Memphis Spotting Guide
Derek Oldham has provided this excellent report on spotting at Memphis – a haven for FedEx and Northwest (soon to be Delta) jets.
I stayed in the Radisson at the airport. Contrary to what somebody said, I found the reception staff very helpful. I was given a room at the back overlooking the taxiway, but the view of the runway threshold was blocked by part of the hotel kitchen. I decided Room 373 looked the most promising and luckily it was free. The receptionist warned me it would be noisy (bless her!) and it was – NWA DC 9s and FedEx 727s actually shook the building! My advice would be to go for the corridor 351 – 373 (all odd numbers). Probably the same numbers on floor 2 would be good enough, but you will be at ground level and looking up at the taxiway. Floor 2 is the outward looking ground level because the inward facing part of the hotel has a floor 1 as well. Before 2 of you go booking room 373, I was on my own and therefore had no problem with the Queen bed! All these rooms lookonto the taxiway linking FedEx to RW 18R, and the higher the number, then the more chance you have of seeing the other aircraft taxying out from the terminal for take-off. At night you will only get the FedEx that taxy past – there is not enough light for the others – and even for the FedEx you will have to go outside (the fire escape at the end of the corridor is ideal). I don’t think any of the other rooms will have much of a view, but at the front you may have distant views of RWs 18C & L.
I had e-mailed the police beforehand about spotting at Memphis. (Google “Memphis Airport Police” and go to “Contact Us”) – I got an almost instant reply from the chief with a phone number to ring when I got there.
I arrived late afternoon Friday and saw some departures from the room, followed by a constant stream of arrivals from 2230 until I gave up at 0030. From what I heard there were a good few departures in the middle of the night.
I did Graceland Saturday morning and then phoned the police in the afternoon, was told they had my details and I spent the afternoon on the terminal car park roof with no problems at all. (It is walking distance from the Radisson.) The busy period was about 1415 to 1630 – about 50 FedEx departures and 60 or so others – mainly Northwest of course. When it went quiet, I drove around the north of the airfield and got most of the remaining FedEx from the main roads. Leave the terminal area on Winchester East, turn left on Tchulahoma and left again on Democrat. I had read elsewhere about other roads around here with views, but they have clearly been eaten up by the FedEx complex and are no more. Also the National Guard complex is now completely shut down and they have what appears to be a new complex close to the RW 36R threshold. If you now retrace your route, when you get back on Winchester, you are on the correct side of the road to turn into the Wilson Air Center and Signature FBOs where you can easily read off anything there. Coming out of Wilson you are straight across from anything on the UPS ramp.
On Sunday afternoon there were 75 Fedex departures between 1455 and 1645 with one or 2 after that. 45 used RW 18R, 4 on 18C and 26 on 18 R, so it is definitely worth going to the car park and not staying in the hotel. I saw 20 that I hadn’t seen on the Saturday. Again I telephoned the police and was left alone all afternoon – there are plenty of patrols who drive around and would have seen me up there, so contacting them is definitely worth the effort.
What can be seen at Memphis then? Loads of Northwest (some are now appearing in Delta colours) and Northwest Airlink, a few US Airways Connect, American, Continental Express a few Biz (I was there at the
weekend – maybe more during the week?) and a few twins and lights. I saw plenty of FedEx DC-10s, lots of A300s and A310s, quite a few 727s and MD-11s and a handful of 757s.