Have you wanted to go planespotting at one of Canada’s busiest airports but didn’t know where to start? Well, Vancouver International Airport, YVR, is the perfect place to go. With a range of traffic, from Cessna 172s to Airbus A380s, and a large variety of airlines, from Pacific Coastal to Cathay Pacific, you’re bound to see something special at YVR! Here are the best locations to grab some great photos at YVR.

Location One – Templeton – Best for Airborne Arrivals on 26R

What it’s like:
At this location, you’re standing right next to the road, near a ditch. Arriving planes are pretty loud, as they pass right over your head or even right next to you, depending on where you’re standing. Try out a few different places to stand in order to test out the light.

You’ll Need:

A 100mm lens should be sufficient, but you may like a little more for shots of Q400s, Beech 1900s, and the like. However, you’ll probably only need around 50mm of focal length, or possibly less for widebodies.

How to get there:

Driving: Drive towards the airport on Grant McConachie way, and turn right onto Templeton Rd. You can spot right from where you turned, or you can continue around the corner onto Ferguson Road, where you’ll find parking in the grass and a few different angles.

Public Transit: Take the Canada Line on the SkyTrain to Templeton Station. From there, walk through the shopping mall compound onto Templeton road. There, you’ll find spotting spots.

If you want to, you can go to the other side of the mall, near Sea Island, where more spotting locations are available. You’ll need a longer lens there.

Misc.: Washrooms are available in the shopping mall. Since this spot is so accessible, bringing a chair to sit in may be nice. The ground is relatively stable, so a tripod could work. Bring bug spray in the summer as there is medium-height grass. Watch out for backlit shots here.

United Airlines 737-800 seen landing from Templeton Location. (c) Zaref Anderson / Aeronautics Online
Spot marked with pink pin.

Location Two – Flight Path Park and Gilbert Road – Good for Runway 26L departures and arrivals.

What it’s like:

At this location, you have a few options on where to stand. You can stand at Flight Path Park, where planes will fly directly over your head, or along the airport fence, where you’ll get decent departure shots, and great landing shots for when aircraft land on this runway. Departing planes are especially loud, which is pretty cool, and it’s not every day a plane flies over your head! Planes departing off the end of 26L usually start their turns towards their destinations before the end of the runway, so make sure you’re able to zoom in and zoom out with a sufficient range. Finding a good spot here is a good idea – try a few photos in different locations in order to see which places have the best light and angle.

You’ll need:

A 100mm lens should be enough, but this could depend on the wind. If there is a lot of wind, planes will turn away from you, and you may need a longer lens. You may need less than 100mm for widebodies. Bug spray may also be good in the summer.

How to get there:

Driving: When driving towards the airport, turn left onto Russ Baker way. You may need to turn around and go the other way in order to make the turn, depending on traffic. From there, drive down the road a small bit and find Gilbert Road. You can spot there, at Flight Path Park, or elsewhere nearby.

Transit: Take the Canada Line and exit at Sea Island Centre. From there, cross Grant McConachie Way, and walk away from the airport on Miller Road for a short distance. Then, turn right on Aylmer Road, and walk that way for a bit over a kilometer. Then, turn onto Airport Road, which, after a short distance, will lead you to Flight Path Park.

Misc.: There is a McDonald’s near this location where you can find restrooms and food.

Korean Air 787-9 seen departing from Flight Path Park. (c) Zaref Anderson / Aeronautics Online
Spot marked with pink pin.

Location Three – South Terminal – Best for private, charter, and smaller carriers.

What it’s like:

There are a few places you can stand at this location. First of all is the ramp on the apron. At this spot, you’re standing right on the apron, and you can get great shots of taxiing and parked aircraft at the South Terminal as well as some more distant shots of runway 26L departures. If you stand by the seaplanes, you’ll get great shots of the seaplane departures and landings, but there will be buildings in the way for taxi shots, so you’d be better off at location six for seaplane shots.

You’ll Need:

For a focal length, 100mm works for apron shots, however, you’ll need 300mm or more depending on aircraft size for 26L departures. For the seaplanes, 100mm should work, you may need more depending on where the seaplanes taxi for takeoff, however, 100mm generally works with the seaplanes.

How to get there:

Driving: Follow signs posted on Grant McConachie Way for the YVR South Terminal. Then, find parking (there is a parking lot for passengers; you can use this one). Then, you’ll be able to see a ramp out to a platform near the airport apron. Spotting is great up on this ramp, or you can go spotting at other locations, such as near the hangars. For seaplanes, just walk towards the water and you’ll find the terminal.

Transit: Take the Canada Line on the SkyTrain and exit at YVR-Airport. Then, catch the free South Terminal Shuttle. Otherwise, you can take the Canada Line to Bridgeport and then transfer to the C92 bus. This bus only runs every 30 minutes and only on specific days of the week depending on the time of year, so be sure to check the schedule online before you choose this route. Exit the C92 at Inglis Drive & Bell Irving St.

Misc.: Washrooms and food are available at both the South Terminal and the Seaplane Terminal.

Spot marked with pink pin.

Location Four – End of Ferguson Road – Best for Airborne Runway 8L Arrivals

What it’s like:

At this location, similar to the Templeton location, planes pass close by your head. You’ll usually see people nearby with trucks and other vehicles. Again, try out a few different standing locations in order to get the best light and distance.

You’ll Need:

For focal length, 100mm should work fine. You may need more for smaller aircraft and less for widebodies.

How to get there:

Driving: Turn onto Templeton St and continue on the road until it becomes Ferguson Rd. From there, continue to the end of the road and park and find a spot to start taking photos.

