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Owen Roberts International Airport, Grand Cayman, British West Indies

Last visited: March 2005 - Next planned visit March 2006

There may not be an abundance of aircraft at Grand Cayman, but it's thoroughly enjoyable to spot and take pictures at. I backed the rental car right up to the airport fence, stood on the trunk and took some great touchdown zone shots over the fence. All the while the police and airport authorities rode by and never said a word. Certainly different than what we've learned to be accustomed to in the States. 2004 Update: A concerned citizen or visitor did report my peering over the fence for photos this year and we were visited by the local constable. After a few minutes questioning we were left to continue and enjoy our sport. Unless someone reports you they don't bother you.

Due to the prevailing winds arrivals almost always approach from the west and land on runway 8 and depart runway 8 heading out over the North Sound. Rarely do they use runway 26, but it does happen. Occasionally even when runway 8 is active you might find a smaller aircraft make an approach and land on runway 26. This happened several times during my last trip, especially with Island Air flights. Most of the activity at GCM occurs between the hours of Noon and 3:00 p.m. Most flights arrive and depart within those three hours with a few exceptions that depart around 4:00 p.m. British Airways operates a 767 into GCM and it arrives about 5:30 p.m. on Tues., Wed., Friday and Saturday. Saturday is the busiest day with several extra flights that only operate on Saturday. 2004 Update: We were surprised to find some changes in the schedules this year. USAir has added additional flights, Delta replaced their 757 with 737 operations, United now operates one 757 flight weekly, ATA cut back to a single flight, and Air Jamaica replaced their twin-props with A321 and A320 daily flights. We also saw one Cuban flight, an AeroCaribbean Yak, on Friday late afternoon.

The interesting thing about Grand Cayman is that if you stick it out during the lulls or on the dull days when traffic isn't heaviest you might be surprised by what you see. We had several surprises in 2003 and 2004 was no different. One day we were able to photograph four aircraft from the British Antarctic Survey team. These are interesting as they are painted bright red with dark blue on the top of the wings (easily spotted against the white snow of the Antarctic). Another day we were surprised by the arrival of two "Warrior" call sign flights. Both included 4 US Army helicopters, a large twin-blade with three smaller choppers. Very interesting to watch them approach in formation and then land. And, all the while, a myriad of private jets will be coming and going for your pleasure.

Do to the east/west position of the runway and the fact that GCM is closer to the Equator you don't get the wide swings in the angle of the Sun you may be accustomed to. No matter what time you're there the Sun will always seem to be overhead and just a little to one side of the runway or the other. Of course that applies to March when I was last there.

Important! Under each sample photo you will see the lens zoom setting recorded like "400/600 mm". The first number represents the setting that the lens as physically on when the picture was taken. The second number takes into account the 1.5 multiplier factor of the Nikon D100 camera.

Just a note: Sorry about the amateur map, but I don't want a copyright infringement suit because I used a better one.

Location A and B: are the best for action shots of the aircraft landing. Back your car up to the fence and stand on the trunk to get good shots over the fence of the touchdown zone. The fence is only 6 feet high so it's not a problem. And, again, the police and airport authorities observed me several times and didn't say anything. They didn't even stop.

To reach location A: Driving on the road that parallels the runway toward the airport. As you turn around the end of the runway continue straight until the road makes a 90 degree left turn. Right at that point you will see a fence in front of you and an opening to drive through. Drive through the fence and park. You're right at the touchdown zone.

85/130 mm

52/75 mm
To reach location B: Location B is almost exactly across the runway from location A. Follow the road around the end of the runway and turn left (heading toward East End). About a quarter of a mile down the road bends to the right. On the left is a small restaurant (offering such goodies as "Cow's Feet"). Pull into their small parking lot and back up to the fence. Don't stay in the car to observe inbound aircraft. They have a way of staying hidden until it's to late. Walk up by the palm tree near the road and stand/sit in its shade until you see an aircraft coming. Again, stand on the trunk and shoot over the fence.

120/180 mm

400/600 mm
Location C: This one shouldn't be to hard to find ... it's the terminal at the airport. They have an open-air observation deck where you can get some pretty good close up shots of the aircraft. You can also get some shots of the arriving aircraft on the main runway as they passed, however, you might get some heat distortion from the reflective concrete over the distance. Try it and see what happens.

80/120 mm

200/300 mm

120/180 mm
Location F: OK, sorry they aren't in alphabetical order, but location F is close to locations A, B and C so that's why it's first. This is a neat location that I really didn't explore all that much. As you come around the end of the runway on the main road just turn off right by the end of the fence. You have access here to be right in line with the runway and under the arriving aircraft. I didn't shoot to many from this location, sorry. 2004 Update: The airport authorities extended the fence out to the road so it's impossible now to stop where I indicated in 2003. However, it is possible to park just on the other side of the road by the approach lights and still get some nice underbelly shots.

220/330 mm

80/120 mm
Location D: The directions might be a bit sketchy as I don't recall the exact names of the streets. Leaving location B next to the restaurant turn left heading toward East End. Drive a couple of miles and you will approach a traffic circle. Turn left onto Tropical Gardens Road just before the circle. Follow the road to the stop sign and turn left. Continue as far as you can go and turn right. Continue to the end of the road and park. You'll end up at a public boat landing which is located right next to the end of the runway. It's not as good a location as I thought, but you can get some interesting photos from here. Again, back your car up against the fence and stand on the trunk to get over the fence. You won't be able to see the aircraft coming down the runway so listen for the sound of the engines. They'll be climbing when they reach this spot and moving pretty fast because of how close you are to them so be ready when they get there.

400/600 mm

400/600 mm

80/120 mm
Location E: Anne and I spent the most time shooting at location B and here at location E. It seems as though the lighting was best for these locations during the times of the most activity. To locate this spot continue along the road that heads toward East End. You will pass the first traffic circle and continue a little further to the second traffic circle. On your left is a shopping center anchored by Hurley's grocery store, what the locals call "Big Hurley's" because it is the bigger supermarket. Continue past the supermarket and make the left turn into the parking lot (it's the last turn into the parking lot from the road). Instead of going left into the parking area for Hurley's continue straight and follow the winding road all the way to the end. This is a real estate development project that is slowly being built. Park at the very end and get ready to take some nice departure shots.

180/270 mm

145/220 mm

400/600 mm


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