Vancouver International Airport (YVR)
Click the map to go to Google Maps satellite view of this airport
The Vancouver Airport is a great location for planespotting and photography. Vancouver is only about a two hour drive north from Seattle across the Canadian border in British Columbia and there is always a wide variety of traffic. Just be sure and bring your passport to get back into the USA!
The road that runs along the north side curves around the end of runway 26R to intersect with the main terminal road. From this spot you can watch and photograph aircraft landing to the west on 26R. If you continue along Ferguson Rd, following parallel to runway 8L/26R, you’ll come to a dirt pull-off which is great for watching aircraft if they are landing to the east (8R). Most of the international flights will be using this runway.
Most departures use the south runway, and there is a small park just off Russ Baker Way at Airport Rd. which sits opposite the end of this runway. If planes are departing to the east they’ll fly right over Flight Path Park.
Some people say that the view is incredible from rooms at the Fairmont Hotel which is inside the terminal loop, and there are a couple other smaller spots to view such as next to the AVIS parking lot. In addition, there is a viewing platform in the parking lot area by the south terminal (see map). The south terminal handles small regional airlines. I did notice even in my short time in Vancouver that these areas I’ve shown on the map get crowded with spotters.
Also, on the south side of the Vancouver airport along the bank of the river is the seaplane terminal for Harbour Air. It may be possible to park here and watch the small seaplanes take off on the water – but I did not try this. Just continue south on Russ Baker Way from the park mentioned above to a street called Inglis Rd. Make a right and follow it around to Harbour Air’s terminal. Photography here would be best in the afternoons from spring to fall due to facing south.
Part of what makes Vancouver such a great airport is its traffic. Though the largest airline is Air Canada and its regional affiliates, you will see aircraft from both Europe (British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Condor, etc) and Asia (Cathay-Pacific, China, Japan Airlines, Singapore, Korean Air, etc) and these will be the “heavy jets” such as Boeing 777, 787 and Airbus A350. The typical U.S. airlines also have a presence here with flights from American, United, and Delta. There is also an airline called Westjet which is Canada’s version of Southwest. The variety here is amazing. Though it may not be in the USA, if you are a diehard aviation enthusiast and visiting Seattle, Vancouver is only a short trip north. Just be sure and bring your passport to get back in!