Public Transit: Take the Canada Line to Templeton Station. Then you can walk or bike all the way down Templeton Street and Ferguson Road. This is approximately 4-5 km, so be ready for a long walk. However, bicycles are allowed on the SkyTrain.

Misc.: Bug spray is important in the summer. There are no washrooms at this location, and the nearest ones are at the other end of Ferguson road at the mall. It is highly recommended that you bike or drive to this location since it is so isolated from everywhere else.

Spot marked with pink pin.

Location Five – Ferguson Road Sand Hill – Best for arrivals (summer only)

What it’s like:

At this location, you’re in a construction zone. However, there isn’t much construction there, or much happening there. There are three hills ; the middle one is a huge hill that’s very steep. I would not recommend spotting on that hill. I tried to and fell down it – not fun! The hill to the right is more shallow. You’ll get better shots of 8L arrivals from there. The hill on the left is still steep, but manageable, and you’ll get good shots from either end of the runway there.

You’ll Need:

A 100mm focal length should be good enough for shots of planes on 26R/8L. However, you will need less for any widebody other than a 767, which will fill the view. A 400mm or longer lens is recommended for catching departures out of the distant runway 26L/8R. Over 100mm is useful if you want to see planes touching down on 26R. If you don’t have a long enough lens, you’ll only be able to see planes on 26R as they roll by you. Terminal/apron views can be done with a 100mm lens, but cropping will be required. 150 or so is better.

This location is only really good in the summertime – the light makes for bad shots during the rest of the year.

How to get there:

Driving: Drive down Ferguson Road until after the horses, which are after the Canada post complex. Then, turn left into the construction site. There is plenty of open space to park. Then, head up one of the hills and start spotting!

Transit: Take the Canada Line and exit at Templeton Station. Walk down Ferguson road until you reach the location (exact location directions in driving directions). Be aware that this is about a 3-4 km walk, so you should be prepared for a long walk. However, Ferguson road has a wide shoulder for walking and biking, and you can bring your bikes on the Canada Line at all times. Therefore, it is recommended that you bike if taking transit to this location.

Misc.: Bug spray is important at this location, as there are a lot of bugs in the tall grass around the hills. You can bring a chair if you’re staying for an extended period of time, and a tripod would work as well as the ground is quite stable in many places. This is one of the main locations for YVR spotters, so be social and say hi. Washrooms and food are only available at the shopping mall and SkyTrain station, so if you’re walking, be prepared for a long walk to a washroom. Watch out for heat haze here, especially around taxiing planes.

Air Canada’s TCA Retrojet seen landing from the Ferguson sand hill. (c) Zaref Anderson / Aeronautics Online

 

Spot marked with pink pin.

Location Six – Fraser River (seaplanes) – Best for seaplane shots

What it’s like:

You’re a distance away from the seaplanes themselves, but you can still get pretty great shots without much focal length during takeoffs and landings. YVR is quite limited for seaplane traffic, however. I would recommend trying the Vancouver Downtown Harbour airport for good shots of Harbour Air, Seair, and Kenmore Air aircraft, as there is more traffic. At this YVR location, you can also see runway 26L departures and arrivals in the distance. There are better places to get shots of 26L traffic.

You’ll Need:

100-150 mm focal length should work for the seaplanes. You’ll probably need 300+ for 26L departures, depending on the size of the plane.

How to get there:

Driving: Drive along Westminster highway until you reach Lynas Lane. Take a right on Lynas, and then a left on River Rd. Then find a place to start spotting!

Public Transit: Take the Canada line and get off at Richmond-Brighouse. Then take the 401 bus to Westminster Hwy and Lynas Ln. From there, walk down Lynas to River Rd and start spotting!

Misc.: There are no washrooms near this site – you may be able to find a small shop nearby with washrooms, but there are no major locations. This area is also the site of a popular bike trail, so watch out for cyclists.

Spot marked with pink pin.

Location Seven – Main Terminal Observation Deck – Best for if you’re flying somewhere

What it’s like:

This location is inside the airport, but it’s before security. However, you’re taking photos through the glass, so it’s only good for if you’re going on a flight soon and want to stop for spotting before you check in. Here, you also have better shots than through the rest of the terminal, as there is only one pane of glass rather than two, which reduces the restrictions on your view significantly. Here you’ll see most aircraft taxiing past you, as well as a few regional and narrow-body aircraft parked nearby.

You’ll need:

50mm of focal length is pretty good for taxiway and gate shots. You’ll need more in order to see more distant taxiways, up to 400mm depending on how far away the plane is that you want a photo of.

How to get there:

Driving: Drive to YVR and park. Then go inside the terminal and walk towards the C gates. Before security, you’ll see a sign that says “Observation Deck”. Go there, and you’ll be at the location.

Public transit: Take the Canada Line to YVR, and follow the directions on how to get to the observation deck above.

Misc.: You’re inside the terminal, so washrooms and food are easy to come by, even on this side of security. There are chairs, etc., in the observation deck, so make yourself comfortable.

Air New Zealand’s 777-200ER with old livery seen at the observation deck. (c) Zaref Anderson / Aeronautics Online

Location to avoid: Avis Car Rental

Many spotting guides do list the Avis Rental location as a good spotting location. However, the current owner of the franchise does not support planespotting, and it’s best to respect their wishes and spot at one of the seven other main locations at YVR.

Conclusion

I hope you have a great time spotting at one of Canada’s busiest airports, and no matter which location you choose, you’re bound to see plenty of traffic, with a variety of airlines and aircraft.

Featured by Alejandro Erickson via Wikimedia Commons

Categories: Spotter Talk