Belfast International Airport

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Continent: Europe Country: United Kingdom Region: Northern Ireland

Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove)
Location Belfast, Northern Ireland
Airport type Mixed-Use Commercial
Overview map Google Maps
Tower 118.3
Ground 121.750 (summer busy periods only)
Clearance 121.750 (summer busy periods only)
Approach 128.5 (also Director 120.9; busy periods only)
ATIS 128.2
Departuren/a NB Menzies Handling 131.4

Official Spotting Locations

Terminal Viewing Facility

Over the last couple of years Belfast International Airport has undergone significant renovations with landside access now severely limited as more of the terminal is taken into the airside. There was a dedicated viewing lounge (pre-2010) within the terminal but that is now closed. In August 09 the security search area was moved closer to the checkin area, therefore limiting the landside views of the ramp from the central terminal complex.

However, if you have a passenger ticket, things are a little more positive. Once through the security check area there are reasonable views of the ramp and main runway from the coffee lounge area. The coffee shop is located where the duty free shop used to be however the old duty free shopfittings have ben removed to open up views across the apron and onto Runway 25. You can get a view of one or two of the stands and the eastern side of the international pier. Most aircraft will taxi past these windows at some point.

Biz-jet parking is either on "Delta" ramp or next to the GA area, both of which are out of view of the coffee shop windows.

Further into the passenger lounge, there are limited views from the windows at the cafe & wine bar. You can see the international pier and a section of the main runway 25. Most lounges have views of some sort with the best being from the international departure gates. The Easyjet lounge (the old BA Shuttle lounge) also has reasonable views of the GA apron and eastern stands although it can be very busy at times.

Other Spotting Locations

Runway 25 Approach

On approach to runway 25 there are a few places where photos are possible. 25 is the most commonly used runway. Try this link for a photo of 25 finals:

Upon exiting the airport, follow the main road towards Belfast which runs parallel to runway 25. After 3/4 of a mile you will come to a lay-by on the left-hand side. This is level with the end of runway 25 and you can see the threshold, albeit from slightly below. You can stop here for a few minutes although there are double yellows along the edge of the lay-by. Unfortunately you are also looking south so the sun can be a problem. There is a disused road here which used to be the main road to the airport from the south of the province, but during Northern Ireland's "darker" times it was closed for security reasons. People can be seen walking here so there is no real problem going through the barrier (However it is not recommended you leave your car unattended). NB A new low-level security fence has been erected here (as of April 2007) to limit car parking by taxis and private cars. New "yellow-box" road markings have also been painted which appears to suggest parking will be less tolerated.

If you continue a short distance along the road towards Belfast you will pass Ballyrobin Country House on the right hand side. 100 yards after this there is a road to the right called Drennan's Road that runs between the landing lights. There is a no-stopping zone directly under the approach but if you drive towards the church at the far end (Killead Church), you can pull in and take reasonably good air-shots on finals at the gate opposite the church hall. If the sun is out, especially in winter, this can produce some nice shots with a 300mm lens.

If you turn left at the church (away from the airport)onto Killead Road, after another 300yards you will see the main road (A26) from Nutts Corner to Antrim. Just before this there is a road on the left leading up to some houses and an old furniture business warehouse ("Creative Furnishings"). It's a public road and you may pull in here. The council have even provided litter bins! You get decent views of aircraft on short finals although photos aren't great as you are a bit "underneath". It was once possible for you to be able to see the threshold of 25 about 1/2 mile away but the hedge has grown up too high now.

There are other spots along the main road to Templepatrick/Belfast, but obviously the further away you go from the airport, the higher the aircraft are.

Freight Ramp

If you want to see the freight apron, turn left out of the front door of the airport and walk past the Maldron Hotel towards the long-stay car park. Once at the car-park entrance turn left and walk down through the car park towards the airfield, past the car hire outlets. You can stop for a few minutes and identify anything on the freight ramp, albeit through various fences and other bits and pieces of airfield equipment. There are no chance of photos as a result.

Seacash Road

Turn right at the long-stay car park entrance. After 50 yards you come to a cross-roads at a mini-roundabout - turn left into British Road. You will pass the entrance of the Cargo Centre and after another 300m you will see the landing lights of runway 17 to your left. Turn left immediately into Seacash Road. This is a dead-end road with plenty of high vegetation but there are a couple of spots where you can stop and look across the airfield towards the runway intersection and the former RAF site. If you carry on along this road to the end you will find yourself near where Aldergrove's Rescue Training (ex-BA) Trident G-AVFE is hiding in the field to the right. You might have to fight your way through some vegetation to get any sort of photo.

