There are a number of storage airports in the western United States known to aviation enthusiasts, with row upon row of retired and stored airliners parked up awaiting their fate. Largest among these are Mojave, Victorville, and Marana Pinal Airpark.
The latter, located to the north of Tucson in Arizona, is notoriously difficult to get close to for the enthusiast, with guards manning the entrance, which in itself is a long way from any views of aircraft.
In fact, the standard way for an enthusiast to see airliners parked at Marana is to hire a private aircraft and pilot to fly them from Tucson to Marana, performing a number of low approaches, or a landing and slow taxi for takeoff, snapping photographs frantically in the hope of catching everything parked there, and preferably the registrations. Then a period of research would begin to work out exactly what was seen.
However, times are hard for Marana. It urgently needs to repair its runway, and to find new income streams to keep it in business. As a result it is looking at ways to attract more people to the site, and one of the first changes has been the removal of the guard posts blocking the entrance to the former military airport.
Jim Petty is the airport’s economic development director and knows exactly the draw that Marana has on enthusiasts and the curious public who have a fascination with the huge hulks of metal glinting in the sun, some sporting airline liveries of yesteryear, whilst others appear to be factory fresh. For most enthusiasts, storage airports have been a place to catch up with missed aircraft, sometimes classic old jets rarely seen in active service anymore. However, places like Marana offer a good mix, with some aircraft temporarily stored straight from the factory as airlines face economic problems or leasing companies find it difficult to place them.
Other aircraft still have a lot of life in them, but come to Marana to await a new customer.
Whilst enthusiasts will not be given free reign of the airport under its new relaxed rules, Petty has begun offering tours of Pinal Airpark in an SUV, stopping off to take in the different areas of parked airliners, and to watch a variety of different aircraft that still use the active airport.
Marana’s former locked-down security stance came from its long-standing involvement with the CIA, acting as a staging post for secret operations which were closely guarded from the public eye. It was also a military training post. However, Marana is officially listed as a general aviation airfield, and as such should be accessible to the general public. And so it now is.
Jim Petty may live to regret news of this opening of Marana for tours becoming public, as enthusiasts are sure to be planning trips already. But nevertheless, this is great news and I’m sure will be very much appreciated. I will certainly be taking the opportunity if I am in the area!
Free tours are by appointment only and subject to availability. Call Jim Petty, 520-866-6545.
Spotters watch the first 747 land (Photo: EL PAÍS)
Teruel Airport has suddenly started making waves amongst the spotter community as it has sprung up in no time from the dry land of eastern Spain.
Unlike other new Spanish airports built to attract passengers and ultimately languishing semi-mothballed, Teruel was designed from the start to act as a storage, maintenance and recycling base for airlines and other operators to bring their aircraft to.
The airport has a single, long runway, with ramp space and a tiny terminal. However, behind this is a grid pattern of taxiways which are designed for long-term storage of airliners, much like you would see in Arizona or California. Teruel boasts the largest storage area in Europe for aircraft.
One of the first arrivals at Teruel was a Boeing 747 freighter of Air Cargo Germany. Since then the airport has filled with over 30 airliners, mainly from the fleet of struggling Russian carrier UT Air. Types include Boeing 737s, Airbus A321s and Bombardier CRJs.
There are also Airbus A330s from Libya and Brazil and Boeing 747s from France and the Netherlands present at the time of writing.
The airport is operated by Tarmac Aerosave (which also manages storage at Tarbes Airport in France). It is around 100 miles south of Zaragoza and 95 miles north-west of Valencia, just off the A-23 motorway and N-234 highway at Caude.
Teruel in relation to the main cities in Spain
Early reports from spotters passing by are that aircraft can be seen with some perseverance and with the use of a car to explore the minor roads surrounding the field. However, security have also made their presence known, stopping spotters and asking what their business is. Therefore caution is advised.
The owners hope to grow this new business, and may even see passenger flights servicing the nearby ski resorts eventually.
Unfortunately one of the two official spotting locations at Dusseldorf Airport has been closed.
The railway station, linked to the national and local rail network, as well as to the terminal via a monorail, featured an open air viewing area which overlooked the ends of runways 23L and 23R, as well as the taxiways linking them. As such it was a great place for photographing airliners both on the ground and in the air.
But sadly the viewing area is now closed, and it is reportedly a permanent closure.
One of the busiest and most diverse airports in America, New York John F Kennedy is not known as one of the easiest to spot at. This is partly down to its complexity and the lack of official locations. But it can be one of the most rewarding airports if you have a good view.
Do you know JFK well? What’s your tip for getting the most out of a spotting visit?
