Forget the main gateway airports, some of the best places to spot aircraft are at America’s busy and interesting secondary airports.
Here are the best:
Chicago MidwayOriginally Chicago’s main airport, traffic outgrew the facilities and because it is hemmed in by surrounding streets and neighbourhoods it could not expand. Therefore O’Hare was grown into the main airport and Midway took a secondary role. Today it is a busy hub for Southwest Airlines and also sees service by Delta, Porter Airlines and Volaris.
Dallas Love Field
Like Midway, Love Field was also the city’s main airport until constraints became an issue and a larger airport built – in this case the huge Dallas Ft. Worth International.
Today, Love Field is still a busy hub for biz jets and is the home base for Southwest Airlines. Other carriers include Delta and Virgin America.
Houston William P HobbyYou’ll spot a theme here – William P. Hobby Airport was Houston’s first and main commercial airport until the larger Houston Intercontinental opened in 1969. Like many secondary airports in the USA, Southwest Airlines has a large presence here, alongside American, Delta and JetBlue.
Hobby is named after a former Texas governor. It has a fantastic original 1940s Art Deco terminal building and museum on one side (see www.1940airterminal.org). Elsewhere, many FBOs and biz jet operators use the airport because of its proximity to downtown Houston.
New York LaGuardia
LaGuardia is the third largest of New York’s airports, after JFK and Newark. Technically not a secondary airport, it is one of America’s busiest. However it is limited to mostly domestic services, with a few exceptions, and is in the shadow of its two larger neighbours.
LaGuardia is a major hub for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest with very frequent shuttle services around the north east USA. The airport is due to be significantly upgraded to improve its cramped terminals and parking areas.
Whilst it is a city in its own right, Oakland’s airport is commonly seen as one of the airports serving San Francisco, second to the main international airport across the Bay in terms of importance and volume of movements.
The main carriers at Oakland are Allegiant Air, Alaska Airlines, Southwest and Volaris. The airport is also a hub for FedEx Express, UPS Airlines and Ameriflight.
Long Beach InternationalTraditionally Long Beach Airport has been heavily involved in aircraft manufacturing, with McDonnell Douglas formerly based here. Boeing still operates maintenance facilities here, especially for C-17 aircraft. However, since JetBlue showed an interest in Long Beach in the early 2000s, it has grown into a significant passenger airport serving the Los Angeles basin.
Orlando SanfordOriginally a major Naval Air Station, Sanford saw the opportunity to cash in on the important tourist market to Orlando and adapted to become a passenger airport capable of handling larger airliners in the early 1990s (it had seen some commercial service before this date). It managed to attract some European charter airlines, and today is also a hub for Allegiant Air, offering an alternative to Orlando International.
Sanford is also an important airport for flight training, making it one of America’s busiest airports in terms of movements.
Fort Lauderdale Executive
This airport does not have any airline service, but is an important hub for biz jet and prop movements which avoid the main Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International airport to the south. It is therefore an interesting place to visit for the spotter who is keen to see some of the executive movements which Florida is famous for.
The Jet Runway Café is a popular spot for spotting at Fort Lauderdale Executive.
Washington Reagan NationalReagan National Airport is a very popular airport close to the centre of Washington DC and its important government buildings. The proximity of the city, roads, and the Potomac River, restricts the size of the airport and the flight paths that can be flown. Nevertheless it is pushing ahead with an impressive improvement and growth plan to cope with demand – something the principal Dulles Airport can only dream of.
All major US carriers operate here, with restrictions on international services. Aircraft are usually regional jets up to Airbus A320/Boeing 737 size.
Gravelly Point is a popular public park and spotting location just north of the airport, under the flight path.
North Las Vegas Airport
North Las Vegas Airport is situated close to the city’s downtown area, but a distance from The Strip where all of the main hotels and attractions are located. The airport is primarily a hub for general aviation and biz jet movements, and is also a popular point for taking sightseeing tours over the Grand Canyon.
A balcony atop the small terminal building is a good place for logging aircraft.
Our guidebook to spotting at America’s best airports. Includes
- Spotting locations
- Security information
- Spotting hotels and nearby attractions
- Airport statistics, contact information and more!