Like all airports, Manchester operates according to weather conditions, principally the wind direction. In order to ensure a safe takeoff and landing aircraft have to fly into the wind. The prevailing wind direction in the UK is westerly so normally aircraft fly from northeast to southwest. In practice this means that normally aircraft land from the northeast over Stockport, Cheadle and Heald Green and takeoff towards and around Knutsford. In dual runway operations aircraft will usually land on to Runway 1 (23R) and depart from Runway 2 (23L).
When the wind direction changes, for safety reasons, our landing processes are reversed with aircraft landing from the southwest, lining up to the south of Northwich and over Knutsford and taking off towards Stockport. The wind direction and speed is measured on the ground and at higher levels and an easterly wind above ground level may determine our operating mode, as aircraft cannot descend amongst unfavourable winds. Aircraft will establish on their approach 3,000-4,000 ft above ground level and it may be the wind speed direction at these altitudes that determines our operating mode. In dual runway operations aircraft will usually land on to Runway 2 (05R) and depart from Runway 1 (05L). Easterly winds affect approximately 20% of our movements per annum in this way.
Whenever weather conditions permit, it is our preference for aircraft to depart to the west, because this affects fewer people. This policy has been formalised as part of our Air Traffic Control procedures and in the form of a legally binding planning agreement with the Local Authorities.