The best tips will make it into a new guide to spotting at JFK to be posted on AirportSpotting.com. We’ll also publish any of your pictures from JFK, be it of a spotting location or of aircraft action.
Los Angeles is among the largest and most populous cities and metropolitan areas in the United States, as well as a major tourist draw and transport hub.
Its huge 469 square miles and extended Los Angeles Basin is home to a great number of airports and airfields, making its skies one of the most complex and busy air traffic regions in the world.
A spotting trip to Los Angeles can be hugely rewarding for aviation enthusiasts and, whilst Los Angeles International itself is a great draw, spending time exploring the other airports is very much recommended.
This report covers the basics and essentials of spotting in Los Angeles, plus some ideas for trips further afield.
Airports with airline service
The main airports in Los Angeles are:
Burbank Bob Hope
Los Angeles International
Santa Ana John Wayne
Los Angeles International (LAX)
By Alan Wilson (Flickr: LAX International Line-up #2) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Most travellers, especially from overseas, will arrive at Los Angeles International (commonly known as LAX). Situated at the western side of the city, bordered on one side by the Pacific Ocean, it is an airport with four runways, nine terminals, and handling well over 60 million passengers per year.
LAX is a hub for many airlines. In terms of movements, the most prominent are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Qantas, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America.
Many of the world’s large airlines fly to this airport, arriving in waves from Europe or Asia. Most international airlines use the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which has recently been extended, although some share the other terminals.
Cargo is also important for LAX, with many daily freighter flights. These use facilities and aprons on the southern side of the airfield.
Where to spot at Los Angeles LAX
There are a few of spotting locations at Los Angeles International:
Imperial Hill Jim Clutter Park
Situated on the south side of the airport off Imperial Highway, this hill overlooks LAX from a height which offers unobstructed photography of aircraft, and the ability to log all movements on the south side with good binoculars. Movements on the northern runways can be read with a pole. The park features benches and the shade of trees, and a number of food concessions are located close by.
In & Out Burger
This fast food restaurant at Sepulveda Blvd and 92nd Street has gained a reputation amongst spotters due to its position under the approach to runways 24L/R. From the car park, this is a fantastic location for photographs; however, viewing aircraft on the ground is nearly impossible.
Tom Bradley Terminal Parking
The top level of the parking garage has views over much of the action, particularly aircraft on the north side. Departures on the southern runways are also visible.
Formerly the airport at which McDonnell Douglas constructed many of its great airliners, and still a production and maintenance base for C-17 military transports. Long Beach, situated at the south of the Los Angeles area, is a hub for JetBlue Airways and has some other flights.
You can spot at Long Beach from the café and terrace inside the terminal. There’s also a small observation area at the Rainbow Air Academy, just down Kilroy Airport Way from DeVry University. It gives views of the C-17 ramp.
Situated to the north of the city, closer to Hollywood. Burbank has two runways and is a hub for Southwest Airlines, with additional services by Alaska Airlines, Delta Connection, JetBlue Airways, United Express and US Airways Express. The airport is quite hemmed in by the surrounding roads and commercial areas.
Spotting at Burbank is best from the top floor of the car park outside the terminal, from where all movements can be seen.
Ontario Airport is one of the main Los Angeles airports, and handles over 6 million passengers per year, but is quite restricted on growth by its surroundings. Although it has two parallel runways, they are situated very close together.
There are three passenger terminals, with Southwest Airlines being the most prominent airline although other major US carriers all have a presence. UPS also has a strong cargo presence at the airport.
Spotting at Ontario Airport is more difficult as there are no obvious locations. However, the best views can be had on the southern perimeter near the UPS ramp, were views of aircraft approaching the runways can be had from the road.
The closest airport to Disneyland, and named after the famous cowboy actor who lived nearby. Santa Ana is in southern Los Angeles’ Orange County and has two short runways and a cramped terminal. It is also a hub for Southwest Airlines, with nationwide links via other US carriers. Santa Ana is also a very busy general aviation airfield, with hundreds of based aircraft.
Spotting at Santa Ana is quite difficult. The best place is to find Airport Loop Drive, one the western side of the airport behind the many GA hangars, and park up. You can then walk to see aircraft arriving from the north.
In addition to the airports with airline traffic, a number of other airports are worth checking out if you are into executive aircraft and biz jets, and general aviation aircraft. These include:
Santa Monica Municipal
Torrance Zamperini Field
Santa Monica Municipal (SMO)
This historic airfield is hemmed in on all sides by the city. It is here that many Douglas propliners were built. It is very busy with executive and light aircraft movements. However, local residents have been pushing to have the airport closed for many years and the decision is still being considered.
