Thunder & Lightnings

Airfield Viewing Guide

Cotswold Airport (Kemble)

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General Description

Cotswold Airport (formerly Kemble Airfield) is another civilian airfield that used to be an RAF station. With a long history of being home to maintenance units, Kemble became home to Delta Jets and their Hunter fleet as well as several other civilian organisations, though Delta have since folded. Kemble used to cover a huge area, with hangars dispersed at large distances from the runways, but it has shrunk somewhat leaving those far-out hangars outside the current perimeter.

Cotswold Airport viewing locations
ICAOTelephoneWeb links
EGBP01285 771177Cotswold Airport
Best of British Show
Aerial view

What you can expect to see

Spam cans and microlights mostly I'm afraid. The day-to-day activity can include ex-military types such as Bulldogs and Chipmunks. You may also see the occasional BAE 146 movement, and from time to time an airliner will arrive - usually to be spares-recovered and then scrapped.

Activity is highest during weekdays and office hours, with very little happening in the evening. Weekends can actually be busier than during the week, depending on what the weather's like.


Assuming you're coming from Kemble village direction, you'll soon see the airfield on your right. As soon it shows up keep an eye out for the layby on the left, and pull in here (A). This is your primary viewing area at Kemble, and has an excellent view over the road to runway 09/27. While for many years there was only a small stone wall along the airfield perimeter, unfortunately the CAA forced the airfield to erect a large fence instead, for security reasons. This has made photography more difficult than it used to be. Microlights depart in a very short distance and are normally airborne by the runway intersection so you won't see much of them up this end. Spamcans are a bit high for photography when departing from 09, but easily photographable if landing on 27. As most of the jet movements here are Hunters and JPs they're still quite low when departing from 09, so you'll see them come over the hump in the middle of the runway and climb gently past you. They will be above the level of the fence at least. When airshows or open days are on at Kemble this layby is closed by the police - so don't be a tight git, pay to go in! Hunter departing
Hunter departing (taken from point A); author

Once you've had your fill at this spot, it's a short trip down the road to the massive green gate you'll see on your right just after the road curves to the left (B). You can usually ignore the signs about keeping this area clear as the gate is no longer used except when events are on - it used to offer access to some hangars South-East of here, on the other side of the road from the airfield. However there's no real point hanging round here for long - it just offers limited views of the airfield, with the spamcans a bit lower when departing.

Hunter taxiing
Hunter taxiing (taken from point C); author
So, next spot - inside! Kemble is a licensed airfield but welcomes visitors. The south side is primarily an industrial estate but also includes the Bristol Aero Collection museum. The entrance to the south side of the airfield is on the right just after the large hangars now used for storage. Once in the gate drive round the Southern taxiway keeping the fencing on your right. The Bristol Aero Collection hangar is at point C and offers fairly good views onto the runway albeit with a big fence in the way - so a stepladder is needed, or use the grass verge to your left for an elevated view. Given the position of the sun for most of the day, this is really your only option for sunlit photography of normal operations within the airfield. Needless to say the museum is well worth a visit - check their website for opening dates and times.
Getting to the other side of the airfield is now no longer possible except by driving out of the airfield and all the way round to the north side - so back out the main entrance, turn left and go back into Kemble village. Take the second left in the village (not the turn for the the railway station) and keep on going to the A433 and turn left again. After a while the road begins to curve right and there's a small turning on the left. The turn for the airfield is a small one and easily missed with just a small sign (for "Cotswold Airport") so keep your eyes peeled. Take this small road down to the airfield's northern gate (D). Stored Hunter
Stored Hunter (taken from point E); author
Bulldog take-off
Bulldog taking off (taken from point G); author
Drive up to the gate and it should open automatically if not already open. When you come to a T junction, turn right and then follow the perimeter track. You will see signs to "AV8", the on-site restaurant; for the time being, ignore these and keep to the right. You can drive down past point E (where sometimes you may see stored aircraft) as far as an access gate (point F) which will give you your closest view of the aircraft on the north-western pan. Drive back to the intersection and take a right and follow signs for AV8 and the control tower and you'll come to the tower and restaurant complex with ample parking (G). The area in front of AV8 offers good views of flying, albeit into sun for most of the day.

Other Information

The two main roads on the map are busy ones and it's not possible to stop at the side of them; if you did, I'm sure you'd be in a pile-up before the Police came along to move you on. You have no excuse for this anyway with the ample parking space available at point A.

Cafe and toilets available at the AV8 Bistro & Restaurant by the control tower; Kemble village is a bit bare in the way of such things so Cirencester is the nearest comfort stop otherwise.

Kemble holds an annual airshow and various open days - keep an eye on the web site for dates. The airshow has always been worth a visit, it usually has a strong classic jet flavour and as the crowd is south of the runway on a sunny day it is absolutely perfect for photography. However plans for 2012 are a little different with the main airshow now subsumed into a more general event - The Best of British Show.

Contributors: author, Glen Moreman.