As a lad I grew up at Gatwick. That was a time during the 1980s when not only could you get up close to the side of the runway but there was also an excellent spectator's terrace (complete with hobby shop). Needless to say Gatwick has changed substantially since then and under BAA's stewardship spotters were treated pretty poorly. The viewing area's view was restricted heavily and then it was closed, with no substitute, whilst spending time around the perimeter was not exactly welcomed. On my recent trip back to the UK I popped across to Berlin and that gave me a chance to revisit LGW and see what i could see.
Not only have the buildings changed at Gatwick but so has the traffic. In my heyday of the mid-late 1980s traffic was dominated by BCal, Dan Air, Air Europe and a wide variety of charter operators. Thanks to restrictions on serving Heathrow there was a variety of exotic national airlines serving LGW like Air Zimbabwe, Air Seychelles, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Air Lanka, CAAC and later on Emirates among others. The US was well served by up to 5 daily Delta Tristars, a TWA 747 or 767, 2 or 3 AA DC-10s/767s, 2 Northwest Orient and multiple Continental DC-10s/747s. Canada was also well served by Wardair (and later Canadian), Worldways Canada, Nationair and others.
Mergers and industry changes saw mosty of these airlines depart and BA to reluctantly takeover most of BCal's and Dan Airs Gatwick network. There was a regular turnover of Charter airlines and most of the national airlines gradually migrated over to Heathrow followed by a mass exodus of the US airlines as soon as they could get permission to serve it. Of course the other big change has been the rise of the low cost carrier and nowadays Gatwick is a sea of orange interspered by the red and white of Norwegian.
It was Easyjet that I was flying to Berlin and for the timebeing at least this flight leaves from the South Terminal. Before passing through security there are no real views of traffic at all. Through into departures and the area is substantially larger than it used to be however compared to newer facilities it is still pretty dark and pokey - like a claustrophobic shopping mall about half the size it needs to be to cater for the traffic.
I didn't have hours to hang around, thankfully, but there are some opportunities for spotting once into this area. On level 1 of departures there is a restaurant which gives a decent view of the left side of the main pier and the runway from its windows. There is even a solitary telescope inside so there is at least a tiny expectation that people may want to do something other than stuff their faces or shop! Fortunately the windows were pretty clean and reflection minimal which meant you could get decent shots of the near gates and runway action. The Easyjet shots above and photos below were taken from this location:
As you can see the traffic at LGW nowadays isn't very diverse. Easyjet, Thomson, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Norwegian and BA must equate to over 90% of all movements. One thing that did surprise me is that old domestic pier has now been totally demolished and not replaced. The area is now just ramp space.
Moving along towards our gate in the satellite views of the other side of the main pier are possible from several vantage points. The old satellite people mover monorail is long retired and has been replaced by the more pedestrian, literally, moving walkways. At least this gives a better view of the action than was previously possible. Before you get to this there is a view available from the bus transfer gate area. From here depending on what gates are in use shots of some satellite gates and distant North terminal views are possible:
The satellite walkway and within the satellite also gives the opportunity for some limited shots of traffic at nearby gates:
I'll end this review with some rather blurry shots from the window of our A320 G-EZOA. There was some more interesting aircraft visible on our taxi - notably the Air Transat 737-800 and Air Europa E-Jet. Gatwick still has an air of nostalgia for me and it is a modern facility albeit one restricted by its old design. From a spotting perspective not only are photo ops limited but so is the traffic. Widebodies are very much in the minority nowadays and the variety Gatwick once had in abundance is no longer. Still it was nice to revisit the old girl and for all my moaning Easyjet is so damn convenient!
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of 1/400 scale model aircraft and airports. This blog reports work on my model airport dioramas and discussion of the model manufacturers output.