Spotting at Santa Monica is possible from the official viewing deck on the administration building on the south side of the airport, with good all round views and photography. There is a preserved Douglas DC-3 alongside. Clover park on the north side is also good for viewing through the fence.
Be sure to check out the Museum of Flying at Santa Monica Airport.
This is one of the busiest general aviation airports in California. It’s around 10 miles south of LAX. Approximately 500 light aircraft are based here at any time, and the two runways are often busy. The Western Museum of Flight is also based here, albeit quite small. A walk along Airport Drive should yield many of the aircraft parked under the low hangars, and a tour of Robinson Helicopters’ factory is also possible.
A few miles to the west of Burbank Airport in the San Fernando Valley is Van Nuys, a busy executive and general aviation airport. It has two runways, and sees well over a thousand movements per day. It is also quite open to aviation enthusiasts.
Spotting at Van Nuys Airport is best from the official viewing area at Waterman Drive in the north east corner of the airfield. This small car park is nestled next to the runways, taxiways and a helicopter parking ramp. You can get close views of all the action, with photography through the fence. ATC is broadcast here too.
Driving around the perimeter will uncover a number of other vantage points from which aircraft parked at the various ramps and hangars can be logged. You can also spot from the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant on Raymer Street.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s dedicated low-cost terminal, KLIA2, was opened in May 2014 and is the world’s largest dedicated low-cost terminal. It can handle up to 45 million passengers per year.
All of the airport’s low-cost airline movements were moved to the terminal, leaving the original buildings to handle full service airlines and the mainline flights of Malaysia Airlines.
Paul Moiser recently visited the airport and got the low down on spotting at KLIA2.
Getting to KLIA2
There’s an excellent train service which connects KLIA to KLIA2, and the journey time is only 3 minutes. It costs RM2 which is less than $1 / 50p.
Where to spot
KLIA2 has an official spotting area, just like KLIA1. Once you arrive at the KLIA2 train station take the elevator to level 3 departures and follow the signs for the smoking area and food courts. You will come across the outside viewing area next to McDonald’s.
There are two sides to the viewing area. Both sides only overlook nine parking gates, so you need visit each side of this level to see all of the aircraft. The larger parking area is the central bay, and aircraft parked here can’t be seen from either end of the viewing areas. Only movements taxiing in and out of this central bay can be seen from the right hand side of this level. As you enter past McDonald’s the viewing area to your right offers the best overall view as you can see movements over at KLIA, however you may need to use SBS or FlightRadar24 to identify these; although any departing traffic off the central runway (32R/14L) are readable.
The viewing area to your left as you enter only gives views of the new third runway and nine parking gates. This runway was quite active while I was there, so that’s why you have to spend time at each end.
It is possible to just stay at the main KLIA’s observation hall as you can see all movements moving about over at KLIA2, but closeup photography will not be possible.
KLIA 2 spotting hotel
Kuala Lumpur KLIA2 has its own hotel which is reached via a covered ground-level walkway. The hotel is a Tune Hotel and I had a walk over there to check out the rooms to see what the views were like.
As the hotel was busy the only room I could be shown was room 601. From the room you can see all departures off the new runway. No parking gates could be seen and I couldn’t see anything over at KLIA. I could only see movements taxiing in/out to one side of the parking bays, so although the hotel is very cheap at £35 a night, compared to excellent Sama Sama spotting hotel you need (if it’s important to you!) to factor this point in regarding views. Going off the location I really don’t think any other rooms would offer much better than the one I was shown.
The Tune hotel was very nice and modern, and they offer free wifi in all areas. The room I was shown was a double, but they do have twins. Rooms are very small but all have a flat screen TV with air-con, but no tea/coffee making facilities etc.
The aircraft photos on this page are from Paul Moiser’s visit. You can find out more about KLIA2 at the official website: www.klia2.info
Many of the most enjoyable spotting trips are when you can relax in the sun or take photos in a stunning locations. A lot of the world’s airports and runways back onto beaches, which turn out to be great spotting locations.
All of the locations listed here are accessible, public places.
1. Phuket, Thailand
By Andy Mitchell (Flickr: Transaero Airlines B747-300SR VP-BGW) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Thailand’s holiday island is popular with many airlines arriving from near and far, including both domestic and long-haul airliners. Probably the best location to spot at the airport is Nai Yang Beach running along the western side of the airport, which is accessed by walking around 15 minutes from the road.
Any aircraft approaching runway 09 can be easily photographed, and by finding an area of high ground you can also see over the perimeter fence and photograph aircraft on the ground easily.
