Photography and Spotting
The guide to making the most of your time at Wattisham. The best photo spots are so marked.
A few words of note though, but pretty similar to those at any airfield.
Respect the land around the base, and do not trespass on or damage any property.
Take your rubbish and litter home with you. Rubbish attracts birds, and birds and active aircraft do not mix well.
Do not park in front of Crash Gates, or on the access tracks leading to them. You will almost certainly be asked move your vehicle as parking here can impede rapid access by the airfield crews to any emergency.
Keep your eyes open for any suspicious activity, and don't hesitate to report it to the Main Guardroom (01449 728220), the Royal Military Police (01449 728299) or even the Anti-Terrorist Hotline (0800 789321).
An overview photo of the airfield and surrounds, north orientated. The runway runs North-East to South-West, and generally the prevailing winds mean that the 23 end is more often in use. However, helicopters are not always constrained by runway headings, so don't be surprised to see them arrive and depart in various directions.
The main dispersal is to the South of the runway, with 7 Battalion being located near the 05 runway end, on the old cross runway.
The Suffolk Police Air Support Unit, as well as the gliding club are located in the old 74 Sqn Northern HAS site, whilst the RAF SAR unit is hangared towards the 23 runway end, in the same location as the old QRA sheds.
There are 5 main locations to view and photograph the aircraft here. These are all on public land so make sure you treat the area with respect and do not block any exits or crash gates. The small track leading to Crash Gate 1 is the place to use for arrival photos on 23, spot 1. Make sure you do NOT park your car on the track as this has to be kept free for emergency access. This has the sun behind you for most of the day, and can offer some superb opportunities provided you do not go too far up the track as you will then be too close to the approach path. In the evening, good shots can also be had at the 23 approach end from the road that parallels the runway to the north, spot 2.
Crash Gates 2 and 3 are good for spotting, but less useful for photography. Park in the nearby lay-bys, but do not block the Crash Gates themselves. There is a high fence around the airfield which can get in the way of photography, and also the sun is generally in your face from here, except for the last hour or so before sunset. However, with good optics you can read many of the aircraft parked on the main apron, as well as those arriving and departing. Check out photos taken at spot 3 and spot 4.
Crash Gate 4 is the only place where you will be able to easily see aircraft at 7 Battalion REME. You will need to park away from the Crash Gate and walk down the lane in order to avoid blocking access. This gate is next to the old 74 Sqn northern HAS site, see spot 5. Again, the fence and position of the sun can conspire against decent photography here, but if you are prepared to walk past spot 6 you can follow the fence around to the 05 threshold to spot 7 to get some sunny side shots if the aircraft are using this runway. Further out on the approach is spot 8 if you have a decent lens.
Further round is Crash Gate 5 which is marked locally as Gate 2. This is next to the old 56 Sqn Southern HAS site and from here you can get near to the 05 runway threshold. Unless you are prepared to walk a distance, this end offers only limited photographic opportunities, however you will usually be sure of being the right side for the sun.