Aviation enthusiast Ian Schofield took home the major prize in our recent online Plane Spotter Photograph Competition, winning himself a highly sought-after day airside with our staff.
On November 14, Ian had the chance to collect his prize so we asked him to tell us about the day. Enjoy!
I was met by the yourHeathrow team just before 9am and we proceeded to get all the correct passes and clear security. Once Airside I was taken over to the Airside Safety team HQ in the middle of the airfield.Here I was given briefing by the Operations Manager and a great talk on the history of the airport and how it had evolved throughout the years from a wartime field to what it is now.
I wasn’t aware of the original runway configuration and where the old terminal was situated though the big map overview displayed in their office clearly showed where the old taxiways lead off the existing runways to what now is the perimeter road.
Behind the scenes
My day was with one of the Airside Safety Team members, Dave. I was able to get involved with Dave’s normal duties, including completing various tasks such as leading vehicles across taxiways and marshalling aircraft onto stands when the auto-park systems were unserviceable.
The radios in the vehicles had constant chatter from the tower and ground frequencies as well as operational job taskings. What really became clear to me was how much concentration was required to stay aware of everything going on and that to do this job you must have a great understanding of airfield operations. Most importantly, safety is paramount.
We drove around the whole airfield during the day, taking in various vantage points from aircraft lining up on Runway 27R to where they would rotate off the runway.
The best plane spotting photo spots…
My favourite vantage point from the day was taking in aircraft landing on 27L as there was great sunlight right at the point they were touching down. This meant that I was able to get some great shots of the new British Airways and Air India 787s, and some 747s, at a very close distance.
After 3pm, the runway operations swapped and I was able to get some 27R departures before the sun went down.
Heathrow by night…
After a short break we were back out in the dark driving around the field. It was amazing how different the airport looked by night with all the bright runway and aircraft lights bringing it to life. For the more technically minded, I was able to take the night photos while the aircraft pushed back off the stands and also when they were being parked on remote stands.
We finished the shift at 8pm having had a superb day all round. For someone who grew up watching aircraft at Manchester airport, aviation has always fascinated me due to the sheer size of the aircraft, the diverse colour schemes they are painted in and the smell of jetfuel.
I’d like to express a big thankyou to everyone who voted for my photo and to those who put this day on. It was a very unique experience, which allowed me to meet some great people, which I enjoyed thoroughly.
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