One of the best spots for photography and plane spotting at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport is The Beach off General Holmes Drive, at the east side of the airport.
You can spot here from both the car park and the beach itself, with aircraft using the runways in view, especially 16R/34L which passes very close to you and can lead to some spectacular photographs.
3. St. Maarten, Caribbean
Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To
Not much can be written about Maho Beach that hasn’t already been said. Some of the most stunning aviation photography in recent times has been of aircraft passing incredibly low over the heads of people on this beach, on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. This is especially fun since huge widebody airliners use the airport, and tend to land as early as possible, barely missing the perimeter fence.
The bar on the beach is known to list the arrivals due at the airport each day, meaning you can keep an eye on what’s due as you sip cocktails and soak up the sun.
4. Larnaca, Cyprus
Mackenzie Beach lies just off the northern perimeter of Larnaca Airport, with aircraft passing close by before landing or after takeoff. You can reach the beach off Piale Pasa, at the southern end of the city.
5. Lanzarote, Canary Islands
When aircraft are arriving on runway 03, the beach running around the southern portion of the airport is an ideal position to spot and photograph aircraft arriving at Lanzarote Arrecife Airport. Due to the position of the sun, this location is best in the morning for photography, and a fence can obstruct some shots of aircraft on the ground. But if you’re just watching the action it is perfect.
The location is reached along Avenida Playa Honda.
6. Boston Logan, MA
By James Wang from Boston, Mass, USA (British Airways 747 (Oneworld livery)) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There are actually two beaches at Boston Logan Airport which are good for spotting.
Constitution Beach is best for aircraft using runways 22L and 22R, and the taxiways associated with these runways. You can get some good action shots of aircraft arriving and departing. Better in the afternoon and evening for photography. This beach is close to Saratoga Street.
Meanwhile, Yirrel Beach at Coughlin Park is great for aircraft approaching runway 27, and to a lesser degree departing runway 09. This location is good all day for photography. The park and beach are off Shirley Street, with parking nearby.
7. Nice, France
Not the best beach for aircraft photography, however the very popular area running the length of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice offers quite interesting views of aircraft departing from the nearby airport. Aircraft need to make an immediate turn to the right following departure, following the sweep of the bay. There are few main airports situated this close to the city they serve.
8. New York JFK
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge off Cross Bay Blvd is a well known spotting location at New York JFK, alongside Howard Beach, which is good for getting distant after-takeoff shots of heavy airliners as they make a turn.
Do you know of any good beach spotting locations? Leave a tip in the comments section below!
This is a guest report from Mark Williams, who recently stayed at one of Norway’s best spotting hotels…I have recently returned from a one night stay at the Comfort Hotel RunWay at Oslo Airport.
The hotel is nicely situated next to the perimeter fence overlooking Runway 01L/19R. To get there from the airport you have a couple of options – the more expensive dedicated S44 hotel shuttle bus at 70NOK or the cheaper normal service bus 855 which involves a short 2 minute walk from the stop to the hotel.
I had emailed the hotel beforehand requesting a high floor room overlooking the airport and they replied very promptly saying a suitable room had been allocated. True to their word, they had reserved me such a room and with the minimal of fuss from an efficient front desk I was ready to spot. The fourth floor room (which is the top floor) contained a number of suitable rooms – 4015, 4017, 4019, 4021, 4023 and 4025 all being noted as among those suitable for our needs.
Runway 01L/19R is right in front of you and everything can be easily read off with binoculars. The hotel grounds actually end at the perimeter fence. There is an issue with trees in these grounds, and this will be to a greater or lesser extent from each individual room. However, there should be sufficient gaps from all to ensure nothing on this runway would be missed. Views over to the terminal are again affected by the trees, although the gaps will allow at least some sections of the piers to be seen. Where they are, reading the registrations off was no problem.
Cargo was parked opposite the hotel, and being tail-on could not be read off. Runway 01L/19R seemed to handle the majority of the domestic or short regional traffic, and while this is probably favoured at first, the repeats start after about 5 or 6 hours After about 24 hours, little lands that hasn’t already been seen. However, much of the long haul traffic seemed to depart (not land) from this runway – including Norwegian B787s, Thai B777s and a SAS A330. While this can’t of course be guaranteed (the Qatar B787 for instance went off Runway 01R on one day and 01L on the other), from your perch at the Comfort Hotel RunWay most of the wide-body movements were read off.
The other runway (01R/19L) is just out of range for reading with binoculars (particularly of course as it is through glass and at an angle). However, seeing everything land on Runway 01R was no problem, so identification with SBS would ensure nothing is missed. They landed on 01R/01L during my entire stay – I imagine trees would mean if they were landing on 19L it wouldn’t have been so easy to even see them, so runway use could affect your logging considerably.
