p adult return.

Travel tips

If traveling by car and you do not wish to pay for the airport car parks, you could always park your car at Heald Green Railway Station and catch the train to the airport for a cheap day return costing £1.10 or a single will cost £1.00 each way, fares may vary due to the general increase in fares.

External links

One page spotter guide for print out - contains radio frequencies, airport map and a brief description of the spotting spots at MAN.

Manchester airport aircraft movements website - contains every movement of every plane at Manchester since 2003. You can submit your photos or view others from the day as well as view timetables of expected aircraft in a large database.

The official Manchester Airport Runway data sheet featuring all the relevant information regarding the runway operations.$File/Runway+Data+Sheet+2007-+v+FINAL.pdf