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Can a BA pilot see LHR soon after taking off from MAN and/or LBA?

Can a BA pilot see LHR soon after taking off from MAN and/or LBA?

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Old Oct 28, 18, 2:32 pm
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Can a BA pilot see LHR soon after taking off from MAN and/or LBA?

The great circle mapper tells me that Manchester and Leeds airports are 151 and 173 miles respectively from London.

And Quora claims that you can see 211 miles from 30,000 feet.

So on a clear day can BA pilots actually see LHR soon after they take off from MAN or LBA? Or does terrain get in the way.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 2:43 pm
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But for 151 miles how high do they get?

Edit
BA1409 MAN LHR got to ~5800m
https://flightaware.com/live/flight/BAW1409
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Old Oct 28, 18, 2:46 pm
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They donít usually get above 19000í so you may need to recalculate. Besides even if you can see 200 miles I donít suppose there will be much definition at that distance so I think it would be more of a case if I can see where LHR is but canít make out the detail of it.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 3:03 pm
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At night, by the time you get to cruise altitude around Wolverhampton you can sometimes see London. Day time thereís not enough definition to identify places at that distance.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 3:06 pm
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Once I flew Newcastle taking off from east towards west and sit on an A seat. After taking off I can see where Leeds Bradford in relation to Manchester is but it is not impossible to identify any airport at all. And that is after 5 to 8 mins since the initial taken off. I would say a good 3 mins in air to climb already. So I would like to guess that no you can not see LHR from MAN or LBA.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 4:00 pm
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A long time ago now... but that shouldn't affect it, when I flew in/out of BWI as a trainee pilot we could easily see the lights of New York on clear nights from about 5000' - although as noted above, trying to define any features such as EWR or JFK would be pretty much impossible.

More recently, the other week on a PHL-FRA flight we flew over Bury (N. Manchester) (c.35000') at night (v. early morning) and could see the lights across the whole of southern England, including Birmingham, Bristol/Cardiff, London etc. - beautiful! Other times coming into LHR from the continent I have seen the whole of the East Coast of the UK lit up all the way up to Teeside.

The key thing is a sense of perspective since you lose your sense of scale quite easily.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 4:36 pm
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At night would this be different? Light shines for miles so perhaps you can see LHR lights from MAN.

Clear night though.

Last edited by Greenpen; Oct 28, 18 at 4:51 pm Reason: Spelling.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 4:44 pm
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Hi,

Whilst you could probably see London you would probably not be able to make out LHR from MAN

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Old Oct 28, 18, 4:51 pm
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The other week we came into land from BOS to LHR on a very clear day and I could see most of the south coast to the extent that I could spot a US Aircraft carrier moored in the Solent while roughly around the M25.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 5:10 pm
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Originally Posted by Greenpen View Post
At night would this be different? Light shines for miles so perhaps you can see LHR lights from MAN.

Clear night though.
Absolutely different at night...and before seeing the actual lights directly you would see the "loom" of any decent sized town or city while it was still well below your horizon. When approaching Sydney by sea one would see the loom from more than 100 miles out.... and of course that was from sea level! A very welcome sight on return from a 6 month deployment!
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Old Oct 29, 18, 1:23 am
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Originally Posted by Sixth Freedom View Post
The great circle mapper tells me that Manchester and Leeds airports are 151 and 173 miles respectively from London.

And Quora claims that you can see 211 miles from 30,000 feet.

So on a clear day can BA pilots actually see LHR soon after they take off from MAN or LBA? Or does terrain get in the way.
No terrain issues at 19000. You could not see LHR but you could certainly see the lights of London if you were high enough. My first ever night flight as a student involved a continuous climb to c37000 in the Midlands. From there we could see from Edinburgh in the north to the South Coast by Brighton - it’s easy to tell where the land ends at night due to the lack of lights. A clear night with no cloud is always a beautiful sight from a flight deck window.

There is a formula for line of sight - relating to radio propagation but still line of sight stuff which is:

1.23 x the square root of the altitude of the aircraft in thousands of feet.


So at 30,000 feet the LOS calculation would be: 1.23 x 173.205 or 213.042 nautical miles.
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Last edited by Waterhorse; Oct 29, 18 at 3:32 am
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Old Oct 29, 18, 7:58 am
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Back in the day, when flightdeck visits were allowed, I was able to blag my way into the jump seat of a lightly loaded BA A319 from Belfast Aldergrove (BFS) back to LHR. It was a cool autumn night and the sky was cloudless and crystal clear. As we crossed the English coast just south of Blackpool, I could easily make out the lights of Birmingham in the distance. Not long after, the towns and cities of the south east became clear. The views during that flight were spectacular!

So' I'd say yes, the south of England can be seen from around Manchester, but not specifically LHR. In fact, my memory of that and other flightdeck visits, is that if an airport is close to a city or in the suburbs, then it's noticeable by the lack of the 'mesh' of street lights that you'd normally see and the airport can appear darker than its surroundings.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 8:28 am
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Also remember while light may shine for long distances, not only does air polution and / or ground heat effect (shimmering) make a difference, but also runway and other lights cannot always be assumed to be .....

1) Very high off the ground (ie in the same way street lamps are, for example) .... or.....
2) Omnidirectional (indeed there is a distinct chance they won't be I'd have thought)

So in terms of what you would actually be looking for even assuming you were at cruise altitude and you could actually see down to there, is probably something that wouldn't look particularly remarkable at that distance, sitting on the outskirts of the city, and hemmed in on two sides by well lit motorways....

Tbf I am high up in a building some 18 miles from LHR, and I know precisely where it is (wouldn't be much of a BAFT'er if I didn't haha) and it still doesn't look particularly remarkable most of the time. And I am more in line with the runways than would be a person en route down from MAN, albeit not perfectly lined up.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 10:06 am
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Doesn't Google Earth have the ability to place yourself at a certain altitude over a specific point, that'd be a good way of being able to tell what you can and can't see, with weather being the only thing not factored in.

On a related note I believe from the cockpit of Concorde at cruise altitude, assuming you had a 360* view, you could allegedly see more than a quarter of a million square miles.

Originally Posted by jimlad48 View Post
The other week we came into land from BOS to LHR on a very clear day and I could see most of the south coast to the extent that I could spot a US Aircraft carrier moored in the Solent while roughly around the M25.
I used to live in North Hampshire on the border with Berkshire, the house we had was fairly high up (some random tool I found estimates it to be 550ft ASL). From the bottom of the paddock we had a near unobstructed view east and you could see the lights of Heathrow on clear, unhazy nights, and also the lights of all the inbound LHR traffic in a line over London, and those coming out to the west for departure. That was about 40 miles away as the crows flies.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 5:34 pm
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A photo of my recent PHL-FRA trip - these are the bright lights of Manchester from 39,000' over Bury looking south. Manchester airport are the bright lights to the upper right, on the edge of Manchester. The blury lights at the top middle is the Birmingham conurbation, and between the two is Stoke on Trent. Airports tend to be bright around the terminal, but otherwise dark, particularly in urban/suburban areas - I used to 'find' BWI purely by it being a black-hole amongst the lights of the surrounding area!

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