One thing I must mention. While the rooms are more than adequate, they only have a long thin window, which is set quite low. Not only does this mean the room is quite dark, but at 6ft, I had to bend down to actually see out (if you are 5ft it would be about perfect). However, if you settle down for a long spotting session, you will no doubt be seated, and I could see out of the window from a chair.
The room was priced at 849NOK (roughly £84 / $135) which included a half-decent breakfast – not bad for this location. There is a restaurant and a small snack area, and although there are other hotels nearby and a large conference centre, there appeared to be no other local places to get provisions.
Apart from the excellent view of the near runway that the hotel affords, it is also well placed to reach the SAS museum, which contains a small spotter’s terrace that is permanently open.
The museum itself is only open on Tuesday and Sunday. It is around a 15 minute walk away. Head out of the hotel and turn right on Hans Gaarders Veg. Keep heading along this road (running virtually parallel with the perimeter fence) and you will come to the museum and the raised spotting terrace. A quick look at Google Maps will show the way.
The terrace is a wooden structure, accessed via a few stairs, and gives a good panoramic view of the airport. The parked West Air ATPs (out of sight from the hotel) are right in front of you, and I could also read off the inhabitants of the cargo area (as well as a couple of biz jets in the GA area). The view of runway 01L/19R is restricted to about half the runway at one end but is very close with an excellent view of traffic departing off 01L. I imagine the views of traffic landing on 19R would be equally as impressive.
When I was departing I met an extremely helpful lady from NSSF – The Norwegian Plane Spotter Association who kindly gave me a copy of their viewing guide and offered advice as to the best spots. Check them out and show your support – they clearly do some good work to ensure that such facilities exist for us all. It appears that the majority of spotting locations for Runway 01R/19L require a car. All the long-haul traffic landed on this runway during my stay (but, as previously mentioned, the majority departed off the near 01L/19R runway). Most of the international traffic from Europe (if not all) seemed to land on 01R/19L and much went out that way too, so, for a registration reader, expect to miss some frames. While my success rate out in the open air and side on from the viewing terrace of departing traffic from 01R improved, it is still quite a long way away so success is by no means guaranteed. However, if the weather is good (there is no shelter here), this would be an extremely nice place to spend a few hours and is highly recommended.
Movements wise, Oslo was actually busier than I had expected. Norwegian and SAS dominate as you would expect with their B737s, although there was a healthy number of Wideroe Dash 8s in action. Three different Norwegian Dreamliners were seen in the 24 hours, plus a daily Thai B777, Qatar B787, a SAS A330, Primera B737 and Novair A321. Cargo offered a UPS B767, Jet Time B737 and Air Contractors ATR42.
Overall, an extremely enjoyable 24 hours in Oslo which, like the hotel and spotting terrace, comes highly recommended.
Brussels is the largest and busiest airport in Belgium, handling a large amount of passenger and cargo traffic.
Cargo and low-cost mix at Brussels
It is also home to Melsbroek Air Base, which handles the Belgian Air Force transport aircraft and any visiting foreign governments etc.
The airport has three runways – 25L/07R, 25R/07L, and 01/19.
It has a single large terminal building, with two long piers and various remote stands.
On the northern and western portions of the airport are a number of aprons for cargo aircraft. DHL have a base here.
Passenger movements are dominated by Brussels Airlines, Jetairfly, Jet Airways, and Vueling.
Other airlines of note include Ethiopian Airlines (787), Etihad (A330), Qatar Airways (787), Thai (777-300), Tailwind (737-400), MEA (A320), Air Arabia Maroc (A320).
Spotting is quite easy at Brussels, with a number of locations in and around the terminal, and a few good spots for photography around the perimeter for those using a car or public transport.
Here’s a video showing the various spotting locations and airline operators from my recent visit.
Nearby attractions include the Royal Army Museum in Brussels, with a large collection of preserved aircraft, and Brussels South Charleroi Airport, which is a base for Ryanair and Jetairfly.
Frankfurt Airport’s main viewing terrace, in Terminal 2, is to close temporarily whilst construction works take place in the building.
The outdoor terrace overlooks the eastern end of the airport, and is the main viewing area following the closure of the classic Terminal 1 terraces a while ago.
The works will take place from September, and will last until 2015. This includes the food court area, which was an alternative spotting location at the airport when the terrace was closed (or the weather was bad!).
Frankfurt Airport promises “We will celebrate its reopening in a big way in spring 2015.” Watch this space – I’ll let you know what is happening when I hear about it.