The original viewing guides - often copied, never bettered
This section of the site is intended to be a rough guide to where to go to view military or ex-military aircraft at UK airfields. Most of the airfields in question will be active RAF stations, RN air stations or Army bases - a minority will be inactive MoD airfields or civilian owned airfields, at which privately owned ex-military aircraft may be seen. A few entries will be added to cover exercise areas/firing ranges as I get time.
Contributions to this area of the site are especially welcome; I can't complete it without help! In particular I'd like photos taken at airfields not yet covered, or from points mentioned in existing guides that do not have an accompanying photo for illustration.
Airfields vary in the amount of activity you can expect. Most military ones are basically shut down at weekends and during the evening and you will be lucky to see any movements. There are, of course, exceptions to prove the rule! The descriptions here will try and give you a rough idea of what to expect on the 'average' day - but don't complain to me if you spend a day at an airfield and see nothing at all - it happens. It's certainly happened to me on more than a few occasions.
If you haven't been spotting at airfields before, there are a few things you may need to know, though you'd probably figure them out anyway...
So, pick an airfield (or several), and plan your day out...
Key (new style guides)
Hopefully the maps on this guide are clear and easy to use; if you spot
anything drastically wrong with one, let me know. Keys to explain the various
symbols are shown here on the left and right. Open Access land is a fairly recent
addition - see the Countryside Access
website for full details on what Open Access means, but basically it denotes land you
are free to enter and make use of. Each guide is designed so that you can print
just the first page if you want a quick visual guide.
Watching the action, taking photographs and spotting for serial numbers all have very different requirements when it comes to finding a good spot at an airfield - so I have tried to mention where a spot is unsuitable for one or the other. Pictures alongside the text have been taken at or near the spots mentioned. Those credited to 'author' were taken by myself - if no lens size is mentioned, that means it was probably taken with lens in the 28-300mm range. Pictures are always full frame to give you an idea of how much of the frame you'll be able to fill with a lens of the specified size, and lens sizes include any crop factor of the body used - e.g. "450mm" could be a 300mm lens on a 1.5 crop body.
Key (old style guides)
Next, a few golden rules. You can ignore them if you want, but expect your hobby to get dramatically more difficult if you do:
The authorities at airfields vary in their attitude to spotters, though nowadays you will rarely get moved on and things are much more relaxed than in the past. Warton and Boscombe Down can be a little sticky occasionally, and, bizarrely, the further away a base is from being an active fighter station, the more likely it is that station security (MoD Police) will get uppity (presumably as viewing at such bases is not such a common activity). USAFE bases have USAFE security police who have no powers to do anything to you if you're outside the base, but they can easily call upon MoD Police to help, and sometimes do as they are less understanding of the hobby. In general, though, you shouldn't be bothered when viewing at any UK military airfields. Civilian airports are another matter entirely!
Most of the information here has been contributed by enthusiasts, including myself. Many websites such as Google Maps now offer detailed satellite coverage of UK airfields and The Countryside Access website mentioned earlier is also great for detailed maps of the areas around airfields. Google's Streetview facility often covers the roads around airfields too so you can familiarise yourself with turnings etc. before your trip.