My take on the View Heathrow Observation Deck
On 23 December 2013, Heathrow Airport opened the ViewHeathrow observation deck, which is located between gates 15 and 16 in Terminal 4. I knew about the existence of the observation deck via airliners.net, where the yourHeathrow team had posted a heads-up. I already had a flight booked from T4, so it was only a matter of time before I would experience this newly refurbished area. In this post, I will be writing my observations and thoughts about the facility.
The first thing that you will notice is that the facility is located between 2 gate. This means that it is only accessible from the airside part of the terminal. It is pretty easy to find and there are signs to guide you in the right direction. In order to get there, you’ll have to take a few stairs (or take the elevator).
The room looked very nice, with a flight information screen and several tablets with a flightrader on them so you can identify the planes that you see. It is excellent for what it’s suppposed to be; an area to watch planes. You have a couple of gates below you and a pretty good view of runway 09R/27L.
Traffic wise, Heathrow is one of the top airports to be at, ranging from small narrowbodies to the biggest widebodies and from ‘common’ airlines to some of the most exotic ones. I was lucky that 27L was in use and I could constantly see 4/5 aircraft on approach. Pair that with a rising moon and you’ll have a great time!
I like watching aircraft, but I also like to take photos. And for that purpose, there are some downsides to the facility. When I was there, it was dark. That meant a lot of reflections and they are pretty much unavoidable. I tried to find the limited numbers of spots where I’d minimize those, which worked to some extent. There are also quite some obstacles in the way, in the shape of the building and some lamp posts. However, it does seem like you can photograph the touchdownzone of runway 27L without too many obstacles in the way. Also, one can hardly expect that the airport remove those objects just for this purpose. So, you’ll have to work around them.
Same goes for the gates directly below. There is a balcony around the facility, which limits your shooting angles of aircraft at said gates. Close-ups of the cockpit should be possible but a full body shot without part of the fence in it will be tricky.
I imagine photography will be a lot easier during daytime, when you have less reflections. If the sun is in the right position, you are probably able to pull of some decent quality photos, as the glass doesn’t seem to be that bad.
All in all, the facility really does do what it’s intended for. It provides a great vantage point for travelers who want to see a glimpse of the traffic at the airport and I can definately recommend going up there and seeing it for yourself.
Below you can find some quick edits that I made, to give you an impression of the opportunities (click to enlarge).
For more information, you can visit the official website.