The airport Police patrol here fairly regularly, but even though it is a control zone, they usually let you stay here if you talk nicely to them :). During 2007 it appeared that work was going to commence along Seacash Road to develop airport hangar and industrial facilities. However this work has failed to materialise (as of Sept 2014) with only a builders storage area left to "threaten" any existing views.

Runway 07 Approach

Follow British Road from the airport until the end, when you come to a T-Junction, turn left. Follow this road a few km, until you come to a staggered junction just before a railway bridge, with some buildings to your left hand side. This is Aldergrove village, you can see it on the map accessible from the top right of this page. The road to your left is a control zone, so you cannot take the car up it ( it leads to the army base), but you can leave your car at the buildings on the main road without a problem, and walk up. Views of aircraft approaching 07 can be got here whenever it is in use. There are a lot of trees in the way etc., but its OK for air shots, and the sun is on your side.

Runway 35 Approach

Runway 35 is rarely used except in the event of severe weather or significant works to the main runway. If you go to the nearest 35 approach road, this has 'Control Zone' signs on it from a fair distance back. However, there is a road called the Crosshill Road which gives splendid views overlooking the 35 threshold. This can be found just off the Manse Road on the South side of the airport. Coming from Nutts Corner, take the Nutts Corner Road, signposted to Crumlin, the one before the road to the airport, and turn off at the Manse Road junction on the bend. Crosshill Road is the first on your right after that. There is a signpost to Crosshill B & B at the corner. You can drive right up near the end of it, and still be in a no restriction area, and have great views over the 35 T/H beside a farmers field with a large grass verge.(you are on a hill, so look down upon the airport)

Runway 17 Approach

Runway 17 is also rarely used except in the event of severe weather or significant works to the main runway. This is within a 'Control Zone' so is generally a no go area. It is however possible to park just outside the 'Zone' beside a gate (before the railway bridge) and see the approaching a/c from there. However, you are not that close and the pictures won't be that good. It's not used often for Jet Traffic either. Mostly Helicopter traffic.

Locations to Avoid

Southern Perimeter/Army Camp/Former RAF Camp

Avoid the road on the south side of the airport leading to the former RAF camp (now army helicopter base). There are security cameras mounted along here and anything more than a 10 second stop is likely to result in you being stopped by the military. The "south side" of the airport in general is out of bounds unless you have permission from someone within the camp. If runway 35 is in use (not often) be careful when locating the spot near the threshold (see above)as this could be considered as within the "unofficial" security zone for the camp.

Security is reasonably tight around the perimeter in general and you might be stopped by either airport police (most common) or the PSNI (Northern Ireland police force). The airport police are fine if you explain what you are doing. They might even offer some advice! The PSNI are much less regular visitors but you would undoubtedly run into them if you stopped anywhere around the south side of the airport for any significant period of time. The locations on approach to 25 are fine as long as you adhere to the signage, you shouldn't have any bother.

Regular Traffic

Movements are dominated by Easyjet and Jet2 although Thomas Cook and Thomson usually have a based Airbus or Boeing. United Airlines has a daily flight to Newark throughout the summer which reduces in frequency in the winter schedule. Wizz and Virgin Atlantic are scheduled to start operations during 2015.

Summer charters operators include Air Europa (B738) and Balkan Holidays (A320). Winter ski charters are usually operated on Saturdays or Sundays in January / February.

Military movements are much fewer than in years gone by and are now dominated by based Army Islanders with occasional visits from RAF Hercules/C17 troop carriers.

Also regular are the PSNI EC135 Helicopters, which are based at Aldergrove, along with a fixed wing Islander (Scout 1). They have a hangar on the AAC side of the military apron.

Facilities and Transportation

Ulsterbus run a bus service to Belfast City Centre (Europa Bus Centre) every ten minutes from the front of the terminal. The service number is 300 and the journey takes about 25 minutes. You can get a connecting minibus from Europa Bus Centre to Belfast City Airport, departures every thirty minutes (if not more frequent), journey time is about 15 minutes.