For spotters visiting America’s main airports, we’ve put together this Chicago O’Hare spotting guide covering the airport layout, operation, spotting locations and and what you’re likely to see. Read on for more information.
Chicago O’Hare is an incredibly busy and complicated airport. It currently has eight runways and a complex of four passenger terminals and various cargo aprons.
It has been undergoing numerous changes in recent years, and recently announced that Terminal 5 would be expanded, and Terminal 2 modified, resulting in the demolition of some older parts.
The airport is a great place to put a dent into your American Airlines and United Airlines fleets, along with their regional partners, as well as observing international carriers. Spotting is not very well catered for, but there are some opportunities for those with a car to get views from the surrounding roads.
Chicago O’Hare Terminals Guide
Chicago O’Hare at present has four passenger terminals. Three are located together, whilst Terminal 5 is situated independently to the east. Airline operators are as follows:
- Terminal 1 – United Airlines, United Express, Lufthansa, All Nippon Airways
- Terminal 2 – Air Canada, Delta Airlines, Delta Connection
- Terminal 3 – American Airlines, American Eagle/Envoy, Alaska Airlines, Frontier, Iberia, Japan Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Virgin America.
- Terminal 5 – All international arrivals and most international departures.
Interesting airlines for the spotter at O’Hare include Aeromexico, Avianca El Salvador, EVA Air, Interjet, Royal Jordanian, Volaris. However, the vast majority of movements are by American and United and their feeder carriers.
A large dedicated cargo area exists at O’Hare to the south of the terminals, between runways 28L/10R and 28C/10C. UPS, FedEx and Lufthansa Cargo have large facilities, however most international cargo airlines and many regional and US carriers visit regularly.
Spotting is not permitted around the South Cargo areas, particularly Delta Cargo.
There are 8 runways at Chicago O’Hare. The majority of movements use the 27/28 direction for landing, and departures are on 22L and 32 in the prevailing wind conditions (from the west). When the wind is from the east a mixture of 04R and 10 runways for arrivals.
Chicago O’Hare Spotting Locations
Click on the map to navigate and view spotting location details.
This large sports venue is situated just off Mannheim Road with a large parking lot underneath the approach path to runway 22R. In winter, however, the parking lot is closed but you can use the alternative lot across Mannheim Road.
Formerly one of the best spots at O’Hare is around the USG Corp building on Scott Street close to its intersection with Mannheim Road and Lawrence Ave, on the east side of the airport. However, since runway 10C/28C opened the location has fallen out of favour as aircraft tend to land on 28C now, meaning they are backlit and not good for photographs. If they do land on 28R you can get good shots, however.
Schiller Park Metra Station
A good public location for watching and photographing aircraft land on runway 28C. The Metra station is off Ruby Street and has a large car park. It is one of the most popular places for spotting now.
A good location for spotting on the west side of O’Hare providing arrivals are on runway 10C (and 10L a little further away). Make sure you do not block the road or any driveways and you should be left alone here.
This location is near Rosemont Metra Station. It is higher than the surrounding area and offers a view of aircraft taxiing to 28R and 22L for departure. A long lens or binoculars are recommended. Heat haze is an issue with this location because of the distance and the large expanses of pavement involved, so photos may not be sharp.
(All pictures used with permission of Martin Pinnau)
Chicago O’Hare Spotting Hotel
Hilton Chicago O’Hare
O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois 60666 | (773) 686-8000 | www.hilton.com
Perfectly situated within Terminal 2 at the heart of O’Hare, this Hilton has rooms overlooking the American Airlines gates and southern runways. Ask for an even-numbered, high-floor room. Good photographs are possible of aircraft around the terminal. Unfortunately the hotel is quite expensive, and has started charging a premium for a guaranteed airport view room.