I was flying back to New Zealand via Kuala Lumpur, with Malaysia Airlines. They operate from Terminal 4, which being away from the maelstrom of the central terminal area is like a separate more civilised version of Heathrow. Even better unlike the unpleasant shopping mecca of T5 where thanks to the design you can't get close to the windows or easily to the remote piers T4 offers plenty of good views of the gates and its very own viewing area - hallelujah!
From outside the terminal you can see a couple of the gates and get shots like this:
Before going through security there are no views of the airfield but once through there are plenty of places where you can get close to the windows - though often you have to go behind the shops to do so. We sat at a Costa coffee which gave probably the best views away from the viewing area. Here are some shots I took from that vantage point:
So far so ordinary however the authorities have done something unusual in today's age of 'airports as a shopping experience' and created a bespoke viewing area. It isn't perfect as its behind glass and has no seats but it is close to the action and up high, giving good views of the runway and T2 gates. The area is named 'View Heathrow' and is accessed at the right side of the terminal near gates 15 and 16 via stairs or lift. Being at the end of the terminal closest to the runway it gives a good vantage point of traffic using it. Below is a shot of inside the small but decent 'View Heathrow' area. As you can see binoculars are provided as are screens equipped with flight-tracker (that's my lad demonstrating the screen functionality):
The glass does mean reflections are a big issue however with care some good photos can be taken of landing traffic, taxiing aircraft and some of the closer T4 gates. The T4 gates closest to the viewing space appear to be used mainly by smaller narrowbody traffic from the likes of Delta, Hop, KLM and Air Malta:
Aircraft taxiing on either side of the runway are easily in view for decent shots though some near to T4 are almost too close. You get a decent overview of the new T2 gates also:
The traffic was more varied than I remember from my last visit though obviously the aircraft types are not so varied anymore! There was a decent mix of older Boeings (737 Classics, 747s, 767s) and newer ones (787s) and pretty much the whole range of modern Airbuses too. Of course the best and most interesting shots from my short visit were of aircraft landing on the near runway. If you time it right then this you can get really very nice shots though you're constantly battling reflections. Here are some of my best shots:
All in all it was a very pleasant few hours at Heathrow (and its not often you can say that once though security). I would certainly recommend flying one of the airlines that operates out of T4 to get the opportunity to experience Heathrow's best terminal.
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.