When you're spotting at YYC, one of the most common
questions you'll hear is...
The runway use in Calgary can be erratic at times, but
there is method to the madness! In normal wind
conditions, the runways in use will be 35L and 35R,
or 17L and 17R, commonly referred to as the "35s" and
"17s", respectively. When both runways are in use,
most aircraft heading to or arriving from an eastern
destination will take 35R/17L, and aircraft heading to
or arriving from a western destination will typically
take 35L/17R. Recently, a new program has been
implemented to shorten taxiing times, meaning that
most aircraft parked on the west side of the airport,
including cargo, general aviation, as well as certain
aircraft parked on Concourse A, B, and C will take
runway 35L/17R regardless of their direction of flight.
This can make it difficult for spotters, which is why a
scanner is highly recommended (see below).
This operation is standard but can change due to
runway/taxiway closures, weather, or time of day.
When warm winds come over the Rocky Mountains
during wintertime in Calgary, they raise the
temperature, providing Calgarians with a brief relief
from winter, but also bring with them strong winds
that necessitate the use of YYC's two crosswind
runways - 11/29 and 08/26 - for arriving and
departing traffic. This runway use isn't nearly as
common as the parallels, but they provide spotters
with some unique, albeit windy, views of our regular
traffic. During these winds, commonly known as
Chinooks, nearly all aircraft will arrive and depart 29.
The exception to this includes some general aviation
traffic, as well as Canadian North aircraft, which tend
to use 26 for arrivals, but mainly 29 for departure.
Some aircraft requiring a longer runway on departure
will opt for 35R, such as Air Canada's flights to Europe.
Encounters with security don't happen too often, as long as you follow these general guidelines:
- Do not go closer than 10 feet from the fence, whether you are using a ladder or are in a car.
- Make sure your ladder is shorter than the fence - you don't want to give security the wrong impression.
- You can briefly go up to the fence for a picture, but don't stay within the 10 foot zone for too long.
Security has been a bit harder on spotters in recent years. Use caution when you're spotting, and be respectful even if they ask you to move. The patrollers are generally friendly and the airport has even begun an Airport Watch group for individuals 18 and over who are able to complete a Police Information Check.
Nav Canada's Operational Information System (OIS), highlighting the runways in use (CYYC):
Wind direction and runway status:
CYYC NOTAMS (runway and taxiway information):
These 2 Facebook groups are good for finding out when rare aircraft visit YYC and a great way to connect with
fellow spotters and share your favorite aircraft photos from YYC:
YYC Calgary International Airport is one
of the busiest airports in Canada, and is a
hub for both WestJet and Air Canada.
While there may not be as much
action as other airports, there are a
multitude of excellent locations to
capture the interesting aircraft that we
get at YYC!
Calgary International Airport has four runways: Two north-south parallel runways, 35L/17R, 35R/17L, which are the most commonly used runways, one northwest-southeast runway, 11/29, which is used only at night or during periods of high winds from the west, and one east-west runway, 08/26, which is rarely used, only ever in conjunction with 11/29 during high winds. Runway 35R/17L opened on June 28th 2014, and is currently the longest one in Canada at 14,000 feet.
Alex Praglowski Aviation