Spot 1: Petro Canada / Wendy’s along Airport Road
Located on Airport Road, the Petro Canada / Wendy’s spot is definitely the best spotting location at YYZ and arguably one of the best in North America. Located directly under the approach path to runway 23, the primary runway for landings and the airport’s longest strip of pavement, you will be able to get shots of a wide variety of aircraft flying roughly 100 feet over you. The best part? You can move north or south on the road to accommodate to the location of the sun, meaning backlit shots are almost impossible to get. Any lens works here, but if you have anything over 150mm or so, there’s no way you will be able to get a large aircraft completely in frame unless you go further down the road, which kills the thrill.
Spot 2: Purba Furniture on Derry Road E
Located along Derry Road E, the Purba Furniture parking lot is an amazing place for runway 33R departures, but only in certain circumstances. Every once in a while when winds are blowing relatively strongly out of the east or west, YYZ goes into runway 33 or 15 ops. I can’t personally speak for landing’s on the 15’s as I’ve never seen any plane land on runway 15, but for runway 33R departures in the evening this spot is golden, literally. With amazing views of heavies rotating and the underbellies of the narrow bodies, you can catch just about anything that departs here. Being along a busy road, it’s worth noting that there are power lines right above you, so in order to get the best shots you will need to go onto the sidewalk to catch rotations and climb outs. A longer lens of 200mm+ should suffice here, but 300mm+ will be needed for good close-ups with the smaller jets and props that operate for Air Canada Express.
Spot 3: Roadside on Convair Drive
Located on the southeast end of the field, Convair drive is one of the best spots at Pearson, regardless of the pattern being used. During my stay, I only used this spot during the south flow where aircraft were departing to the south. This spot is best in the late afternoon, but note there is “no parking” signs all over with security doing pretty frequent runs through the area, so stay at your own risk. Most aircraft will be nice and low for you to grab some nice climb out shots, but for landings you will be shooting through a high fence and tall grass on the field, so it’s not ideal for arrivals. For planes departing RWY 24, this spot works best. Any lens over 100mm works here, maybe 200mm+ for Air Canada Express prop aircraft, however.
Spot 4: JITSU Automotive on Davand Dr.
Located along Davand Drive in the parking lot of JITSU Automotive, you can grab some great shots of aircraft approaching RWY 05. During my stay, the pattern shifted due to strong winds from the north, allowing me to get some great shots of landings, backlit nonetheless. This spot will work great for you in the afternoon to evening, and you will get some odd looks from workers carrying out their daily duties, but you shouldn’t be disturbed. Any lens works here, but use caution as power lines are present so position yourself wisely.
Spot 5: The FedEx Ramp on Bramalea Road
In what used to be one of the best spots at Pearson, previously nicknamed “FedEx Hill,” the FedEx Ramp remains one of the primary spots for Toronto spotters. In my experience, this spot was by far the worst of the four previously noted spots, but maybe I was there at the wrong time. You will be shooting either through a fence with tall grass or through two high fences, tall enough that my 5′ 8″ frame was not able to get shots over the fence, even standing on top of an S.U.V. For narrowbodies, you can get some solid rotation shots for RWY 23 departures, and heavy landings usually roll past you. 200mm+ lens is necessary, and this spot will work for you on a clear afternoon day. Morning– not so much.
All aviation photos (including featured photo) by Layoverhub writer Max Trimm. All street view photos from Google Maps.