Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport is the busiest in the United States. It is a huge hub for Delta Air Lines and a major draw to aviation enthusiasts, not only for the sheer numbers of aircraft, but also the Delta Flight Museum which is found here.
Naturally this is one of the best airports in the world for logging aircraft tail numbers, but it can be difficult to photograph aircraft. But with our guide you should be able to make the most of your visit, whether as a passenger or outside the airport.
Here’s a guide to plane spotting in Atlanta.
Main Airlines at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- UPS Airlines
Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is located seven miles (9km) from downtown Atlanta.
It has five parallel runways in an east-west direction, and two central terminals with six parallel concourses. All of them are used by Delta.
There are also large maintenance to the north, and two cargo areas (one to the north and one to the south.)
The excellent Delta Flight Museum is to the north of the airport, as is the famous Renaissance Concourse spotting hotel.
1. Renaissance Concourse Hotel
One of the best-known spotting hotels in the world, with excellent views over the airport. The best option for any dedicated spotting trips to Atlanta.
Many rooms at this fairly upmarket hotel overlook the entire airport, and many have private balconies, which give spotters the chance to spend all day and night watching the action in comfort.
Aircraft on the furthest runways can be identified with some difficulty (or flight tracking websites); everything else is easily identified with a good pair of binoculars.
Photography is possible on the closer runways, too. You’ll need at least a 300mm lens. 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.
2. Terminal Parking Lots
The top floor of the parking lots to the north and south of the terminal have great views over the northern and southern runways and taxiways respectively. Follow signs for either Domestic Terminal North Parking Garage or Domestic Terminal South Parking Garage. It’s best to use Daily Parking rather than Economy. Photography here can be excellent, although the sun is worse on the southern lot.
You should try and contact the Department of Aviation for a photography permission slip to avoid any hassle with security.
3. Georgia International Convention Center
A good spot for watching and photographing arrivals on runway 8L (which is common) is the area outside the Georgia International Convention Center to the west of the airport.
You can find it at 2000 Convention Center Concourse, Atlanta, GA 30337.
From here aircraft pass low overhead, with a 100-300mm lens necessary for good shots.
You should park elsewhere, like the Marriott hotel or off-street parking nearby and not use the Convention Center itself.
4. Comfort Suites Hotel
To the south east of the airport is the Comfort Suites Hotel Atlanta Airport, at 5087 Clark Howell Hwy, Atlanta, GA 30349.
This hotel is not the best for spotting (apart from distant views), but you can park opposite near the small parade of shops and venture onto the grass to take approach shots on the southern runway 28.
Atlanta Airside Spotting
If you’re a passenger at Atlanta, there are some spotting options from within the large terminal airside areas.
With six concourses all running north-south, you can work your way along them to note aircraft at the gates through the ample windows. But this will take a long time and a lot of effort given the number of gates.
Positioning yourself at the northern or southern end of any particular concourse will give you views of aircraft taxying to or from the gate areas and using the runways, but given the size of the airport it’s difficult to monitor everything.
Do you have any tips on plane spotting in Atlanta? Leave a comment below!
Delta Flight Museum
If you enjoy visiting historic and preserved airliners, you should visit the Delta Flight Museum when you’re in the area.
This excellent attraction preserves and displays the heritage of Delta Air Lines, which is based at Atlanta. As well as many interesting exhibits and artefacts, it is the aircraft collection which is sure to please you the most. This includes Boeing 757, 767 “Spirit of Delta”, the prototype 747-400, a Lockheed TriStar section and Douglas DC-9, and DC-7B.
The museum is located at: 1060 Delta Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30354. It is open daily from 10am (midday on Sunday) to 4.30pm.
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