I recently had some leave from work, and with travelling abroad still not really an option, and limited opportunities within the UK, I decided to head for a morning of spotting at an airport I’ve only visited once before, Luton (LTN).
Officially London Luton Airport, LTN is 28 miles north of central London and in 2018 served more than 16.5 million passengers making it the 5th busiest airport in the UK in terms of passengers. LTN is the home of EasyJet, with the airline operating it’s first flights to Scotland from the airport back in 1995 and with up to 70 destinations served, still plays a major role at the airport
Along with the sea of orange, Hungarian airline WizzAir operates a key hub a LTN with 66 destinations served, the airline’s second largest after it’s home base of Budapest. Ryanair operate to around 25 destinations, whilst the airport is also a base for TUI and served by Blue Air, El Al and SunExpress. LTN also has a small cargo centre with DHL and MNG Airlines providing freight services into the airport.
My visit to the airport in the middle of July marked the tail end of lockdown within England and although things were starting to return to a sense of normality, it was still obvious a lockdown had occurred. LTN was no different, with many aircraft having been parked at the airport since EasyJet suspended its operations on 30 March 2020. Despite EasyJet having shutdown through the worst of the pandemic, WizzAir continued its operations and in April 2020 actually managed to become Europe’s largest low-cost airline by passenger numbers.
The first spot I visited was one of the country lanes on the south side of the airport, Dane Street which leads to one of the emergency access gates. Although this spot hasn’t got any facilities it seems to be semi-official as either the council or airport have installed a litter bin adjacent to the gravel parking area. Realistically this spot is best accessed by car as the nearest public transport would be at Luton Airport Parkway station. There are footpaths to this spot (which lead you past Spot 4), however it’s a 2.5 mile walk from Parkway station or a 3.5 mile walk from the airport terminal.
From Dane Street you’re able to see all of the arriving and departing traffic on LTN’s single runway, with the aircraft being close enough to get decent photos on a phone. On my visit, aircraft were using runway 26 and therefore even the small business jets were still in contact with the ground as they passed me, however I can imagine these will already be quite high by this point if using runway 08.
From Dane Street, I decided to head round to the north side of the airport and the terminal area, as at LTN security are not averse to people using the multi-story car parks to spot. Heading to the top of Car Park 1, I was extremely impressed by the views of some of the taxiways and stands from the top level. The car park’s location means that departing business jets tend to taxi past as well as aircraft having just landed on runway 26.
During my visit there weren’t many commercial arrivals, with the exception of a Ryanair flight from Dublin, however the car park is still a good location to catch departing aircraft (from a slightly further distance). If you decide to head to car park 1, I’d advise parking elsewhere and getting a bus to the terminal area as it is expensive to park with prices starting at £9 for 30 minutes and heading steeply upwards from there.
After a short stay at the car park (mainly due to price, I’d have loved to stay longer), I headed back round to the south side of the airfield to try another spot I’d seen online. On my way, I passed around the eastern end of the airfield and found a layby on the side of a country lane near Winch Hill that I think would be great for views of arriving aircraft. Although I didn’t see any aircraft landing from here, given the view of the approach lights, I think some stunning photos could be taken.
My fourth and final spot for the day was near to Someries Castle. This is a local historic landmark not far from the Dane Street spot and can also be reached by a short walk (just under a mile) from Parkway Station. Parking is on a patch of gravel outside the ruins, and if you follow the adjacent footpath for a short distance, you’ll find yourself overlooking the western end of the runway.
Looking at the departures and arrivals, it seemed there was now a couple of hours before the next commercial movement, so I didn’t stay long, however a business jet did take off and I did get a good view of it from here. I also think this would be a great spot to capture any arrivals on runway 08, however you are further from the action than at Dane St.
I thoroughly enjoyed my morning at LTN and with WizzAir still operating a large number of their flights, there was a lot more action than during my recent visits to Stansted and East Midlands. Hopefully this has given you an idea of where to go if you fancy spotting at LTN yourself. Of course, if you know of any other great AvGeek spots, at either LTN or elsewhere, please let me know!