This page is designed to give a quick guide on some of the locations for photographing aircraft at different airports in Europe.

As many aviation enthusiasts know, since the terrorist attacks in the USA in 2001, very many official viewing locations were closed down and some people look upon aircraft enthusiasts with suspicion. Photographing aircraft is not illegal, but there are places where it is allowed and those where it is forbidden, for example, BAA does not allow photography inside the airport. Always observe signs and notices, I recommend carrying some form of ID.

Note that in large part, the locations listed are not official viewing areas and you are reminded to abide by all laws and common sense when it comes to visiting these places. I would always suggest keeping well back from fences, do not trespass on private land, and politely follow any requests or demands by those in authority.




London's City Airport was part of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) redevelopment of London's old dock area. The all encompassing scheme redeveloped the old disused heavy industry site with new housing, the airport, new connectivity via the light rail and a new business district complete with it's signature buildings in Canary Wharf.

City Airport is busy, it does not operate on Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons, and has restrictions on operations at other times of the day. The airport is a STOL (short takeoff and landing) site and aircraft need to be able to operate at a 5 degree glideslope. Recent additions to this requirement have been Aer Arann with the certification of the ATR72-500, BA with the Airbus A318 and Baboo with the E195 aircraft.


Because of the short runway and exceptionally busy airspace over central London, bad weather results in diversions away from LCY to Luton, Stansted and Southend primarily.

Because of it's location to London's banking district the airport is well known for it's busy business aviation business and at any given time there are numerous business jets coming and going.

I have been to LCY a few times, I've been questioned by the security in the short term parking and told to pack up and leave the area along the Royal Albert Docks. Filming (specifically) and photography around this area seem to be frowned upon moreso than any other place I have visited. This is sad considering the airport is surrounded by water thus one of the most protected places! and the docklands area is actually very pleasant, spacious and without too many people. A suggestion had been made to me by a security person that those that owned the land at the Royal Albert Docks would want a fee from any filming.. perhaps therein is the issue. Again, following the requests leads to harmony all around and no ill feelings.


Frequent Visitors

  • British Airways CitiFlyer (A318, Embraers)
  • Air France Cityjet (Avro + F50)
  • Aer Arann (ATR)
  • Lufthansa (Avro)
  • Luxair (Dash 8)
  • Swiss (Avro)
  Viewing Areas

Short Stay Car Park

Parking at LCY is hugely expensive, both short and long term! this is because of the price premium on the land around this area, additionally the airport is accessible via other modes including Docklands light rail.

You can park in the short stay parking but do be aware that there are frequent patrols around here, so it is not advisable to stay for extended periods. It is likely that you will be asked of your intentions and your car number plate logged and checked. I've noted a few number crunchers around this side of the airport however I suspect they travel via rail.

Whilst parked here, I'd take the opportunity to grab a coffee from Starbucks just outside the terminal building. This location is best in the early morning as the sun is behind you.


Royal Albert Docks

The airport is surrounded by water and a very large dockside area known as the Royal Albert Docks and this can make for some interesting images. The location is very popular for walkers and sightseers but not so busy as to be unpleasant or hectic. Overhead you see traffic heading into Heathrow. There is an awful lot of background noise from the city of London.

This location is better in the afternoon as the sun will be working its way behind you. Early morning is much more challenging.


Royal Albert Docks// Connaught Bridge

Walking along the dockside, towards Canary Wharf you come to the Connaught Bridge. If you stay down by the Docks you can get good pics of the aicraft coming in over your head.


The Ramada Hotel is located very close to the airport and some rooms appear to look out over the docks and airport.

There are no refreshments or toilet facilities at the Royal Albert Docks side. Also because the locations are fairly windy, I suggest taking suncream even in lowish temperatures to avoid burning.

  Getting There - Along the runway side on views  
  By Train - Get the overground or underground to Stratford Station in East London, then change to the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) to the Royal Albert Docks.

By Road - The airport is signposted throughout London therefore you can follow the signs or sat nav directly to the airport entrance for the short stay car park. However for the Royal Albert Docks I was lucky enough to find a public car park (FREE!) very close, there is a short 10min walk to get to the docks but bearing in mind that parking in London is usually exceptionally difficult I hope this is useful!.

I suggest that you locate yourself on the road called the Royal Albert Way, the A1020. This will enable you to see some pretty clear landmarks, including the University of East London. This uni is very obvious by it's many very colourful and modern looking buildings (I mean like the whole building being sky blue or yellow! you can't miss them!)

Travel along the Royal Albert Way around some odd looking roundabouts which link to DLR stations, the first is Cyprus, next is Becton Park then you will come to Royal Albert Way. This is a traffic signal controlled roundabout.

Take the 3rd Exit (do not take the 1st even though the big council office building appears to have parking you cannot park there). On the 3rd Exit you are now heading away from the airport along Stansfeld Road continue along this road.

On the right is a big playing field. Cross the zebra crossing and then again on the right is a community centre and car park. There must be about 40 spaces here, it's a public place, no charges are made however the car park is locked at night. You should ensure your valuables are locked away etc. Parking is at your own risk. You now just need to leave the car and walk back to the Royal Albert Dock side, ensure you cross at the designated crossings basically head toward Tower Hamlets huge very modern office block (mentioned above) and you;ll be there - it's much easier being there and using a sense of direction than typing but I hope the car part tip helps!.

Ladders are not required anywhere the airport does not have a perimeter fence in the traditional sense as it's surrounded by water. Bear in mind that tripods seem to attract attention and may result in you being asked to leave!




© David Hynes    

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