No matter where you live in the world, if you’re serious about being (or becoming) a plane spotter, you’ll need to know the best places to go plane spotting!
Part of the fun of this hobby is in discovering new places, or exploring airports and their surroundings trying to find the best places to watch aircraft or take photographs of them.
If you’re visiting a new airport, there are resources that will help you identify the best places to go spotting, or you can always look out for a collection of spotters usually congregating somewhere and pointing cameras at the aircraft!
But there are some plane spotting locations that you just need to know about, and if they’re not near where you live, you should aspire to visit them one day.
1. Jim Clutter Park, Los Angeles International
Situated on the south side of the airport off Imperial Highway, this hill overlooks LAX from a decent height which means you can enjoy 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 telescope, or tied up later with SBS or flight tracking sites. The park provides benches and the shade of trees, and a number of food concessions are located close by.
2. Myrtle Avenue, London Heathrow
This is one of the most popular spots at Heathrow. The spot gets its name from a small residential street close to Hatton Cross, with a grass area at the end. Spotters congregate on this area to log and photograph aircraft as they pass low overhead. There are no facilities and very limited parking, so it’s best to walk from Hatton Cross Tube Station.
Be aware that Myrtle Avenue is only useful when aircraft are landing on runway 27L (around 35-40% of the time).
3. Renaissance Concourse Hotel, Atlanta
Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International is one of the busiest airports in the world. It is a big hub for Delta Air Lines. The best place to spot is the Renaissance Concourse Hotel on the northern perimeter.
Many rooms at this fairly luxurious hotel overlook the entire airport, and many have private balconies, which give spotters the chance to spend all day and night watching the action. Aircraft on the furthest runways can be seen with good telescope, but are hard to read off; everything else is seen with a good pair of binoculars. Photography is possible on the closer runways too. The hotel offers spotter packages on request. It is cheaper at weekends. Rooms on higher floors are better, with 819, 933, 1016, 1022, 1024 and 1025 singled out as excellent.
4. Phuket Airport Beach
Nai Yang Beach is one of the most popular places to spot from at Phuket. Photographers love the proximity to aircraft landing and the stunning location. It is only good if aircraft are landing on runway 09, however. To reach the beach, the nearest parking is along Soi Mai Khao 6, to the north of the airport. You’ll then need to walk around half a mile along the path (or hire a scooter taxi).
5. Spotting Mound, Madrid Barajas
The most popular spotting location at Madrid is a raised mount at the centre of the airport site. Take the Metro to Barajas, the small town adjacent to the airport. Once there, walk along Av. De Logroño and turn left along Ctra. Cementerio Nuevo. Walk across the white pedestrian bridge and along to the raised area which allows you to log almost every movement, even aircraft using the distant new runway and Terminal 4. Photography is possible of aircraft passing on the taxiways nearer to you. It is possible to drive here if you follow signs for Barajas and then head towards the road tunnel under the airport. The mound is alongside this tunnel, with various places to park nearby.
6. Maho Beach, St Maarten
This airport is a major draw for aviation enthusiasts because of its location and the position of Maho Beach which borders the approach end of the airport’s runway. This is the only place that is worth trying to spot from, as it really is the best. Many people congregate when large aircraft are due to witness arrivals and departures at close quarters, and the neighbouring bar usually posts a list of the day’s planned arrivals on a chalkboard every morning.
7. Mound Viewing Hill, Munich
Located between the runways alongside the roads leading to the central terminal area. As the name suggests, this is an elevated position with views over the ramps and runways over two levels. It is open daily and has a €1 charge (and also a car park charge if you drive). Also at the spot is an aviation shop and a few preserved historic aircraft, including a DC-3, Junkers Ju-52, and Lockheed Constellation. It is possible to walk to the Mound, however the S-Bahn train service stops here one station before the terminal.
Airport Tours are available a few times daily from the Mound which take you on a coach ride around both aprons and runways, and give you a behind-the-scenes view of various aspects of the airport. A tour lasts 50 minutes and can be booked through the airport website for a fee, or at the Mound itself.
8. Shep’s Mound, Sydney
This new official spotting location at Sydney is located alongside runway 16R/34L, but with all runways and some taxiways visible. The location has parking and raised areas to give you unobstructed photography opportunities above the fenceline. Its all-round views make it good throughout the day. To reach the spot follow Ross Smith Ave from the domestic terminal area (behind the DHL buildings) all the way to the end.
9. Observation Decks, Tokyo Haneda
Tokyo Haneda is one of the best airports for spotting in Japan. It provides observation decks on all terminals, including the newer International Terminal, giving you plenty of options to observe the vast number of aircraft passing through the airport. Each has views of different parts of the airport, so it’s good to move around.
10. Motorway Bridge, Frankfurt
This is the best spot for runway 25L/C arrivals at Frankfurt. From Terminal 2, it is possible to walk past the end of runways 25L/C along a designated footpath (takes 20 minutes). At ground level outside the terminal, follow Hugo-Eckener-Ring past the catering and office buildings. The footpath starts to the left of the terminal when facing it. Eventually it rises to meet a bridge crossing the Autobahn 5 where the platform is located.
To reach the location by car, drive towards Darmstadt on the A5 and exit for Zeppelinheim. After passing over the autobahn, take the first left into the forest and find the car park, then walk towards the airport.
Finally, you can also take the S-Bahn to Zeppelinheim and walk to the viewing platform through the forest.
At this location excellent photographs of aircraft on short finals can be taken, and many movements logged with good binoculars. A little further on is the Berlin Airlift Memorial, with a preserved C-47 and C-54 on display.
…11. Your Local Airport
I thought I’d add just one extra location to the list which is important to any plane spotter. That is your local, or nearest, airport.
Wherever you are in the world, there is probably an airport or airfield within an hour’s drive of your home. This is your easiest spotting location, and the one you can get to regularly without needing to travel great distances.
If you haven’t already, try to find out the best spotting location at that airport. Work our the approach paths aircraft take, as you may be able to spot them from your home and use tracking websites and apps to identify the aircraft.
Look online for local groups of spotters who visit your airport and try to connect with them. Maybe they meet up or chat online. Maybe someone knows of interesting aircraft movements in advance and can let you know what’s coming.
More Spotting Opportunities
In fact, nearly EVERY airport has some opportunities for watching and photographing aircraft, and in our book World Airports Spotting Guides we list over 400 of these at airports in most countries.
This includes maps, descriptions and details about the airports.
It also includes details on spotting hotels and aviation museums that you can discover.