New York City is an amazing place to visit both for leisure, and as an aviation enthusiast.
As one of the world’s major transit hubs, it offers a lot of opportunities for spotting and catching up on aviation action.
If you’re planning to head to New York City this year, here’s a summary of the top 10 plane spotting highlights and attractions you won’t want to miss!
1 JFK Airport
The busiest and arguably most famous airport serving New York City is JFK.
Located in the Jamaica neighbourhood of Queens, 16 miles to the east of Manhattan, it is America’s 13th busiest airport, and one of the main gateways to the country for international flights.
The airport has six terminals, and is a hub for American, Delta and JetBlue. It also sees plenty of cargo services, and is on the routemap of most of the world’s major airlines.
Spotting here is not as easy, but there are opportunities. We put together a guide: https://www.airportspotting.com/spot-york-jfk-airport/
2 The TWA Hotel
Sticking with JFK for a moment longer, one of New York’s best spotting hotels is located in the central terminal complex.
Formerly the iconic terminal used by TWA, the building has now been lovingly restored and two wings added with many rooms looking towards the aprons and runways.
On the rooptop there is a pool area and even better views.
What’s more, a preserved Lockheed Constellation is parked outside in TWA colours and used as a cocktail lounge!
Not the cheapest place to stay, it is nevertheless something you should try. See https://www.twahotel.com/
[Spotting at the TWA Hotel]
3 LaGuardia Airport
The historic LaGuardia airport is also located in Queens, to the north of JFK and a little closer to Manhattan.
This airport is a domestic hub (which also serves Canadian flights), and as a result you’ll often see aircraft that don’t usually fly into JFK or Newark. And there are lots of them – a steady stream all day long to keep you occupied!
The airport has two runways, and has recently been undergoing a major transformation to improve the terminals and taxiways.
A great place to spot at LaGuardia is the Plane View Park close to the end of runway 04.
[Plane Spotting at LaGuardia Plane View Park]
4 Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is a former aircraft carrier which is moored at Pier 86, at the end of 46th Street in Manhattan, on the Hudson River.
This giant ship has been turned into a museum charting the history of the US armed forces at sea and in the air, as well as in space. Its decks are crammed with historic aircraft, including the Space Shuttle testbed Enterprise.
You’ll also fine former British Airways Concorde G-BOAD on the pier alongside the Intrepid.
5 Newark Liberty International Airport
The third of New York’s major airports is at Newark, just over the state border in New Jersey. Despite this, it is only 9 miles from southern Manhattan, and easily reached by road and rail.
The airport is a major hub for United Airlines and its partners, as well as FedEx Express. It’s also served by many international and other US carriers, and stands as the 29th busiest airports in the country.
Spotting locations are not many, but you can enjoy views from the Elizabeth Center parking lot, next to the IKEA store on the south-east side of the airport.
6 Downtown Manhattan Heliport
Helicopters buzz everywhere around central New York.
They whisk business people to meetings, and give tourists aerial views of the skyline.
The busiest heliport is at Pier 6 on the East River in Lower Manhattan.
You can usually see the helicopters easily from the access road to the heliport, or from the neighbouring piers where you can catch ferries and sightseeing boat trips.
7 Teterboro Airport
If you’ve had your fill of airliners and want some biz jet action, Teterboro is the place to go.
Located in New Jersey some 12 miles west of Midtown Manhattan, this is a general aviation and reliever airport for the city. It is one of the busiest airports in the area for movements.
A limit on aircraft size means airliners will never be allowed here. But biz jets and light aircraft are more than plentiful.
Spotters are sometimes questioned if they’re being too obvious. So it’s best to be discrete and keep cameras and binoculars hidden away.
To have the best chance of seeing most aircraft on the ground, walk along Industrial Avenue along the airport’s western side. You can see various aprons through the fence.
You’ll also see movements if you’re positioned on Route 46 or Moonachie Ave.
You can get to Teterboro by bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.
8 Aviation Hall of Fame Museum
Sticking with Teterboro, there’s a nice little museum located on its eastern side.
The Aviation Hall of Fame Museum (see https://njahof.org/) preserves New Jersey’s aviation heritage, and has a small collection of aircraft, as well as models, historical displays, gift shop etc.
Among the civilian collection, you’ll find a Convair 880 cockpit section, and a rare Martin 2-0-2 airliner which previously flew with Allegheny Airlines.
[A Visit to the Aviation Hall of Fame Museum]
9 Floyd Bennett Field
This historic airfield is part of the fabric of New York and America’s aviation history.
No longer an active airfield, it is today designated as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area managed by the National Parks Service.
You’ll find it across Jamaica Bay from JFK Airport.
Despite this, the structure of the airfield is still very much evident, with the former runways in place and eight hangars which have been preserved.
These have mostly been turned over to modern uses and tenants, but you’ll be pleased to note that Hangar B is home to a group of volunteers preserving historic aircraft.
Sadly this has been closed to the public in recent years, but keep an eye on this page for updates: https://www.nps.gov/gate/learn/historyculture/historic-aircraft-at-hangar-b.htm
10 Cradle of Aviation Museum
A little further out from central New York than you may like, this is nevertheless one of the major aviation museums in the area.
Located at Garden City on Long Island, on the site of the former Mitchell Air Force Base, it is some 30 miles east of Manhattan.
This part of the world was once a hive of aviation activity, with many airfields. It was dubbed the Cradle of Aviation.
Today the museum houses some 70 aircraft exhibits, mostly covering military, space and early aviation.
Find out more: https://www.cradleofaviation.org/
What would you add to the list as a New York spotting highlight? Leave a comment below!